Terry Crews is not taking sides in the televised physical altercation between his pals Will Smith and Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards.
The Emmy Award nominee, 53, had a diplomatic view of the instantly infamous incident, both praising Rock’s composure at the moment and declining to “demonize” Smith as he spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his upcoming memoir, Tough: My True Journey to Power.
“Both Will Smith and Chris Rock are dear, dear friends of mine,” he told the THR in the story published Friday. “I love them both as brothers, but there was a time in my life [where] I was Will Smith at that moment, and let me tell you, I’ve done worse than Will.”
“Way overkill, just … the punishment did not fit the crime. Like, people were like, ‘What in the world are you doing?’ My wife even had to be like, ‘You got to promise me you will never go off like this. You did not need to pick this man up and put him on his head, on the concrete,’ ” Crews recounted.
He went as far as to say that Rock, 57, “saved Hollywood” with his ability to keep his composure during the live broadcast after Smith, 53, smacked him across the face onstage.
“When I look back, by what Chris did, by just deciding to hold everything together, it actually, I think in a lot of ways saved Hollywood,” Crews explained to THR. “Because if there would’ve been a brawl on that stage, I don’t know if Hollywood would’ve ever gotten any respect again, you know? It’s hard to even imagine what would’ve happened.”
Crews continued to praise his former Everybody Hates Chris costar as he recalled his own upbringing in Flint, Michigan, where he said he found himself in both Smith and Rock’s shoes on several occasions.
“The definition of toughness where I grew up and the way I was, it was always the ability to strike, the ability to punch, the ability to set things straight, to even the score,” he said. “But the true definition of toughness was what Chris did in taking a punch and then holding everything together and then showing tremendous endurance and resilience in the middle of obstacles.”
“I think it was a miracle what Chris did. I really do. I couldn’t believe his poise in that moment. I thought, holy cow, we owe him a lot. I think every performer owes him so much because it just really saved Hollywood at that moment. I’m very thankful to Chris, but also I understand Will. I’m not [one] to demonize Will at all because I was there,” Crews added.
America’s Got Talent host opens up in Tough about dealing with his own distressing experiences, recalling the time he was allegedly groped by talent agent Adam Venit at a party in 2016.
“I chose to be in control. I chose to hold everything together. It could have descended into chaos. It would’ve been the end of me,” Crews said. (Venit has denied Crews’ account and said his behavior wasn’t “sexual.”)
Crews are one of myriad Hollywood figures to weigh in on the controversial moment at the 94th Academy Awards last month when Smith smacked Rock across the face for making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and her shaved hairstyle. (Jada has spoken openly about living with alopecia.)
“Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya,” Rock said during the Oscars telecast before Will took the stage and hit him. “Keep my wife’s name out your f—— mouth!” Will yelled up to the stage at Rock after taking his seat again.
Will has since apologized to Rock and resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which banned him from the awards show for 10 years. He can still be nominated and win one of the coveted awards.