During the 94th annual Academy Awards on March 27, Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith where he joked about her joining G.I. Jane 2. The Girls Trip actress, who previously revealed that she has alopecia, rolled her eyes at the comment about her shaved head.
In response, her husband walked up to the stage and slapped the comedian. “Will Smith just smacked the s—t out of me,” the South Carolina native said in censored footage that later circulated online. The King Richard star returned to his seat while yelling at Rock multiple times to “keep my wife’s name out your f—king mouth.”
After winning the award for best actor later that night, Smith addressed the shocking situation in his emotional acceptance speech. “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you got to be able to take abuse,” he said at the time. “You got to be able to have people talk crazy about you. In this business you got to be able to have people disrespecting you. And you got to smile, you got to pretend like that’s OK.”
The Suicide Squad actor also apologized to Rock directly on social media, writing via Instagram, “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.”
Pinkett Smith, for her part, seemingly reacted to the incident when she shared an Instagram quote, which read, “This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.”
Amid major backlash, Smith received support from his family and former cast members. Janet Hubert, who was previously in a feud with Smith, praised the I Am Legend actor for his accomplishment at the Oscars. “There is only so much one can take … sometimes you have to slap back. Celebrate the win … nothing else matters,” she wrote via Instagram on March 28.
The social media support came after Smith and Hubert discussed their past issues during the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air HBO Max special.
“We never really publicly talk about Janet and what happened,” the Gemini Man star said in November 2020 before hugging the Chicago native who originated the role of Aunt Viv. “For me, it felt like I couldn’t celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without finding a way to celebrate Janet. So she agreed to sit down and have a conversation with me. And Janet and I saw one another for the first time in 27 years yesterday.”
At the time, Hubert got candid about the difficulties she was dealing with ahead of her departure in 1993. “During that third season when I got pregnant, there [were] a lot of things going on in my life and Will’s life as well,” she recalled during a talk with Smith. “Home life was not good at all. I was no longer laughing, smiling, joking because there were things going on that nobody knew about. [The] cast had no idea what was going on.”
Smith admitted that he would have approached the situation “very differently” if he had the knowledge he has now, saying, “I can see where I made the set very difficult for Janet.”
Scroll down for everything past and present Fresh Prince of Bel-Air stars have said about Smith’s altercation: