Will Smith surprises Aunjanue Ellis at Essence Black Women In Hollywood ceremony

The two played opposite each other in "King Richard," one of the Best Picture nominees at this year's Oscars

Will Smith is lifting up his King Richard co-star during this week’s 15th Annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood ceremony. The actor showed up in support of Aunjanue Ellis, an honoree at this year’s luncheon, according to People Magazine.

Ellis has earned rave reviews for her turn as Oracene Price in the film King Richard and is up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Alongside Quinta Brunson, Chanté Adams, and Nia Long, Ellis is also a 2022 Essence honoree which recognizes Black women who, “help diverse Black stories to be told.” Her King Richard co-star, Will Smith, introduced Ellis to the crowd, giving a powerful speech on behalf of his “new friend.”

2022 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon - Inside
Aunjanue Ellis accepts an award from Will Smith onstage during the 2022 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon on March 24, 2022, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

“I’m so excited to be here for my friend Aunjanue Ellis,” Smith shared at the ceremony, according to People Magazine. “I’m over 50 now — once you get over 50 you don’t get a whole lot of new friends. For me to have found a new friend at this age is really special.” The actor said he cherished their working relationship and how Ellis showed up to the King Richard set every day.

“The one thing, if there is a central word that describes Aunjanue Ellis, it is integrity,” Smith added. “She don’t care about money, she don’t care about making our day on set, she cares about treating people right. She does not play injustice, she does not play brutality, physical or otherwise, and at the core of Aunjanue is a fierce, noble integrity.”

27th Annual Critics Choice Awards - Press Room
Will Smith after winning the Best Actor award for “King Richard” during the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards on March 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Continuing to sing her praises, he concluded, “It’s been a pleasure and an honor. With the movie, we had to shut down due to COVID and start back up again with COVID protocols and stuff, so we’ve been like war buddies these last few years. I’m honored to stand here with you and beside you and for you.”

This is not the first time the star of King Richard has taken the time to celebrate Ellis. While accepting the Best Actor award at the Critics Choice Awards this year, he shared with the crowd, “It would be disingenuous for me to accept this role without acknowledging Aunjanue Ellis.”

TheGrio is now on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!