In an interview with veteran journalist and co-host CBS This Morning Gayle King on Monday (June 13) at the Tribeca Film Festival, Tyler Perry unwillingly revealed intimate details of the riveting moments after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards.
As the pair chopped it up during a one-hour Q&A session about Perry’s life, career and projects, King shifted the conversation to the entertainment mogul’s involvement in the slapping incident.
The 52-year-old director and actor reluctantly clarified that despite media reports of him comforting Smith in the aftermath of the now-infamous slap, he was attempting to “de-escalate” the situation. He also made it clear that the incident “wasn’t his story to tell.”
“There is a difference between comforting and de-escalating,” Perry explained.
He also went on to say that he didn’t want the incident to “overshadow” the actual conversation when King pressed Perry by asking if he planned on stripping the King Richard actor of his soundstage homage at Tyler Perry Studios– referencing one of 12 soundstages he named after Black Hollywood icons.
“My only problem with it is this. If I talk about it, then it becomes overshadowing of everything else we talked about. That will be the headline for sure.”
“We can make another headline,” she jokingly reassured him. “I am pregnant with Tyler’s child. That’s the headline.”
“I was there close up. I left early to go and check on Chris because it was wrong in no uncertain terms,” Perry explained. “I made sure I said that to Will, and when we walked over to him, he was devastated. He couldn’t believe what happened.”
He added, “I think he is very much in reflection of trying to figure out what happened.”
“He couldn’t believe he did it. And I’m looking at this man, in his eyes going, ‘What are you doing? This is your night. And to get all this way to winning an Oscar. It was one of the crowning moments of his career that he wanted so desperately.”
Smith won an Oscar for his portrayal of Serena and Venus Williams’ father, Richard, in King Richard.
Perry also expressed that he empathized with the 53-year-old rapper-turned-actor’s history of watching his mother be physically abused by his father and wanting to protect her.
“I know that feeling…. And if that trauma is not dealt with right away as you get older, it will show up in the most inappropriate and horrible times.”
Referencing Rock’s reaction to the slap, he applauded his friend for keeping his composure– calling the comedian “a pure champion” in a scene that could have quickly gone left.
Perry is no stranger to beef or making amends.
In 2020, the New Orleans native squashed his over 10-year beef with legendary director Spike Lee. He even named one of his Tyler Perry Studios soundstages after the icon.
Lee openly criticized Perry’s cinematic work as “coonery” and “buffoonery” in 2009. Admittedly, those words hurt the Madea creator as he admired the School Daze director.
Perry once told Lee he could “go straight to hell.”
"If any criticisms stung, it would have been his, because I had so much respect and admiration for him," he said, expressing how Lee’s words impacted him. "People's opinions are their opinions, but that doesn't negate the fact of the work that he's done. And he's due the honor of having a stage named after him and more than that."
In 2020, Lee reached out to Perry after seeing the entertainer in a poignant interview with Oprah Winfrey. The Mo’ Better Blues producer and director was moved after the segment.
"I opened the door. I said, 'Come in here, so I can beat your ass,'" Perry recalled to King, recalling the moment the beef ended. "And we sat, and we had a conversation...He laid out his views and his opinions, which I respected. And he heard mine, and he respected them.”
"So we can both exist in the same world with very different views and opinions and still respect each other."