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Will Smith addresses infamous Oscar show slap of Chris Rock: 'I was going through something that night'

NEW YORK -- Actor Will Smith spoke out Monday night about his infamous slap of comedian Chris Rock during this year's Academy Awards ceremony.

It was one of the first in-depth, on camera discussions by Smith about the incident that has resulted in the actor being banned from official Oscar activities for 10 years.

Will Smith - "Emancipation" | The Daily Show by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on YouTube

Speaking on "The Daily Show" to host Trevor Noah, Smith said it was a difficult night for him when the incident occurred.

"I was going through something that night, you know?" he said. "And not that that, you know, justifies my behavior at all. I would just say, you know, you're asking, what did I learn? And it's that we just got to be nice to each other, man."

Smith is on a publicity tour for "Emancipation," a big project with Apple set to be released in December.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock during the Oscars (Getty Images)

In the fallout of Smith's smack of the comedian, the fate of "Emancipation" - a $120 million runaway slave thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua - had been uncertain. One of Apple's most high-profile productions yet, the film had once been expected to be an Oscar contender this year. But an awards-season rollout of a film headlined by Smith, whom the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences banned from attending the Oscars for 10 years, has obvious complications.

Nevertheless, Apple TV+ said Monday that it will debut "Emancipation" on Dec. 2 in theaters and begin streaming it Dec. 9.

Over the weekend, Apple and the NAACP held the first screening of the film in Washington as part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Legislative Conference. Smith attended the screening and spoke on stage.

The release of "Emancipation" will pose the biggest test yet of how eager moviegoers are for a movie headlined by Smith, an actor who has generated more than $6.5 billion in worldwide box office. Still, the brief exclusive run in theaters will also mean "Emancipation," like Apple's best picture-winning "CODA," will be seen primarily in homes.

"Emancipation" was shot in the summer of 2021. Until the slap, its release had been expected in 2022. Smith resigned before he could be banned by the academy, but remains eligible for an Oscar nomination.

"My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable," he said.

Since his, Smith has largely stayed out the public eye. In late July, he gave his most extensive comments about the incident in a video posted to social media in which he apologized to Rock, who had made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Smith's wife.

"There is no part of me that thinks that was the right way to behave in that moment," Smith said in the under-six minute video posted online Friday. "I am deeply remorseful and I'm trying to be remorseful without being ashamed of myself." To Rock, he said: "I'm here whenever you're ready to talk."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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