Questlove Says He 'Wasn't Aware' of Will Smith Smacking Chris Rock Before Oscar Win

The Roots drummer said he thought Will Smith slapping Chris Rock was a bit for the show

Questlove might really have been the last to know about the incident at the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.

The Roots drummer (née Ahmir Khalib Thompson) took home the award for Best Documentary on Sunday night — but just moments before he took the stage to accept the honor, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for making a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

While Questlove was presented his Oscar after a brief commercial break following the incident, the drummer said he was completely unaware of the chaos that proceeded his big moment.

"Of course, that happened in the cyclone of a whole other situation with two very good friends of mine," Questlove said Monday night on The Tonight Show of Rock and Smith. "I really wasn't aware of that. It's weird to say, because they tell you ahead of time, 'This is your category,' so in that moment, you're either going to be full of anxiety or, for me, I've been meditating for the last two years."

Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, Questlove, and David Dinerstein accept the Documentary (Feature) award for ‘Summer of Soul
Neilson Barnard/Getty

The drummer said he was meditating in his seat when the scuffle between Smith and Rock occurred.

"So when I opened my eyes, I was like, 'Why is everyone so quiet?' I literally was not present for that whole entire moment," he recalled.

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"As I'm walking to the stage, I'm kind of putting two and two together, and I realize that that was a real moment maybe three seconds before I spoke words," he continued. "But in my mind they're just doing a sketch or whatever and I'm like, 'OK, Ahmir, remember to thank your mom, dad,' so I was not present at all."

The incident between Rock and Smith occurred Sunday night after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair, saying in part, "Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can't wait to see ya."

will smith
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The comment was about Pinkett Smith's hair matching Demi Moore's shaved head in the movie G.I. Jane. Pinkett Smith recently opened up about her bald head, revealing it was a result of her years-long struggle with alopecia. Pinkett Smith was visibly unamused, rolling her eyes from her seat.

Seconds later, Smith walked onstage and approached Rock, smacking him in front of the audience and millions watching at home. Back at his table, Smith shouted to a stunned Rock, "Keep my wife's name out of your f---ing mouth," then remained seated with Pinkett Smith at his table for the rest of the night.

On Monday, Smith issued an apology to Rock, admitting he was wrong.

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally," Smith began in an Instagram post.

"I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be," he continued, which was the first time the Oscar winner directly apologized to the man he hit. "There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness."

"I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family," the actor continued. "I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us. I am a work in progress."

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