Will Smith accepts the Actor in a Leading Role award for ‘King Richard’ onstage during the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face a few minutes prior for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, the actor accepted the award for Best Actor for his role in King Richard. A teary-eyed Will Smith made his way to the stage after exchanging a few words and a kiss with Jada.

“Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family,” Smith started off by saying of his character’s role. “In this time of my life, in this moment I am overwhelmed by what God is calling on me to do and be in this world.”

Will, 53, spoke of being a protector of the women in the film and added tearfully, “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do, you’ve got to be able to take abuse, have people talk crazy about you. In this business, you’ve got to have people disrespecting you and you got to smile and pretend like that’s okay.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith added, before apologizing to the Academy and fellow nominees. “This is a beautiful moment and I’m not crying for winning an award. It’s about shining a light on all of the people.”

He joked, “Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams! Love will make you do crazy things.”

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