Will Smith told David Letterman that he felt like a “coward” for failing to protect his mother from his abusive father.
The “Men In Black” actor made the comments during a new episode of Netflix’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” according to The New York Post. The episode started with a disclaimer saying it was filmed prior to the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony, which was when Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face.
“Don’t say nothin’ ‘bout my mother, Dave,” Smith teases Letterman at one point during the episode.
Later, the 53-year-old actor talked about his childhood and how it still affects him. Smith said he goes into detail about certain events in his upcoming memoir, “Will.”
“The first line of the first chapter is, ‘I’ve always thought of myself as a coward,” the actor told Letterman. “When I was nine years old, I saw my father beat up my mother, and I didn’t do anything. And that just left a traumatic impression of myself as a coward.”
“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 continued. “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.”
The “Pursuit of Happyness” star also gave the former late night host some tips for defending his family. He said the “material world is completely, utterly, and totally incapable of sustaining our happiness.”
“Beyond the essentials of protecting yourself and your family,” Letterman replied.
“You can’t protect your family, right?” Smith countered. “That’s not real. 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.”
“So with that reality, how can you be here? And how can you be joyful and be here?” he said.
Since the interview was recorded, Smith’s reputation has been forever changed after striking Rock in front of an international audience. He made a public apology and resigned from the Academy following the incident.
“My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable,” Smith said in part. “The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris [Rock], his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy.”
“I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work,” he continued, The Daily Wire previously reported.
“I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film. So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate.”