NEW YORK — In his first late-night interview since slapping comedian Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars, Will Smith said he "was going through something that night" and "lost it."
Smith has been mostly silent since "The Slap," when he stormed onto stage to confront Rock after the comedian made a joke about Smith's wife's shaved head. Jada Pinkett Smith has been open about having alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss.
Asked about the incident Monday on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," Smith gave some of his thoughts on the "horrific night."
“There's many nuances and complexities to it, you know, but at the end of the day, I just, I lost it, you know,” Smith told Noah. “I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behavior at all ... 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 where they say 'hurt people, hurt people.'"
The Academy Award winner said "a lot of things" were on his mind at the time.
"It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know?" Smith said. "All of that just bubbled up in that moment. That's not who I want to be."
Smith has faced fallout and questions since the slap, including, he said, in his personal life — he told Noah that his nine-year-old nephew was watching the Oscars and asked Smith why he "hit that man."
Smith's first post-slap movie release, "Emancipation," is debuting in December in theaters and Apple TV+. The fate of the $120 million thriller, inspired by 1863 photos of a man known as “Whipped Peter," was uncertain in the months after the Oscars. Smith portrays the lead character, a man who escapes from slavery in Louisiana. He described it to Noah as "a freedom movie" about the man in the photos.
"You see the image, but you don't know who he is. You don’t know what the story is,” Smith said.