Will Smith
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

With the release of Will Smith’s upcoming movie “Emancipation” nearing, the traditional press tour has begun for the actor, and he is not shying away from discussing the elephant in the room, a.k.a. slapgate.

In an interview with Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show” on Monday, the “King Richard” actor spoke with Noah and the audience about why he slapped Chris Rock on the Oscar stage, how he felt that night and how it affected everyone around him.

“That was a horrific night as you can imagine,” said Smith. “There’s many nuances and complexities to it you know. But at the end of the day, I just lost it. I was going through something that night. Not that that justifies any of my behavior at all.”

Smith went on to explain how years of built-up rage came to the surface that night.

“Yeah, it was a lot of things,” said Smith. “It was the little boy that watched his father beat up his mother, you know. All of that just bubbled up in that moment.”

The actor became emotional a few times during the interview, one moment in particular was when he recalled watching the Oscars with his nine-year-old nephew Dom.

“He had stayed up late to see his Uncle Will,” said Smith. “And we’re sitting in my kitchen and he’s on my lap and he’s holding the Oscar and he’s just like ‘Why did you hit that man Uncle Will?’”

Smith was then overcome with emotion and met with audible sympathy from the audience.

Eight months ago, Smith shocked the world by walking on stage live during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony and slapping Rock after making a joke about Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith while presenting for best documentary feature.

In an interview with Fox 5 in Washington, D.C, Smith said he understands if his actions deter people from wanting to watch “Emancipation,” a historical action/thriller in which Smith leads as an enslaved African who goes through the struggle of escaping slavery and heading north.

“If someone was not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready,” said Smith.

He also hopes that people can look past the slap and support the efforts of everyone else who has worked on the film.

“My deepest concern is my team,” he said. “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. So at this point, that’s what I’m working for. That’s what I’m hoping for. 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.”

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