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Advice from his wife. Jada Pinkett asked Will Smith to apologize to Chris Rock after seeing her husband “in hell” over the controversy that won’t seem to “die down.”
A source told Us Weekly on August 1, 2022, that Jada—who has been married to Will since 1997—was the one who convinced The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum to publicly apologize to Chris for striking him on live television at the 94th annual Academy Awards in March 2022. “Jada has also been pushing Will to apologize because it has become this really dark cloud over her Red Table Talk series,” the insider said, adding that Will “never wanted to” apologize to Chris but knew the public had been waiting for “any mention of that moment.”
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The source also told Us Weekly that Will has been “in hell” since his altercation with Chris and wanted to find a way to “move forward” without talking about the slap again. “His team had hoped that the controversy would die down, but it just hasn’t,” the insider said. “It would be impossible for him to move forward successfully unless he [addressed the slap].”
Will made headlines at the Oscars in March 2022 after he slapped Chris for making a joke about Jada’s bald head, which he took as an insult toward his wife’s longtime struggle with alopecia. Four months after the incident, Will took to his YouTube, Instagram and Facebook accounts with a public apology to Chris for his behavior that night. “I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk,” Will said in a message to Chris. “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,” Will said. “So I will say to you, Chris, I apologize to you. My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Will—who won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in King Richard that night—also explained why he didn’t apologize to Chris in his Oscars acceptance speech. “I was fogged out by that point. It’s all fuzzy,” he said. Will also told viewers that he wanted to apologize to Chris’ mother, Rose Rock, who told WIS-TV in April 2022 that Chris slapping her son “hurt” her too. “When he slapped Chris, he slapped all of us,” she said at the time. ”Because when you hurt my child, you hurt me.”
In his video, titled “It’s been a minute…,” Will confessed that he didn’t realize “how many people” would be hurt by his actions. “I saw an interview that his mother did. That’s one of the things about that moment I didn’t realize, I wasn’t thinking, but how many people got hurt in that moment,” he said. “So I want to apologize to Chris’s mother; I want to apologize to Chris’s family, specifically Tony Rock [Chris’s younger brother]. We had a great relationship. Tony Rock was my man. This is probably irreparable.”
Will ended his video by telling viewers that he’s spent the past three months since the Oscars “replaying” the moment with Chris in his mind. “I spent the last three months replaying and understanding the complexities and nuances of what happened,” he said. “I’m not gonna try to unpack all of that right now but I can say to you, there was no part of me that thought that was the right way to behave in that moment.”
As for Chris, the comedian has made references to the slap in at various stand-up performances in the past couple months, however, he has yet to speak about the moment at length. During a stand-up performance with Kevin Hart in July 2022, Chris responded to claims he was a “victim” of Will’s. During a stand-up show on Sunday alongside Kevin Hart at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, Chris said, “I’m not a victim, motherfucker,” he said, according to Us Weekly. “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face.”
Chris also shaded Will at a stand-up performance in Holmdel, New Jersey, on July 24, 2022, where he poked fun at the incident. “Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” he said. Chris also called Will “Suge Smith,” a reference to the currently-incarcerated Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, who was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2018 for manslaughter. Later in his set, Chris also denied being a “victim” of Will’s. “I’m not a victim, mother–ker,” he said. “Yeah, that s–t hurt, motherf–ker. But I shook that s–t off and went to work the next day … I don’t go to the hospital for a papercut.”
For more about Will Smith, read his memoir, Will. The book, which was number one on The New York Times bestseller list, takes readers through Smith’s life, from his childhood in West Philadelphia and early rap career to his rise as one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars. The autobiography—which Oprah Winfrey described as “the best memoir I’ve ever read”—also explores a side of Smith’s life he’s never told before. “Will is the story of how one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same,” the publisher’s description of the book reads. “Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world’s biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home.”
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