Will Smith Opens Up In Netflix's David Letterman Special About 'Pain,' Not Being Able To 'Protect' His Family

Will Smith accepting his Oscar at the 2022 Academy Awards
(Image credit: ABC)

Will Smith made headlines in a big way back in March following the 94th Academy Awards, where he slapped comedian Chris Rock while he was on stage. As a result of the incident, Smith has experienced a number of changes in his professional life as of late. Before the awards show, the actor had been opening up about his personal life amid the release of his memoir. Now, we’ve learned that prior to the Oscars, he sat down with David Letterman for his Netflix show and, during the intimate chat, he opened up about “pain” and not being able to “protect” his family. 

Will Smith had been riding a wave of positivity during the majority of 2021 as a result of his performance in King Richard, for which he won an Oscar. At the same time, he’d been discussing some of the darker aspects of his life, such as his complicated relationship with his late father (who he thought about killing). When appearing on Netflix’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (via People), explained how he’s able to use the “pain” he’s experienced for the greater good:

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. I'm really ready to dive into my heart in a way that I think will be, hopefully, fulfilling for me and helpful for the human family.

In terms of his actual family, the I Am Legend star has always been candid about his relationships with wife Jada Pinkett Smith and his kids and wanting to be there for them. When accepting his Oscar after he slapped Chris Rock (who made a joke about Pinkett Smith), the actor stated that he views himself as a “protector.” He made similar statements in this same interview, though he explained that he believes being able to protect one’s family is not possible:

You can't protect your family — 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?

It’s honestly hard not to see the irony in his assessment that “anything can be gone in one second.” Shortly after apologizing for the Oscars incident, the actor resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And the organization later banned him for a decade as punishment for the slap. Aside from all of that, a few of his upcoming movies have hit setbacks as well. 

When it comes to how Will Smith is handling the backlash he’s received, sources have alleged that the A-lister is concerned about being “fully canceled.” The star was said to have embarked on a “spiritual journey” to India by the end of April, though he reportedly has yet to personally apologize to Chris Rock. 

It goes without saying that Will Smith finds himself at an interesting point in his life. Only time will tell whether or not the star will truly bounce back from the incident and how he chooses to proceed (both professionally and personally) from there. One would imagine, though, that he’ll continue to keep his family close while walking down whatever path he chooses.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.