The Hollywood star said the incident in March had “many nuances and complexities to it”.
But he admitted that “I just lost it” and said his “deepest hope” is his infamous Oscars slap does not have an effect on the team behind his new film Emancipation in the coming awards season.
He appeared on Monday’s episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to promote his upcoming film, Emancipation, where he seemed relaxed and in a good mood.
Smith stormed the stage during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony and slapped Rock after comments the comedian made about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith.
Moments later, Smith returned to the stage after winning the best actor Oscar for his role in the biopic King Richard, about the father of Venus and Serena Williams.
He later apologised to Rock and the Academy for the incident, but was banned from attending any Academy events or programmes for ten years.
Smith told Noah he was “going through something that night”, but admitted his “bottled up” rage did not justify his behaviour.
“That was a horrific night, as you can imagine,” he said.
“There’s many nuances and complexities to it. But at the end of the day, I just – I lost it, you know.
“I guess what I would say is that you just never know what somebody’s going through.
“I was going through something that night, you know? Not that that justifies my behaviour at all.”
Smith continued: “I understand how shocking that was for people … I was gone. That was a rage that had been bottled for a really long time.”
Emancipation marks Smith’s return to the big-screen since the incident and is directed by Antoine Fuqwa.
The actor said the idea the production would be “tainted” by his actions and not gain the recognition it deserved at the coming awards season was “killing me dead”.
Asked what he would say to those who thought it was “too soon” for him to be making a comeback, Smith replied: “You know, I completely understand that if you know someone is not ready.
“I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready. My deepest concern is my team.
“The people on this team have done some of the best work their entire careers, and my deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalise my team.”
Smith said he hoped “the material power of the film” as well as “the timeliness of the story” would “open people’s hearts” and allow the hard work done on the film to be appreciated.
Emancipation is based on the true story of the enslaved man “whipped Peter” who escaped from a Louisiana plantation in the 1860s after he was nearly whipped to death.
When photographs of his bare back, heavily scourged from the overseer’s whippings, were published worldwide in 1863, the abolitionist movement was provided with proof of the cruelty of American slavery.