Even though Chris Rock was able to make jokes about Will Smith slapping him at last year’s Oscars during his live Netflix special earlier this year, Chris Rock: Selective Outrage, good friend Leslie Jones said the effects of that on-stage assault were much deeper than the public has seen.
“That s–t was humiliating. It really affected him,” Jones told People magazine in an interview promoting her new memoir, Leslie F*cking Jones (featuring a forward from Rock). “People need to understand his daughters, his parents, saw that. He had to go to counseling with his daughters.”
Jones said the incident “infuriated” her when she watched Rock get slapped hard across the face by Smith during the awards ceremony. “You don’t know that I was going to jump in my car and roll up there,” she said. “I was so f–king mad on so many levels.” The former SNL cast member and stand-up comedian said that for a long time she was just mad about the incident in which Smith — who would win a best actor Oscar later in the night for his starring role in the Williams family tennis biopic King Richard — stormed the stage and assaulted Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
“Chris Rock did a f—ing joke,” Jones said of Rock’s quip. I know Will, too… I was like, you couldn’t handle that s–t afterwards. This is the Oscars. The whole world is watching.”
On the night of the incident, Smith leapt from his seat and slapped Rock hard across the face after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, which, Rock later said, he was not aware was a result of the singer/actress’ struggle with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that can cause hair loss and balding.
When she talked to Rock about the incident later, Jones said she asked the fellow stand-up why he didn’t just run away when he saw Smith charging at him. “‘I would’ve been running around that stage like “Will, calm down. Jada, call your man!,’” Jones said, adding that she also wished that Smith had reacted to the moment differently. (It did not appear as if People reached out to Smith or Rock’s camps for comment.)
“He could have still fixed it,” she said of Smith, who was back on stage a short time later to accept his best actor award. If Jones had her way, Smith would have offered an immediate, heartfelt apology to Rock, along the lines of: “‘I shouldn’t have did that. Bring Chris out. I can not accept the Oscar right now because that was f—ing wrong.’”
Instead, during his acceptance speech, Smith issued a mea culpa of sorts for his actions earlier in the night — without mentioning Rock — with the comedian later declining to press charges. Following a more formal apology to Rock, Smith resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which banned him from attending any Academy events for 10 years; Smith is still eligible for future Oscar nominations and will keep the award he won in 2022.