Will Smith Details His “Pain” in David Letterman Interview Filmed Before Oscars

Will Smith opened up about the "trauma" he experienced in life during an interview with David Letterman, which was recorded before he slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Read his words below.

By Emlyn Travis May 22, 2022 5:42 PMTags
Watch: Will Smith Details "Pain" in David Letterman Netflix Interview

Will Smith is shedding some light on the "pain" in his life.

The King Richard actor, 53, was one of multiple stars interviewed by David Letterman for Season 4 of the Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, which was released on May 20. His episode began, however, with a black title card that informed audiences that "this episode was filmed prior to the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony."

Back in March, Will made headlines for slapping Chris Rock onstage at the event after the comedian made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith

During their hour-long conversation, Will dug deep into the "trauma" that he experienced throughout his childhood and career, which he detailed in his 2021 memoir Will. Noting the opening line of his novel, the actor explained that he's "always thought of myself as a coward" after he witnessed his father "beat up" his mother as a child and did not intervene.

The effect caused Will to project a cheery, positive image throughout his career. "When I showed up, I wanted people to feel good and be happy," he explained. "Because I found that when my household was that way, I felt safe."  

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During the episode, the actor jokingly mimed getting into multiple fights. At one point, Will pretended to throw a punch when the host referenced his mother, teasing, "Don't say nothing about my mother, Dave."   

Ser Baffo/Netflix

Later on in the interview, the Men in Black actor shared that he once experienced a vision of "my whole life getting destroyed" after taking Ayahuasca.  

The moment gave him confidence about his future. "When I came out of it, I realized that anything that happens in my life, I can handle it," Will shared. "I can handle any person I lose. I can handle anything that goes wrong in my life. I can handle anything in my marriage." 

Elsewhere, Will discussed the idea that it's impossible to "protect your family" from the outside world.  

"Protection and safety is an illusion. You have to learn to live with the reality that any moment, anything can be gone in one second," he said. "So, with that reality, how can you be here? And how can you be joyful and be here?" 

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Toward the end of their conversation, Will shared that addressing all of these difficult feelings that he's been grappling with throughout his life has "unlocked" a new part of him as an actor.   

"Life is so exciting to me right now because I can reach people differently than I've ever been able to reach people, largely because of my pain," he explained. "I'm really ready to dive into my art in a way that I think will be hopefully fulfilling for me and helpful for the human family." 

Following the altercation last March, Will resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and received a 10-year ban. He also publicly apologized to Chris for the incident, writing in part, "There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness."

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