Hill wasted no time in getting serious with host Jimmy Fallon, taking his seat and going directly into the apology. "Unfortunately, this isn't a joke," he told the crowd. The actor said that a paparazzo had verbally attacked him and his family while he was with friends in Los Angeles, so he went for the "most hurtful word that I could think of at that moment."
"I didn't mean it in a homophobic way," Hill said as his voice began to tremble. "I think that doesn't matter, how you mean things doesn't matter. Words have weight and meaning, and the word I chose was grotesque ... no one deserves to say or hear words like that."
He added, "My heart's broken, and I genuinely am deeply sorry to anyone who's been affected by that term in their life. ... I don't deserve or expect your forgiveness. But what I ask is that at home, if you're watching this and you're a young person especially, if someone says something that hurts you or angers you, use me as an example of what not to do and don't respond with hatred or anger because you're just adding more ugliness to the world."
"That's the way to do it," said TODAY's Carson Daly Wednesday. "He could open up a clinic on how celebrities should apologize. Very heartfelt and quick."
Hill had offered a mea culpa on Howard Stern's SiriusXM radio show earlier on Tuesday, acknowledging the photographer had goaded him. "I played into exactly what he wanted and lost my cool," he said. "It would break my heart to think that anyone would think, especially with all the work that I have done and all the loved ones that I have, that I would be against anyone for their sexuality."
The actor has long stood up for gay rights. "I've been a supporter of the LGBTQ community my entire life," Hill said on Fallon. In November, Hill was among the celebrities who spoke out against Russia's anti-gay stance during the Olympics, tweeting out a photo of himself wearing a shirt that read "Love conquers hate" in Russian.
"I have tons of gay friends, gay family members," Hill told E! News in November. "I support anybody doing whatever they want to do to be who they are."
Hill's new film, "22 Jump Street," opens on June 13. "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" airs weeknights at 11:35 on NBC.
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