“This is a season for healing and I’m here for it.” That was the message, all in capitals, that was posted via Instagram on Tuesday by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, the target of a tasteless joke that altered the course of the 94th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. The actress yesterday became the latest person involved to make a statement about the incident, which began when comedian Chris Rock joked about her shaved head – she suffers from alopecia – prompting her husband, Will Smith, to take to the stage and slap Rock across the face. According to the definitive audience figures from this year’s Oscars, 16.6 million people watched the telecast as a whole, according to news agency AP. Rock, who opted not to press charges against Will Smith, is the only one of the three stars to still not have publicly made a statement.
The unexpected act of violence, however, did nothing to boost the audience figures, as may have been expected. According to TV ratings company Nielsen, around 614,000 people were watching the broadcast between 11pm and 11.14pm, the moment when a tearful Will Smith accepted the first Best Actor Oscar of his career, for his role in King Richard, after having previously been nominated for Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness.
That was the peak moment for the network that was broadcasting the ceremony, ABC, with 17.3 million viewers tuning in around the time that the incident between Smith and Rock occurred, according to AP. On the internet, meanwhile, Smith’s name was being searched for 25 times more than the winning movie of the night, CODA, according to Nielsen.
What’s more, the audience figures for this year’s ceremony were up nearly 60% compared to 2021′s event. But this was still the second-worst Academy Awards in terms of viewing figures in the history of the Oscars, after last year barely scraped 10 million.
Pinkett Smith’s message arrived just a few hours after her husband also took to Instagram to apologize, this time to Chris Rock, who was notably absent from the apologies he made on Sunday night during his acceptance speech. “Violence, in all of its forms, is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. […] I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong,” the actor posted on the social network.
“An even, people person”
In an interview with a local Philadelphia television network, Will Smith’s mother, Carolyn Smith, also commented on the altercation. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go off. First time in his lifetime,” she said. “He is a very even, people person,” she added about her 53-year old son. Will Smith is the oldest of four children from his parents’ marriage. His father was a refrigeration engineer for small businesses and his mother a school board employee in a middle-class suburb.
In the meantime, the slap continues to draw condemnation for Smith. Richard Williams is the father of superstar tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, and it was Smith’s portrayal of the patriarch in King Richard that won him his Oscar on Sunday night. Yesterday, Williams issued a statement saying that he doesn’t condone violence “unless it’s in self-defense.” His daughters attended Sunday’s ceremony but avoided any questions from the press about the episode.