An emotional Will Smith revisited Oscar night with Trevor Noah on Monday by explaining what drove him to slap Chris Rock in front of millions of viewers.
“I was gone, dude,” Smith told Noah on The Daily Show. “That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”
Smith, who was on the Comedy Central show to promote his latest film Emancipation, shared a heartfelt story about coming home from winning his first Academy Award and having to explain his behavior to his 9-year-old nephew. “He’s the sweetest little boy. He stayed up late to see his Uncle Will. We are sitting in the kitchen, he’s on my lap holding the Oscar, [and he asked] ‘why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’”
“Why you trying to Oprah me?” Smith remembered thinking. “I was like, it was a mess. I don’t want to go too far into it to give people more to misunderstand.”
Earlier in the discussion, Smith tried to explain his behavior by reminding people “you just never know what somebody is going through.”
“I was going through something that night,” he said, while turning to address the Daily Show audience. “That doesn’t justify my behavior at all.”
“We just gotta be nice to each other, man,” Smith continued, gripping a tissue. “It’s hard. I guess the thing that was most painful for me, is I took my heart and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea when they say hurt people hurt people.”
He also talked about how he became “the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, all of that bubbled up in that moment. That’s not who I want to be.”
Noah tried several times to stick up for Smith saying “everybody can make a mistake” and how the actor’s actions on Oscar night were “not who you are.” Noah also called out the “relentlessly shitty” press that he and his wife Jada Pinkett have endured.
It brought Smith to tears.
“I understand how shocking it was to people,” Smith said.
This was the first time Smith addressed the incident on a late night talk show. In a recent conversation with Fox 5’s Good Day DC journalist Kevin McCarthy, Smith said he realizes that some people may not want to see his new movie after what happened at the Oscars.
“I completely understand — if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” Smith told McCarthy. “My deepest concern is my team – Antoine [Fuqua] has done what I think is the greatest work of his entire career. The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team. At this point, that’s what I’m working for.”
Emancipation opens in theaters December 2 and will stream on Apple TV+ beginning December 9.