“My only problem with it is this,” Perry told King, per Deadline. “If I talk about it, then it becomes overshadowing of everything else we talked about. That will be the headline for sure.”
Perry went on to say he was “there, close up,” when Smith slapped Rock over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
“I left early to go and check on Chris because it was wrong in no uncertain terms and I made sure I said that to Will,” Perry said.
Perry said he also took issue with how the media portrayed him as comforting Smith after the slap. “There is a difference between comforting and de-escalating,” Perry said. “Being friends with both of them has been very difficult.”Perry went on to explain how Smith felt in the incident’s aftermath. “[Will] couldn’t believe what happened,” Perry said. “He couldn’t believe he did it. And I’m looking at this man, in my eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night...and to get all this way to winning an Oscar. It was one of the crowning moments of his career that he wanted so desperately.”
King then asked if he’s spoken to Smith since the King Richard star was dealt a 10-year ban from the Academy. Perry said Smith was “devastated” because of the ban.
“Trust me, as painful as it was for all of us in the room, it was as painful for Chris, who was a pure champion for the way he handled it,” Perry continued. “But I want you to understand that something happened that was extremely painful for [Will] as well. That is no excuse. He was completely wrong for what he did. But something triggered him—that is so out of everything he is.”
He went on to say that Smith is still coming to terms with the slap and alluded to a portion of the actor’s recent biography where he writes about not being able to protect his mother at a young age.
“I think he is very much in reflection, trying to figure out what happened,” Perry said. “I know that feeling — I’m getting chills just thinking about it. I know that feeling of being a man and thinking about the little boy. And if that trauma is not dealt with right away, as you get older it will show up in the most inappropriate, most horrible time. I know Will. I know him well.”
Rock has yet to offer an official response to the slap, but prior to his 10-year ban, Smith penned an official apology that he shared on his social media.
“I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” he wrote in part. “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.”