Denzel Washington immediately consoled Smith after the Ali star slapped Rock for making a quip about Jada Pinkett Smith‘s hair loss a the awards show on March 27. (She suffers from alopecia.) Smith marched up to the stage and smacked the Everybody Hates Chris star. “Keep my wife’s name out your f—king mouth,” the actor yelled after returning to his seat.
Washington was among the first to speak with Smith after the incident, and The scandal-ridden star even name-dropped the legendary star during his Best Actor acceptance speech later that night.
“I know to do what we do, you gotta be able to take abuse, and you gotta be able to have people talk crazy about you,” Smith said while accepting the Oscar for his role in King Richard. “In this business, you gotta be able to have people disrespecting you and you gotta smile and you gotta pretend like that‘s OK.”
He continued, “Denzel said to me a few minutes ago, he said, ‘At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.’ It’s, like, I want to be a vessel for love.”
A week later, on April 2, Washington addressed the controversy during a panel at the T.D. Jakes Leadership Summit. “There’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” the Tragedy of Macbeth actor said. “The devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite.’ Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason, the devil got a hold of him that night.”
Washington added that he couldn’t ignore what had just taken place. “No way I could have sat in my seat,” he explained. “That’s just not who I am. … Fortunately, there were people there, not just me but others, [like] Tyler Perry, came immediately right over there with me.”
Perry also has a long history with Smith. The Men in Black actor brought him along on his international press tour for Seven Pounds in 2008 to show him how to sell a film overseas. When the Madea creator opened Tyler Perry Studios a decade later, a soundstage at the 330-acre Atlanta studio was officially named in honor of Smith.
Scroll down for a look inside Smith’s inner circle: