Will Smith spoke with David Letterman about “pain” and protecting one’s family prior to this year’s Oscars and the subsequent ‘slap heard ’round the world.’

Smith, 53, spoke with Letterman, 75, for an episode of Letterman’s Netflix show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction”, now in its fourth season. Smith discussed how taking time away from acting and writing his 2021 memoir “Will” fundamentally changed his work. “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,” Smith told Letterman, per PEOPLE.

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“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,” the “King Richard” star added. “I’m really ready to dive into my heart in a way that I think will be, hopefully, fulfilling for me and helpful for the human family.”

Interestingly, Smith also talked about protecting family. “You can’t protect your family — that’s not real,” Smith said, referencing lessons he’s learned over the course of his life.

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“Protection and safety is an illusion. You have to learn to live with the reality that any moment, anything can be gone in one second,” Smith continued. “So with that reality, how can you be here? And how can you be joyful and be here?”

Smith’s episode on Letterman’s show, which dropped Friday, opens with the message, “This episode was recorded prior to the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.”