There was a moment in Will Smith’s acceptance speech during the 94th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night (March 27) when he explained his mother was in Philly watching the ceremony with her knitting club. Like the rest of the world, Carolyn Bright had just witnessed the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor-turned-movie star slap comedian Chris Rock across the face in one of the most “WTF” moments in live television history.
As the crowd collectively gasped, Bright apparently was caught by surprise, too. Speaking to ABC6 the 85-year-old admitted she’d never seen that side of her son.
“He is a very even people person and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go off,” she said. “The first time in his lifetime. It did [surprise me]. It did. I’ve never seen him do that.”
Will Smith’s sister, Ellen, added, “Everybody in life has been bullied or abused in some kind of way. I totally understand. People are like, ‘Oh, I wish I was in such and such shoes’ and ‘Oh, those are those my goals and everything,’ but you really don’t know what it takes to get there. And I’ve had conversations with him and it’s like, it really kinda broke my heart listening to the things that he said he had to go through to get to where he is.”
Despite the altercation, Bright is still extremely proud of her 53-year-old son for winning his first Oscar, a long time coming for the seasoned actor. She also recommended he “get some rest” and take a vacation.
“I know how he works, how hard he works,” she said. “I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. When I heard the name, I was just, ‘Yes!”
Moments after the slap heard around the world, Smith won the honor in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category for his portrayal of Richard Williams in King Richard. With all eyes on him, he was moved to address the elephant in the room.
“I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you,” he said. “In this business, you gotta have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend that it’s OK. I want to apologize to the Academy, I wanna apologize to all my fellow nominees. This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s not about winning an award for me. It’s about being able to shine a light on all of the people … art imitates life. I look like the crazy father. Love will make you do crazy things.”
He ended with, “To my mother, a lot of this moment is really complicated for me. To my mother … she has a knitting crew in Philly she’s watching with. Being able to love and care for my mother, my family, my wife, thank you for this honor. Thank you for this moment … I hope the Academy invites me back.”
Will Smith’s Oscar speech. pic.twitter.com/XF7PeO01wp
— Temur Durrani (@temurdur) March 28, 2022
Smith didn’t include Chris Rock in the apology — that came later. On Monday (March 28), he issued a lengthy statement condemning violence and directly apologizing to the legendary comedian.
“Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive,” Smith wrote. “My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”
He continued, “I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family,” he continued. “I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress.”