In a recent interview with Gayle King as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Directors Series on Monday (June 13), Tyler Perry addressed the headline-making moment at the 2022 Oscars in March, when Will Smith stormed the stage and slapped Chris Rock.
Immediately following the incident, Perry was seen speaking to Smith along with Denzel Washington. “There’s a difference between comforting and de-escalating, that’s No. 1,” he explained, according to People. “And I left early to get to Chris to make sure he was okay. Being friends with both of them has been very difficult.”
“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,” he 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.”
Perry also shared that Smith’s actions were “wrong in no uncertain terms, and I made sure I said that to Will.”
“And I’ll tell you, when we walked over to him, he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t believe he did it,” he said of the King Richard star. “I’m looking at this man in his eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night.’ And to get all the way to this moment, winning an Oscar, that was one of the crowning moments of his career that he wanted so desperately, and to have something like that happen….”
“I think he is very much in reflection of trying to figure out what happened,” Perry concluded. “Because what I’ll tell you is I just read his book, and there’s this moment about not being able to protect his mother [as a child]. 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.”
The tense moment occurred after Rock made an onstage joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, during the Academy Awards ceremony. “Jada, I love you. G.I Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” the comedian said about her shaved head — which, unbeknownst to Rock, is caused by the actress’ struggles with alopecia.
Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes in response, while Smith laughed. Shortly after, the King Richard actor stormed the stage to slap Rock, who attempted to continue his banter before Smith began shouting from his seat, “Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth.”
Smith has since issued an apology via Instagram, writing, “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally. I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. 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.”
Rock broke his silence during a comedy show in Boston a few days later. “How was your weekend?” he asked the crowd, who began laughing, as reported by Variety. “I don’t have a bunch of sh– about what happened, so if you came to hear that, I have a whole show I wrote before this weekend. I’m still kind of processing what happened. So at some point, I’ll talk about that sh–. And it will be serious and funny.”