Melinda Sue Gordon
Nicole Sperling
November 05, 2015 AT 07:51 PM EST

When Will Smith began studying Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian pathologist who uncovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the brain disease killing NFL football players, and the subject of the new film Concussion, he looked to understand what drove the man. What he learned was Dr. Omalu’s deep reverence for America.

“Once I discovered how badly he wanted to be an American, it explained his clothes and his cars, his choice of job and why he had so many degrees,” says Smith. “His impression of an American was you had a business, you had a Mercedes, you had nice suits, you had a family. He connected that to his spirituality and that became the thing that fueled his journey, that kept him going in the face of all odds.”

The latest trailer for Concussion, which opens Christmas Day, highlights that passion and explains why a doctor of Nigerian descent with no knowledge of football came to take on the NFL. 

Smith stars in the film, directed by Peter Landesman (Parkland), with Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights), who plays his wife, Albert Brooks, who plays his mentor Dr. Cyril Wecht, and David Morse, who plays Dr. Omalu’s first case, the tragic former center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Webster. (Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, and Paul Reiser also appear in the cast.)

Watch the newest trailer below.

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