- Will Smith features on the new season of David Letterman's My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
- The episode was recorded before the 2022 Academy Awards.
- During the conversation the 53-year-old candidly discussed his childhood trauma and how it shaped him.
"I always thought of myself as a coward; when I was nine years old, I saw my father beat up my mother, and I didn't do anything," Will Smith said in the first 7 minutes of an interview with David Letterman.
Smith features in the new season of Letterman's Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, released on Friday.
In the episode recorded before the 2022 Academy Awards, the 53-year-old has a candid conversation about his childhood experiences and career.
In March, the I Robot actor made headlines after slapping Chris Rock on stage during the Oscars ceremony after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith has since resigned from the Academy, publicly apologised to Rock and been banned from attending the Academy Awards for the next 10 years.
In the conversation with Letterman, Smith spoke about the "trauma" he experienced throughout his childhood, detailed in his memoir, Will.
Smith explained that due to his traumatic experiences, he used his natural ability to make people laugh as a defense mechanism.
"But ultimately, Will Smith became a symbol of joy and fun. And when I showed up, I wanted people to feel good and to be happy. Because I've found that my household was that way, I felt safe," he said.
During the conversation, Smith also said that "you can't protect your family."
"Protection and safety is an illusion. You have to learn to live with the reality that at any moment, anything can be gone in one second. So with that reality, how can you be here? And how can you be joyful and be here?"
Towards the end of the interview, Smith shared that he had a vision of his life being destroyed after taking Ayahuasca - a herbal drink with hallucinogenic properties.
He saw his money, house, and career flying away in the vision, reports Cosmopolitan. He recalled that he heard his daughter Willow calling for help during the trip, which put things in perspective.
"I just wanted to get to Willow. I stopped caring about my house; I stopped caring about my career. When I came out of it, I realised that anything that happens in my life, I can handle it," he said of the experience.
Shortly after Smith slapped Rock, he won his first Academy Award for his role as Richard Williams in King Richard.
Touching on his role in the biopic, Smith said he was reintroducing himself to working more consistently.
"My experiences and my life, and the writing of this book have unlocked a part of me, as an actor, that is like nothing I've ever experienced. Having to look at my life and to understand my father helped me understand Richard Williams.
He continued: "Life is so exciting to me right now because I can reach people differently than I've ever been able to reach people, largely because of my pain. I'm really ready to dive into my art in a way that I think will be hopefully fulfilling for me and helpful for the human family."
Watch the full episode on Netflix.