Will Smith is forgiving himself for “being human,” eight months after The Slap

"Hurt people hurt people."

Will Smith appears to strike Chris Rock
Rob Latour/Shutterstock
The Slap

Will Smith is getting candid about the slap seen around the world. The actor spoke of the incident that made waves throughout Hollywood and social media while promoting his new Apple TV+ film, Emancipation, on Monday’s episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah — the first time he addressed the public since posting an apology on Instagram in July.

For the uninitiated, Smith came under fire on Oscars night earlier this year when he walked up to the stage and slapped host Chris Rock immediately after the comedian and host made a comment about Smith’s wife, Jada. Moments later, Smith won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in King Richard, prompting an acceptance speech that did not include an apology to Rock. “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said,” Smith shared at the time, alluding to the slap. “I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things.”

Eight months later, the actor revealed more about what was going through his head on that fateful night. Ten minutes into his interview with Smith, Noah asked the award-winning actor about his life, post-Slap. Smith kept it lighthearted at first before getting serious. “I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody is going through,” Smith said in their conversation. “I was going through something that night. Not that that justifies my behavior at all. … And it’s like I understood the idea where they say, ‘Hurt people hurt people.’” While he didn’t go into specifics, Smith did provide insight on the “rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”

“It was a lot of things,” Smith said after Noah cited the actor’s memoir, in which he wrote about being afraid of conflict, as well as the “shitty things people have said about [his] family” in recent years. “It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know. All of that just bubbled up in that moment … and that’s not who I want to be.”

As for what he learned, Smith said, “We just got to be nice to each other.”

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — responsible for organizing the annual awards ceremony — announced in April that Smith would be banned from the Oscars for 10 years. The actor also resigned from the Academy, saying he "fully accept[s] any and all consequences for my conduct.”

While that’s still seemingly the case, though, both Smith and Noah shared a similar perspective on the long-term consequences. “Everybody can make a mistake,” Noah said, acknowledging that “what [Smith] did was fucked up.” But, he later continued while citing restorative justice, “The sum of a person is oftentimes how I define them, as opposed to a moment. [...] I don’t think any one of us in life deserves to be defined by our fuck up.”

In response, Smith told Noah, “I had to forgive myself for being human. [...] I had to humble down and realize I’m a flawed human, and I still have an opportunity to go out in the world and contribute in a way that fills my heart and hopefully helps other people.”