Will Packer, who produced the 2022 Oscars ceremony that aired Sunday, is speaking out following the fallout surrounding Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage.
Will Packer will appear Friday on Good Morning America, giving T.J. Holmes his account of how the debacle unfolded on Sunday’s awards show, after the Academy said Smith, 53, was asked to leave.
A preview of the interview aired Thursday on World News Tonight with David Muir. Packer told ABC News he didn’t speak to Smith at all that night, but he recounted his meeting with Rock, 57, and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, who explained they could arrest the Best Actor Oscar winner if the comedian wanted to press charges.
“They were saying, ‘This is battery’ — the word they used in that moment. They said, ‘We will go get him. We are prepared to get him right now, you can press charges. We can arrest him.’ They were laying out the options,” Packer recalled.
“And as they were talking, Chris was being very dismissive of those options. He was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ … Even to the point where I said, ‘Rock, let them finish.’ The LAPD officers finished laying out what his options were, and they said, ‘Would you like us to take any action?’ And he said, ‘No.’ ”
The controversy unraveled after Rock made light of Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair loss, which she’s recently opened up about as a result of her years-long struggle with alopecia. “Jada, I love ya. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see ya,” he joked.
Smith then walked onto stage and smacked Rock in the face, leaving the audience and live viewers around the world stunned. “Oh wow,” said a seemingly taken-aback Rock as Smith made his way back to his seat. “Will Smith just smacked the s— out of me.”
“Keep my wife’s name out your f—ing mouth!” Smith yelled up to the stage at Rock after taking his seat again.
The King Richard star, who won Best Actor for his performance in the movie, apologized to the Academy in his acceptance speech that night. He later shared a public apology for Rock. “I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be,” Smith wrote.
After an initial statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they “condemn” Smith’s actions and have “officially started a formal review around the incident and will explore further action and consequences in accordance with our Bylaws, Standards of Conduct and California law.”
The Academy has since issued a statement claiming that they asked Smith to leave the awards show after the outburst, but he “refused” to depart.
“Things unfolded in a way we could not have anticipated,” read a statement issued to PEOPLE Wednesday. “While we would like to clarify that Mr. Smith was asked to leave the ceremony and refused, we also recognize we could have handled the situation differently.”
A source previously told PEOPLE that “having Will removed was definitely discussed seriously” after the incident.
Packer faced criticism after his initial response to the matter. “Welp… I said it wouldn’t be boring #Oscars,” he wrote Sunday night on Twitter.
“Making jokes about an assault that happened during your show isn’t the congratulatory message you think it is,” one person wrote in response.
The producer later clarified his thoughts in a follow-up tweet. “Black people have a defiant spirit of laughter when it comes to dealing with pain because there has been so much of it,” Packer wrote. “I don’t feel the need to elucidate that for you. But I also don’t mind being transparent and say that this was a very painful moment for me. On many levels.”
ABC NEWS EXCLUSIVE | TOMORROW ON GMA: #Oscars producer Will Packer speaks out on what happened behind the scenes, moments after actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage. pic.twitter.com/LnFnNImFJ1
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 31, 2022
Packer will appear Friday on Good Morning America, airing at 7 a.m. on ABC.