NAACP Image Awards: Will Smith thanks Denzel Washington; Samuel L. Jackson, Prince Harry & Meghan Markle demand voting rights

Will Smith and Denzel Washington in 2008; Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

When Will Smith won his first Screen Actors Guild Award Sunday, he received congratulations from his idol, Denzel Washington. The former Fresh Prince was honored for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for King Richard.

“He’s always been a mentor for me and he grabbed me and he said, ‘This is your year,'” Smith told People. “He just hugged me and he said, ‘I’m so happy for you. Just love who you’re becoming,'” he said.

The Independence Day star says Denzel has been a major inspiration for his success.

“I would go to Denzel for advice so he’s seen me through the years and he was just telling me how proud he is of who I’ve become and what I’ve become,” Smith added. 

In other news, when Samuel L. Jackson received the Chairman’s Award Saturday night during the NAACP Image Awards, he passionately demanded voting rights justice. The Pulp Fiction star called on viewers to use “our legs, our bodies, and our voices to work to make sure people do get out and vote.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to use my body to fight for things that were right, from civil rights, to the Vietnam War, to a lot of other things that needed fixing and changing. We got it done,” Jackson added. “The most important thing being the Voting Rights Act.” 

Finally, when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle accepted the President’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards, they also supported the voting rights movement.

“It’s inspiring to think about the legacy surrounding the Image Awards, which began shortly after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Markle said. “Today, we can continue that legacy by reestablishing federal voting protections.”

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