Since the slap was heard around the world, Oscar-winning actor Will Smith has been mostly absent from mainstream media.
The Emancipation star has kept up to date on his Instagram from time to time, but now he has made his return to late-night TV: the first since his altercation with Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars back in March. Speaking with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Will candidly and emotionally spoke about what went down and what the months since have been like for him.
“I have been away,” Will said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “What have y’all been doing?”
While Will did apologize to Chris Rock in an Instagram video, he has never openly talked about the night on late-night TV until speaking with longtime friend Trevor, who asked what Will has learned in the intervening months.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” he admitted. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just — I lost it, you know?”
"And I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody's going through, you know?” he continued. “In the audience right now, you are sitting next to strangers, and somebody's mother died last week. Somebody's child is sick. Somebody just lost their job. Somebody just found out their spouse cheated."
"It's like -- there's all these things, and they're strangers, and you just don't know what is going on with people.I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behaviour at all…”
"You are asking, what did I learn, and it is that we just got to be nice to each other, man," he frankly said which elicited applause. "I guess the thing that was most painful for me is, I took my hard and made it hard for other people. I understood the idea, they say hurt people hurt people."
He continued, “It was a lot of things. It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know? All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That is not who I want to be.”
“I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time,” he added before launching into an incredibly emotional admission.
“My nephew is nine. He is the sweetest little boy. We came home. He had stayed up late to see his uncle Will and we are sitting in my kitchen and he is on my lap and he is holding the Oscar and he is just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’” As the audience reacted to that sad admission, Will drew a tissue from his pocket to wipe away tears. “Damn it. Why are you trying to Oprah me?” he joked.
"That was one of the big things for me over this last couple of months, that I had to forgive myself for being human," he concluded. “And trust me, there is nobody that hates the fact that I'm human more than me."
Will is currently promoting his upcoming film Emancipation, directed by Antoine Fuqua, which Will says is not a slavery film, but a film about freedom. The movie, which was filmed before the Oscars incident, could have diminishing returns when it premieres due to the public’s reaction to Will’s violent act. However, Will hopes that people will be able to give this film, which he calls a “masterpiece,” its due.
“The idea that they might be denied because of me is like, oh! It's like, that is killing me dead, you know. And it's like the thing that is so critical for me is that these people came, and they trusted me, and they were down for me, and you know, I just, I hope that their work will be honoured and their work will not be tainted based on a horrific decision on my part,” he told Trevor.
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Antoine Fuqua said, “400 years of slavery is bigger than one moment. My hope is that people will see it that way and watch the movie and be swept away with the great performance by Will and all the real hard work that the whole crew did.”
Emancipation will be available to stream on Apple TV + on December 9.