Will Smith is offering his first on-camera apology for slapping Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, saying he’s “deeply remorseful” about the “mistake” he made.
The 53-year-old actor appeared in a video posted on his Instagram account on Friday, in which he addressed questions about the March altercation directly to the camera.
“Chris, I apologize to you,” Smith said. “My behavior was unacceptable. And I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Smith’s on-camera apology came four months after the jaw-dropping onstage moment. While presenting an award at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, Rock joked that Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, should appear in “G.I. Jane 2,” in an apparent reference to the main character’s bald head in the original 1997 film starring Demi Moore.
Pinkett Smith revealed in 2018 that she had been diagnosed with alopecia areata, a disease that causes hair loss.
Smith then approached Rock on the awards show’s stage and slapped him, before returning to his seat and hurling expletives at him.
Minutes later, Smith won an Oscar in the best actor category for his role in “King Richard” and made no mention of the earlier incident with Rock.
In his Friday video, Smith responded to a question about why he didn’t apologize to Rock in his acceptance speech.
“I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy,” Smith said. “I’ve reached out to Chris and the message that came back is that he’s not ready to talk and when he is, he will reach out.”
Saying he also wanted to apologize to Rock’s family, including the comic’s mother and brother, Smith told his 64 million Instagram followers, “I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the nuances and the complexities of what happened in that moment. And I’m not going to try to unpack all of that right now.”
“But I can say to all of you: There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment. There’s no part of me that thinks that’s the optimal way to handle a feeling of disrespect or insults.”
While Smith delivered a public apology in the form of a statement to Rock a day after the Academy Awards — calling his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable” — Friday’s video marked the first time he spoke publicly about the slap. In the wake of the altercation, the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences banned Smith from attending any of its events for 10 years.
Smith said his wife, an actor and co-host of Facebook Watch’s “Red Table Talk,” was not to blame for his actions against Rock.
“I made a choice on my own,” Smith said. “Jada had nothing to do with it.”
As to what he would say to fans who viewed him as a role model and were let down, Smith said, “Disappointing people is my central trauma.”
“So it hurts me psychologically and emotionally to know I didn’t live up to people’s image and impression of me. And the work I’m trying to do is, I am deeply remorseful and I’m trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself.”
“I’m human. And I made a mistake,” Smith continued.
“I’m trying not to think of myself as a piece of s—. So I would say to those people: I know it was confusing. I know it was shocking. But I promise you, I am deeply devoted and committed to putting light, and love and joy into the world.”
“And you know, if you hang on, I promise we’ll be able to be friends again,” Smith said.