Count Wanda Sykes among those taking Chris Rock’s side after the comedian was slapped by Will Smith during Sunday’s Academy Awards, one of the most talked about moments in Oscars history.
Sykes, who hosted the ceremony with Amy Schumer and Regina Hall, said Rock approached her at an after-party to apologize for the altercation, which occurred when Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting the award for best documentary.
“I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, but I saw Chris at (entertainment manager) Guy (Oseary’s) party and (as) soon as I walked up to him, the first thing he said was, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Sykes told Ellen DeGeneres during an interview on her show Tuesday that will air April 7.
“And I’m like, ‘Why are you apologizing?’ He’s like, ‘It was supposed to be your night. You and Amy and Regina, you all were doing such a great job. I’m so sorry. This is now going to be about this.’ Because that’s who Chris is.”
Sykes said she was getting changed and had left her trailer when the slap occurred before Rock announced the best documentary winner, "Summer of Soul," which was directed and produced by Questlove. She was backstage when Smith shouted at Rock from his seat and someone showed her a clip of what has transpired.
“I just felt so awful for my friend, Chris. It was sickening,” she said. “I physically felt ill and I’m still a little traumatized by it.”
She also took issue with the fact that Smith, who would go on to win best actor for his role in “King Richard” less than an hour later, was not forced to leave the show. He would accept the award and apologize for his behavior in his speech, although he did not mention Rock's name.
“For them, to let him stay in that room and enjoy the rest of the show and accept his award, I was like, ‘How gross is this? This is just the wrong message,’” she said. “You know, you assault somebody, you get escorted out the building and that’s it. But for them to let him continue, I thought it was gross.”
Rock elected not to file a police report and Sykes joked about how she would’ve handled the incident if Smith had been booted from the ceremony.
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“I wanted to be able to run out after he won and say, ‘Unfortunately, Will couldn’t be here tonight,’” she said as DeGeneres and the audience laughed.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences condemned Smith's behavior and Sykes acknowledged that Smith has since apologized to Rock, but she said Smith also ruined the event for her, Schumer and Hall.
“No one has apologized to us and we worked really hard to put that show together, yeah, so the industry itself, I’m, like, ‘What the hell is this?’” she said.
Amy Schumer: Chris Rock handled Will Smith slap ‘like a pro’March 30, 202200:33
While Hall has yet to address the controversial moment, Schumer opened up about how she felt.
“Still triggered and traumatized,” she wrote in part on Wednesday in an Instagram message that has since been removed. “I love my friend @chrisrock and believe he handled it like a pro. Stayed up there and gave an Oscar to his friend @questlove and the whole thing was so disturbing.
“So much pain in @willsmith anyway I’m still in shock and stunned and sad. Im proud of myself and my cohosts. But yeah. Waiting for this sickening feeling to go away from what we all witnessed.”