Will Smith recalls being called racial slur by police on multiple occasions

Will Smith sat down for a discussion with political commentator Angela Rye to discuss race, police violence and protests.
"Bad Boys For Life" Madrid Photocall
Will Smith attends the 'Bad Boys For Life' premiere on Jan. 8, 2020 in Madrid.Pablo Cuadra / WireImage file

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By Minyvonne Burke

Will Smith sat down for a discussion with political commentator Angela Rye to discuss race, police violence and protests in the wake of George Floyd's death.

During the nearly 30-minute conversation on the "On 1 with Angela Rye" podcast, Smith opened up about his childhood in Philadelphia and being called a racial slur by police officers.

"I grew up under, you know, Mayor Rizzo. He went from the chief of police to becoming the mayor and he had an iron hand. I've been called [N-word] by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions," he said. "I understand what it's like, you know, to be in those circumstances with the police, to feel like you've been occupied. It's an occupying force."

Smith added: "White kids were happy when the cops showed up. And my heart always started pounding."

The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment when contacted Friday.

The actor and musician also talked about George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck for about eight minutes. In a video of the incident, Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe.

"When it happened, I immediately saw the world shifting… I could feel the shift happening, and I immediately went into a state of study," Smith said. "I could feel that I was going to be called on in a way that was different than anything that had ever happened in my career and in my life, and I just wanted to be prepared to meet the seismic shift of the times."

Smith told Rye that he thinks we are dealing with uncharted circumstances and praised the younger generation for protesting.

"The entire globe has stood up and said to the African American people, 'We see you and we hear you. How can we help?' We've never been there before," he said. "I was deeply encouraged by the innate connectivity of the protesters globally."

Later in the conversation, Smith offered some advice to the younger generation.

"Don't succumb to lovelessness no matter how much evil you face, because you poison yourself and you poison your own community," the 51-year-old actor said.

He also talked about his new movie "Emancipation" in which he plays a runaway slave named Peter. Smith said he chose to do the movie now because he felt like "we have to understand the reality of where we came from."

The two also briefly discussed Smith's experience with racism in Hollywood.

"Some of the most racist experiences I've ever had, some of the most racist things I've ever heard somebody say has been in story meetings in Hollywood," he said.

When asked for an example, Smith responded: "You can't make that movie with an African American woman because white people don't want to see that. Just make it with a white girl or a Latin girl."

Smith said he told the person they were wrong.