Ahead of the Dec. 9 release of his movie Emancipation, Will Smith isn’t shying away from discussing whether audiences will embrace his return to the big screen following his infamous Oscars slap.

Apple TV+ Oscar hopeful Emancipation is the first film from the King Richard star since he slapped Chris Rock during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony. In a recent interview with FOX 5 DC reporter Kevin McCarthy, Smith admitted he understands if people are not ready for his comeback.

“I completely understand — if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith said. “My deepest concern is my team—[director] Antoine [Fuqua] has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career. The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team. At this point, that’s what I’m working for.”

Smith added, “I’m hoping that the material—the power of the film, the timeliness of the story—I’m hoping that the good that can be done would open people’s hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”

The Fuqua-directed project, which was inspired by the story behind the 1893 “Whipped Peter” photos, stars Will Smith as Peter, an enslaved man who is taken from his family, manages to escape north, and goes on to join the Union Army to fight the Confederacy in the Civil War. 

Emancipation opens in theaters Dec. 2 and will stream on Apple TV+ beginning Dec. 9.