Appearing on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Monday (November 28) to promote his new Emancipation movie, the actor tearfully reflected on his actions and shared what he’s learned from that fateful night in March.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” he said. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it, but at the end of the day, I just — I lost it, you know? I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody’s going through.
“In the audience right now, you’re sitting next to strangers. Somebody’s mother died last week, somebody’s child is sick, somebody just lost their job, somebody just found out their spouse cheated. There’s all these things and they’re strangers, and you just don’t know what’s going on with people.”
Will Smith went on to explain that it wasn’t an excuse for slapping Chris Rock and described the impact his actions had on him.
“I was going through something that night, you know?” he said. “Not that that justifies my behavior at all. I would just say, you’re asking what did I learn – it’s that we just gotta be nice to each other, man.
“It’s hard. And I guess the thing that was most painful for me is, I took my heart and I made it hard for other people. It’s like, I understood the idea that 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’s not who I wanna be. You’ve known me for a long time so you know me personally, so you know, but y’all might not know.”
Will Smith revealed his nine-year-old nephew questioned him about the slap when he got from the Oscars later that night.
“I understand how shocking that was for people, man,” he said. “On that stage. I was gone, dude. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time. I understand the pain, you know? My nephew, Dom, is nine, and he is the sweetest little boy. We came home and he had stayed up late to see his Uncle Will, and we’re sitting in my kitchen.
“He’s on my lap and he’s holding the Oscar and he’s just like, ‘Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?’ Damn it. Why are you trying to Oprah me? It was a mess, you know? I don’t wanna go too far into it to give people more to misunderstand.”