"That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time."
Will Smith pulled back the curtain (a bit) on his infamous Oscars night that saw him both win his first-ever Oscar and have that moment completely overshadowed by "the slap."
The star of the upcoming "Emancipation" dropped by "The Daily Show" on Monday night where he talked with Trevor Noah about the film and his hopes that what happened between him and Chris Rock won't overshadow the incredible work that went into it.
"The idea that they might be denied because of me," said Smith with a groan. "That is killing me dead ... I hope that their work will be honored and their work will not be tainted based on a horrific decision on my part."
"The people on this team have done some of the best work of their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don't penalize my team," he continued. "At this point, that's what I'm working for."
"Horrific" is how he described the whole night, too, even as he said he did not have a wholly individual memory of it. "There are many nuances to it, and complexities to it, but at the end of the day I just, I lost it," the actor admitted.
"I guess what I would say, you just never know what somebody's going through," he told Noah's audience, admitting that he was "going through something that night."
"You're asking, what did I learn. It's that, we just gotta be nice to each other, man," Smith continued. " It's like, it's hard. I guess the thing that was the most painful for me is, I took my hard and made it hard for other people."
He went on to add, "I understood the idea when they said hurt people hurt people."
While he didn't offer any details as to what the "something" was that he was going through, Smith did suggest that there was another element behind the outburst that saw him storm the stage and slap Rock across the face.
The moment happened after Rock made a "G.I. Jane" joke about Smith's wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia. Rock subsequently said that he was unaware of her condition.
Telling Noah that he "was gone" that night, Smith said, "That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time."
At another point in the interview, he attributed part of his response all the way back to childhood, saying, "It was a lot of things. It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother. All of that just bubbled up in that moment."
That connection to childhood triggered one of Smith's emotional responses, too, when he shared how he had to face his actions that very night from the most unexpected source.
He talked about his nine-year-old nephew Dom, who had stayed up that night to watch his Uncle WIll. Afterwards, "We're sitting in my kitchen, he's on my lap and he's holding the Oscar and he's just like, 'Why did you hit that man, Uncle Will?'"
At this recollection, Smith started tearing up. "Dammit, why you trying to Oprah me?" he shot at Noah. "it was a mess. I don't want to go too far into it and give people more to misunderstand."
Noah was very gracious to his guest and friend, offering him some advice toward the end of the interview. It's not the first time Smith has suggested that the outburst was a lot of things that had been bottled up.
Smith again reiterated that this isn't the person he wanted to be, and went so far as to say that he hates the fact that he's human, but he's learning to "find that space for myself within myself to be human."
Instead, he always "wanted to be Superman," flying in to "save the damsel in distress." In a way, that's what he was trying to do at the Oscars.
"I had to humble down and realize that I'm a flawed human," he said. That very humanness is what Noah wanted Smith to learn to be okay with.
"I hope you know you don't always have to bottle it up," Noah told him. "You not being perfect is what'll make you perfect. You're Will Smith, man!"
In his first interview over the weekend as part of his "Emancipation" publicity tour, Smith said that he understands if people are hesitant to watch the movie because of the Oscars incident.
"I completely understand that. If someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready," Smith told DC's Fox 5. "My deepest concern is my team. [Director Antoine Fuqua] I think has done what I think is his greatest work of his entire career."
"I'm hoping that the material, the power of the film, the timeliness of the story, I'm hoping that the good that can be done would open people's hearts at a minimum to see and recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film."
The movie stars Smith as a man who escapes slavery and heads North to join the Union Army. It was inspired by the real-life "Whipped Peter," whose scarred back from whippings was captured in photos from a medical examination and used by the abolitionist movement to highlight the horrors of slavery.
Smith issued a lengthy apology video back in July, in which he said his behavior at the Oscars was "unacceptable."
"I'm here whenever you're ready to talk," he said to Chris Rock in the video, before apologizing to Rock's mother and brother, Tony, as well as his wife Jada, their kids and his fellow nominees.
He concluded the video by saying he was "deeply remorseful" and "trying not to think of myself as a piece of s---," while promising he was "deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love into the world" going forward.
Will Smith stars in "Emancipation," in theaters December 2 and streaming on Apple TV+ December 9.