Denzel Washington broke his silence Saturday on Will Smith’s Oscars slap, addressing his conversation with Smith immediately following the actor’s assault of Chris Rock onstage at the ceremony.
Smith shocked everyone when he walked onto the stage and slapped presenter Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. During the commercial break after the slap, Washington and Tyler Perry were seen talking with Smith and seemingly encouraging the actor ahead of his first Oscar win for Best Actor.
Washington appeared with producer and author T.D. Jakes at the mega pastor’s Leadership Summit on Saturday (the livestream of which TheWrap hosted exclusively) for a conversation about his career and faith, and he addressed what happened at the Oscars. “You stepped in the middle of World War III,” Jakes said, asking Smith about what occurred.
“There’s a saying when the devil ignores you, then you know you’re doing something wrong,” Washington began. “The devil goes, ‘Oh no leave him alone, he’s my favorite’ (laughs). Conversely, when the devil comes at you, maybe it’s because he’s trying to do something right. And for whatever reason the devil got a hold of him that night.”
Washington declined to say what he specifically discussed with Smith and Perry, but revealed that they prayed. “Fortunately there were people there, not just me but others [like] Tyler Perry came immediately right over there with me,” Washington said. “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.”
While Smith apologized to the Academy and his fellow nominees when accepting his Best Actor Oscar for his performance in “King Richard,” he initially declined to apologize to Rock. The day after the Oscars, Smith released a statement in which he offered Rock an apology: “I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris,” the statement read in part. “I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be.”
The fallout from Smith’s actions continue, with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences launching a formal review of the event. On Friday, Smith resigned from the Academy and said he will fully accept “any and all consequences” that result from the Academy’s review. “Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason,” the “King Richard” star said.