Rock was slapped by “King Richard” Best Actor winner Smith while presenting the award for Best Documentary following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head. And Questlove was in a pre-award haze.
“They tell you ahead of time, ‘This is your category,'” Questlove said on “The Tonight Show” following his win for “Summer of Soul”. “And so in that moment, you’re either going to be full of anxiety or, like for me, I’ve been doing transcendental meditation the past couple years. And when the commercial break happened I was in my [om sounds]. So when I opened my eyes I didn’t realize, ‘Why is everyone so quiet?'”
Questlove continued, “Like I literally was not present for that whole entire moment and as I’m walking to the stage I’m kind of putting two and two together. And I only realized it was a real moment about three seconds before I started speaking words. I was not present at all.”
The “Summer of Soul” director and producer attended the 94th Academy Awards with his mother and noted that he couldn’t even focus on the highlight reel of his award-winning documentary, let alone the now infamous “slap” between Smith and Rock.
“That happened in the cyclone of a whole other situation with two very good friends of mine,” Questlove said.
Following the altercation, the Academy formally condemned Oscar winner Smith’s actions, while fellow actors and Hollywood staples remain divided over the incident. Smith later issued an apology to Rock, calling his behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable.”
During the opening for “Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” for which Questlove and his band The Roots are the official house band, host Fallon joked that it’s a “strange awards show when it ends with a statement from the LAPD.”
Fallon continued, “Of course, we have to address the moment everyone’s talking about and that is Questlove winning the Oscar for Best Documentary. Everyone in the audience looked shocked and for once it wasn’t from the Botox.”
He added about Questlove’s Oscar win, “In no way do you think your friend is going to be up for an Academy Award and then win. I was freaking out. He worked so hard on this thing, and that made it an Oscars I’ll never forget.”
IndieWire’s executive editor Eric Kohn, who attended the 2022 Oscars, wrote that Smith’s outburst eclipsed Questlove’s momentous victory.
“The big moment, of course, should have been Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson accepting his prize for ‘Summer of Soul,'” Kohn penned. “It was an opportunity for the musician-turned-director to make a galvanizing statement on the power of preserving Black culture through art — but it became roadkill in a show enmeshed in an identity crisis from the inside out. As the Oscars chase ratings into oblivion, they also struggle with a solid reason to keep anyone watching, including the industry that the show is designed to salute.”