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When is Will Smith's film Emancipation released on Apple TV+?

Everything you need to know about Will Smith's film about a real-life runaway slave.

Will Smith
Getty Images
Published: Monday, 13th July 2020 at 6:28 pm

Will Smith's latest film project Emancipation, which tells the story of a runaway slave who flees a Louisiana plantation to join the Union Army, is in the works after Apple Original Films won a seven-way bidding war for the film.


Based on a script by William N. Collage, the screenwriter behind Assassin's Creed and Allegiant, Emancipation is inspired by the photograph 'The Scourged Back' – an image of an escaped slave's back, scarred from whipping.

Emancipation will find a home on Apple TV+ after Apple paid $105 million for the film's rights, with Oscar-winner Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) directing the feature film.

Here's everything you need to know about Emancipation, its release date and who stars in the cast.

Emancipation release date

Apple Original Films has not yet announced when we're likely to see Emancipation, but we know for sure that the film will be released on Apple TV+ as well as in cinemas.

According to Deadline, filming is due to begin in early 2021, so as long as the coronavirus pandemic does not cause any further delays, Emancipation will hopefully arrive in theatres in late 2022 or early 2023, depending on the scale of its production.

What is Emancipation about?

Emancipation will tell the harrowing story of Peter, a slave who escapes from a Louisiana plantation to make a tortuous journey towards the North whilst evading hunters.

The film is based on the true story of 'Whipped Peter', a slave who emancipated himself from a plantation owned by John and Bridget Lyons, before joining the Union Army. During his Army medical examination, photos were taken of the scars on his back caused by whipping. The photos, published in the Independent in May 1863, are now the infamous 'Scoured Back' images and are considered to be the first viral photos demonstrating the brutality of slavery.

Speaking to Deadline, Fuqua said that Emancipation's script is heavily informed by historical notes from Peter.

"The writer, Bill Collage, really went deep into it," Fuqua said. "Historical documents and also information from Peter’s own diaries that he kept. It’s based on historical fact. When I read the script, I thought, what an amazing journey, a heartbreaking and heart-racing film to have an opportunity to make.

Gordon 'Whipped Peter'
Gordon, also known as "Whipped Peter", a former enslaved African American man, shows his scarred back at a medical examination, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 2nd April 1863. Getty Images

Emancipation cast

So far, Apple Original Films has not yet released the film's cast, however we know that Will Smith will be playing Peter, a self-emancipated slave on a journey north.

Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith rose to fame in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and went on to star in numerous blockbuster hits, including Men in Black, Bad Boys, The Pursuit of Happyness and I Am Legend. He recently appeared in Bad Boys for Life and Gemini Man.

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Other cast members set to join the film will be announced in due time, so watch this space for updates.


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