After a series of online statements and quiet public appearances over recent months, Will Smith took further steps back into the spotlight Monday evening, appearing for an interview on “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” Promoting his new historical drama “Emancipation,” Smith’s conversation with the late-night host naturally dug into his Oscars night controversy, in which he slapped Chris Rock onstage.
“I have been away,” Will Smith said, drawing a laugh from the crowd when the topic of his absence from the public eye came up. “What have y’all been doing?”
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine. There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just — I lost it, you know?” Smith continued. “I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behavior at all… 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.”
Noah interjected, offering his own perspective on the situation and recalling the discussions about the controversy that he had with peers.
“I love Chris. I’m friends with him. I love you, but this is f—-d up… I know that as Black people, Black people get together and go, ‘What was Will doing? What the hell happened?’ A lot of Black people were like, ‘He should go to jail.’ Like, you need to relax yourself,” Noah said, earning a laugh from Smith. “Some people were overreacting, which made some people underreact.”
Smith shared an anecdote from the aftermath on Oscars evening, when he was already having to deal with the reverberations of his outburst in his private life.
“I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time,” Smith said, “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?’ Damn it. Why are you trying to Oprah me?”