Will Smith is an optimist. At the presser for his new Netflix excursion, Bright, starring himself as a grizzled cop waiting out his pension, Daryl Ward, and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) as a despised minority, Orc, and Daryl’s rookie partner, he leapt at the question we asked the panel.
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“This film finds L.A. in a moment and the world in a moment where things feel out of control, yet somehow your character manages to pull it out in the end. Do you think the country will be able to pull it out in the end? And how do you think the film speaks to issues of gentrification happening in L.A. as well,” Will said.
The director, David Ayer, spoke first, saying, “The elves kind of represent the people that have everything, and they live behind a big wall. I mean the most basic human right is to live in a just world and we can control that. We have to work harder … People need to connect.”
He’s absolutely right, but it was Smith’s answer that blew us away. If you’ve ever been inspired by one of his YouTube interviews turned fireside chats, you’d know that Smith, at the very least, “wants to leave the world better than how he found it.” That’s why, for instance, he’s raised his children to be the globetrotting free spirits they’ve become. Though he never wants you to forget that he’s still the better musician. When asked if there was a friendly competition simmering in the Smith abode he deadpans, “Oh no, I’m way better than them.”
It’s his humanism, though, that he brought to bear during the press conference. And it was that spirit that he brings to what’s happening from Los Angeles to Libya.
“Part of what was exciting to me about this role was […] that the Elves represent the haves, the Orcs represent the have-nots, and the humans are actually in the middle. So I’m an African-American police officer but I’m racist against Orcs,” said Smith. “So that flip was really fun to play around with. It’s a unique mindset that as an African American man I’m not in often.”
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The film places Smith in an identity out of context. As a black man in America, it’s difficult to imagine a world where we, not Orcs, are the beaten and despised. But Smith goes even further, letting the loose the idea that humans are approaching a new age of evolution entirely.
“In turns of where the world is, I actually have a little bit of a brighter perspective of where we are right now. This is the purge, right,” said Smith. “This is the cleanse. This is what happens. This is the natural reaction to the amount of light that came into the world when Barack Obama became President.”
Whoa, this is getting interesting!
“This is what happens. From the daoist perspective, we had to expect it to go the other way, but it’s going the other way as a purge and as a cleanse. This is the darkness before the dawn,” said Smith. “When that thing swings back to the other direction humanity is going to evolve. This is an evolutionary shift in humanity right now.”
He goes on to explain that with each age, a different kind of consciousness emerges. From the industrial age to the digital age, monumental events change the course of human evolution. From here, he expects a total shift in how humanity will begin to treat each other.
“We are shifting into what the next age of humanity is going to be right now. And it’s just the shit has to get stirred up,” Smith continued. “But we’re seeing it all. The truth is right in front of us. Nobody gets to ignore what’s true anymore …. Hiding is over.”
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It’s not going to be easy, though.
“It’s gonna be a mess, but it’s the mess in the clean up. It’s the mess in the purge before the real light shows up.”
We hope so, too, Will.
Bright premieres on Netflix on December 22. Watch the final trailer below.
Andre Grant is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has written for HipHopDX, Complex and The Well Versed. Follow him (and us!) on Twitter @DreJones.
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