Chris Pizzello/Associated Press
FILE – Will Smith, right, hits presenter Chris Rock on stage while presenting the award for best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
The Oscars is including a new addition in its awards ceremony this year following Will Smith’s shocking slap of comedian Chris Rock: a crisis communications team.
The rapid response professionals will be on-hand during the March 12 broadcast on ABC, according to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer.
“Because of last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” Kramer told Time in an interview published Tuesday.
“But these crisis plans — the crisis communication teams and structures we have in place — allow us to say this is the group that we have to gather very quickly. This is how we all come together. This is the spokesperson. This will be the statement,” Kramer said.
“And obviously depending on the specifics of the crisis — and let’s hope something doesn’t happen and we never have to use these, but we already have frameworks in place that we can modify,” he said.
The move comes after Smith shocked audiences by taking to the Oscars stage last year and slapping Rock after the comic made a joke about the “King Richard” star’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Smith said in an interview months after the March altercation that he “lost it,” when he put his hands on Rock. Smith was banned from any Academy events for 10 years.
Kramer also told Time that he had confidence in late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel, who has been tapped to take the reins of this year’s awards show in Los Angeles.
“That’s why you want someone like Jimmy on stage who is used to dealing with live TV: Things don’t always go as planned. So you have a host in place who can really pivot and manage those moments,” Kramer said.
“But we have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place. We’ve run many scenarios,” he said. “So it is our hope that we will be prepared for anything that we may not anticipate right now but that we’re planning for just in case it does happen.”