Tyler Perry is breaking his silence on the now-infamous altercation between Will Smith and Chris Rock that took place at the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.
Perry was one of the actors seen rallying around Smith in the chaotic moments following the slap, alongside Denzel Washington, whom Smith called out for his wise words during his acceptance speech for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Film.
While speaking candidly with Gayle King during a Tribeca Film Festival panel, People reports that Perry made it clear that he was not comforting Smith in the moment, but rather doing what he could to calm spirits down and establish peace.
“There’s a difference between comforting and deescalating, that’s No. 1. And I left early to get to Chris to make sure he was okay,” Perry said. “Being friends with both of them has been very difficult.”
Perry stressed that the violent outburst was “wrong in no uncertain terms, and I made sure I said that to Will.”
“Trust me, as painful as it was for all of us in the room, it was as painful for Chris, who was a pure champion for the way he handled it. But I want you to understand that something happened that was extremely painful for [Will] as well,” he added. “That is no excuse. He was completely wrong for what he did. But something triggered him — that is so out of everything he is.”
Perry says the impact of the moment was not lost on Smith, who seemed just as shocked by his actions as everyone else in the room was.
“And I’ll tell you, when we walked over to him, he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened. He couldn’t believe he did it,” Perry continued. “I’m looking at this man in his eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night.'”
“To get all the way to this moment, winning an Oscar, that was one of the crowning moments of his career that he wanted so desperately, and to have something like that happen…”
Denzel Washington echoed similar sentiments during an early April appearance at Pastor T.D. Jakes‘ annual International Leadership Summit. While there, he opened up on the incident, saying that he felt compelled to speak with Smith in the moments after the incident.
“No way I could have sat in my seat. That’s just not who I am,” he told Jakes while speaking on a panel, as reported by The Wrap. “Fortunately there were people there, not just me but others. Tyler Perry came immediately right over there with me.”
“[There were] some prayers. I don’t wanna say what we talked about, but there but for the grace of God go any of us. Who are we to condemn? I don’t know all the ins and outs of this situation, but I know the only solution was prayer, the way I saw it, the way I see it.”
Still, Perry says he understands Smith’s trauma response, and where it was likely born from.
“I think he is very much in reflection of trying to figure out what happened,” Perry explained, noting that he had recently read his book and identified with his childhood desire to protect his mother from violence at the hands of his father. “I know that feeling — I’m getting chills just thinking about it. I know that feeling of being a man and thinking about the little boy. And if that trauma is not dealt with right away, as you get older it will show up in the most inappropriate, most horrible time. I know Will. I know him well.”