On a recent episode of David Letterman’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, Will Smith discussed his memoir, Will, and unexpectedly revealed some interesting insights into his infamous slap at this year’s Oscars. But before you get too excited that all the tea is about to be spilled, the 54-minute episode begins with the title card: “The episode was recorded prior to the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.”
Throughout the interview, Will does a joking “I’m going to fight you” bit with Dave, even showing him boxing tips he picked up while making Ali. In a different world, this all would’ve come off as the usual Will Smith/Fresh Prince charm. Of course, in a post-slap world, it all feels very weird.
Dave starts at the beginning, talking to Will about his childhood and relationship with his father. “The first line of the first chapter is, ‘I’ve always thought of myself as a coward,’” Smith 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.”
I’m no therapist, but that certainly explains why he would feel compelled to go so over the top to defend Jada while the whole theater is laughing at her.
Because Dave is such a good interviewer and Will is endlessly charming, it’s actually a really good episode. Unfortunately, it’s overshadowed by the cloud of Smith’s actions at The Oscars.
Perhaps the most telling part of the interview comes when Will details hallucinogenic visions–or “journeys”—he went on while taking ayahuasca, a plant-based psychoactive brew used by the indigenous people of the Amazon.
During one such “journey,” Will says he saw his money, house and career flying away and as he tried to stop it he heard his daughter Willow calling for help. As he woke up from the vision, a still shaken Smith discovered a new outlook on life in that moment.
“I can handle anything that goes wrong in my life, I can handle anything in my marriage,” he said. “I can handle anything that this life has to offer me.”
In case you’ve been in a coma or stuck in a different universe, it seems as though Will’s “journey” has now become a reality. During the Oscars in March, as Chris Rock presented the award for Best Documentary Feature, he made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head; at which point Will went on stage, slapped the hell out of Rock, returned to his seat, and yelled, “Keep my wife’s name out your fucking mouth.” Moments later, he won for Best Actor for his performance as Richard Williams in King Richard.
In the aftermath of the incident, Smith apologized to Rock and resigned from The Academy, while the organization banned him from all its events, including The Oscars, for 10 years. The Men in Black star has had several projects postponed or canceled, essentially stuck in Hollywood jail indefinitely.
I may not know what to make of Will’s 14 “journeys” with ayahuasca, but I genuinely hope his newfound perspective is helping him deal with the fallout of his actions, because if nothing else, he needs to stay positive right now.