Eight months after the slap heard around the world, actor Will Smith sat down with “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah on Monday to address his confrontation with Chris Rock on the Oscars stage.
In March, Smith went on the Oscars stage and slapped Rock across the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock referred to her as “G.I. Jane” in a failed attempt to poke fun at her hair loss, which happened because of the autoimmune disorder alopecia. Smith has since apologized for the incident, but had yet to sit down for a major TV interview to discuss what happened.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” Smith told Noah. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it, but at the end of the day, I just — I lost it. I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody’s going through.”
Smith turned to the audience and used them as an example, saying that people could be sitting next to others who just lost a parent, has a sick child, lost their job or other issues that are taking a toll on their well-being.
“I was going through something that night. And not that that justifies my behavior at all. You’re asking what did I learn and it’s that we just got to be nice to each other, man. It’s hard. And I guess the thing that was most painful for me is that I took my hard and made it hard for other people.”
Noah told Smith that even with the controversy surrounding the slap and the significant criticism that arose from it, to him, the incident seemed to be a response to years of unrelated happenings in the actor’s life. Smith agreed.
“It was a lot of things. It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother. It’s all of that just bubbled up in that moment. It’s just – that’s not who I want to be,” Smith said.
Noah responded by saying that “everybody can make a mistake,” and that the reason the slap was so shocking is because it was not who Smith really is at his core. That response prompted Smith to tear up.
“I understand how shocking that was for people, man. … That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time,” Smith said. “But I understand the pain.”
Smith also spoke with FOX 5 DC’s Kevin McCarthy on Monday about his new movie, “Emancipation,” his first major post-slap film project, which is set to be released this weekend. Even though Smith was banned from the Oscars for a decade and resigned from the Academy for his actions, he could still potentially be nominated and win an Oscar for his role in the film.
He told McCarthy that he would understand if people refrain from watching the movie and aren’t “ready” to embrace him again. His utmost concern, however, is that he doesn’t want his actions to come at the cost of the team who made the film possible.
But ultimately, even with that possibility, Smith told Noah, that the situation has taught him one presiding thing: “I had to forgive myself for being human.”
“There’s no better that hates the fact that I’m human more than me,” he said. “…I’ve always wanted to be Superman. I’ve always wanted to swoop in and save the damsel in distress and I had to humble down and realize that I’m a flawed human and I still have an opportunity to go out in the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart and hopefully helps other people.”