Sykes co-hosted the 2022 Oscars along with Regina Hall and Amy Schumer, and “The Upshaws” star described the behind-the-scenes reaction to Best Actor winner Smith attacking presenter Chris Rock after making a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hairstyle. Smith later apologized for the outburst, and an Academy inquiry is now underway.
“I think we had finished the bit and I guess I was about to change to get into PJs. Regina and I, we had just introduced Chris from our bit, so I ran to my trailer because I wanted to watch him,” Sykes told Ellen DeGeneres during “Ellen” on March 29, with the episode set to air later in April.
“I was getting changed and watching him. Then the moment I went from my trailer — because I wanted to be in the house to watch — from that moment to when I got to the monitor backstage, I just saw Will leaving the stage and everything was quiet. I was like, ‘What happened? What happened?’ And everybody was like, ‘Oh my god.’ And then Will just starts cursing from his seat. And I was just like, ‘Is this really happening?'”
Sykes continued, “And then someone showed me on the video and said, ‘Yeah, he smacked Chris.’ And I just felt so awful for my friend Chris. It was sickening. I physically felt ill. I’m still a little traumatized by it. And 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.’ You assault somebody, you get escorted out of the building and that’s it. For them to let him continue, I thought it was gross.”
She joked, “I wanted to be able to run out after he won and say, ‘Unfortunately Will couldn’t be here tonight.'”
Host DeGeneres added that Smith “took away from so many things,” including Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s acceptance speech for “Summer of Soul” winning Best Documentary, as well as from Venus and Serena Williams, who served as the basis for “King Richard,” the biopic that earned Smith Best Actor.
On Monday, Smith issued a statement calling his own behavior “unacceptable and inexcusable,” while adding that “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 went on to apologize to the Academy and his “‘King Richard’ family.”
But Oscars co-host Sykes is waiting for an apology of her own: “I know he apologized to Chris but I believe…We were the hosts. This is our house, we’re inviting you in, we’re going to take care of y’all tonight and make sure you have a good time,” Sykes said. “And no one has apologized to us. And we worked really hard to put that show together. I’m like, with the industry itself, like, ‘What the hell is this?'”
As DeGeneres added, Smith was seemingly “rewarded” for his behavior. Sykes noted that even Rock apologized to her for the viral moment that overshadowed the rest of the ceremony.
“I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this but I saw Chris at Guy’s party and as soon as I walked up to him, the first thing he said was, ‘I’m so sorry.’ I said, ‘Why are you apologizing?’ And he said, ‘It was supposed to be your night, you and Amy and Regina, y’all were doing such a great job. I’m so sorry this is now going to be about this,'” Sykes recalled. “That’s who Chris is.”
Rock has yet to publicly address the altercation.