Will Smith Says 'Mentor' Denzel Washington Told Him 'This Is Your Year': He's 'Proud of Who I've Become'

"He just hugged me and he said, 'I'm so happy for you. Just love who you're becoming,' " Will Smith tells PEOPLE after winning his first-ever Screen Actors Guild award

Denzel washington, Will Smith
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Will Smith is taking the time to appreciate his close relationship with "mentor" Denzel Washington.

At the 28th Annual Screen Actor Guild Awards on Sunday, the actor, 53, took home the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role for his part in King Richard.

And while nominees and attendees alike were excited for Smith's first-ever SAG award, Washington, 67, couldn't have been prouder of his longtime friend for his incredible achievement.

will smith

"We've spent a lot of time together. So we've been talking, he's always been a mentor for me and he grabbed me and he said, 'This is your year,' " Smith told PEOPLE (the TV Show!) host Kay Adams after he won his award.

"He just hugged me and he said, 'I'm so happy for you. Just love who you're becoming,' " he said.

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Continued Smith: "He knew me years ago, 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. He was saying that he felt like a weight was lifted off of his shoulders somehow."

RELATED VIDEO: Tim and Trevor White Talk About the Day Will Smith Invited Venus and Serena Williams to the Set of King Richard

Additionally, Smith got candid about the upward trajectory of his career as an actor, calling it "a beautiful time in my life."

"The combination of working on King Richard and the work I had to do as an actor, I was doing it while I was working on the book," he said backstage at the SAG Awards.

"So I was mining my childhood, I was, you know, really trying to understand my relationship with my father as I was trying to understand Richard Williams and then my parenting with my kids," he continued.

Concluded Smith: "It's been a time of deep personal reflection, and it is resulting in an artistic comprehension and a growth as a man, growth as an artist, that I've never had this kind of growth spurt in my life."

The 28th Annual SAG Awards are being broadcast live on TNT and TBS Sunday, Feb. 27.

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