Will Smith Gives First Awards Speech Since Assaulting Chris Rock

Will Smith

Will Smith popped up at the AAFCA awards gala and gave his first speech since he pummeled Chris Rock on stage.

Will Smith has made his first in-person speech since his controversial moment at the 2022 Academy Awards.

During the Oscars ceremony in March 2022, the “King Richard” actor walked onto the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock after he compared his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith – who has the medical condition alopecia – to G.I. Jane. He later apologized to Rock and his peers.

After largely steering clear of the public eye for many months, Smith delivered a speech at the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) Awards staged in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, on Wednesday night.

After accepting The Beacon Award alongside director Antoine Fuqua for their film “Emancipation,” Smith recalled shooting a particularly challenging scene in which he portrays a slave who escapes Louisiana in the 1860s to seek freedom.

“Emancipation was the individual most difficult film of my entire career. It was all outdoors, that is true,” he joked, according to Variety.

“It was the second day of shooting, and 110 degrees… I was in a scene with one of the white actors. The actor decided to ad-lib. So, we’re doing the scene. I did my line. He did his line. And then – ad lib – he spit in the middle of my chest,” Smith said as the crowd groaned. “The actor felt that the ad-lib had gone well. So, we do take two. I do my line. He does his line – and spits in the middle of my chest again… In the distance, I hear a voice. And Antoine says, ‘Hey, let’s do a take without the spit.’ And in that moment, I knew that God was real.”

Smith also thanked AAFCA officials for “keeping our stories alive” and producers at Apple TV+ for their support in making the project.

“It was the first time I had heard from a studio that the story was more important than how much it costs to get it done… They make iPhones. They can do it,” the 54-year-old smiled.

Elsewhere at the ceremony, the cast of the biographical drama “Till” was presented with the Impact Award, “Nope” composer Michael Abels was given The Innovator Award, and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” producer Nate Moore was honored with The Ashley Boone Award.