On Monday, the actor gave his first late night interview since the infamous Oscars slap, speaking with Trevor Noah about the night that changed his life.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” Smith said on the Daily Show. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just—I lost it, you know?” He 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.”
He added, “I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”
Noah interrupted Smith, sharing his own viewpoint on the controversy, which was divisive for many in Hollywood.
“I love Chris. I’m friends with him. I love you, but this is fucked up,” he said. “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 added, “Some people were overreacting, which made some people underreact.”
The incident bled into both Smith’s professional and personal lives. He even felt the aftermath on the night of the Oscars, in an interaction with his 9-year-old nephew. “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?” Smith joked.
As for Emancipation, Smith told Noah that the film isn’t one about slavery, but “a freedom movie.” He also recently commented on his fanbase coming out to theaters to see the pic, telling FOX 5 DC, “I completely understand—if someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready.”
Watch Smith’s interview with Noah up top.