As the 2023 Oscars approach, the Academy is preparing for any controversy that could come its way—including a repeat of last year’s infamous slap. For the first time in its 95-year history, that means hiring an Olivia Pope-like presence, Academy CEO Bill Kramer said in a recent interview.

“We have a whole crisis team, something we’ve never had before, and many plans in place,” Kramer told Time magazine. “We’ve run many scenarios. 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.”

Of course, the last major unanticipated event at the Oscars was when Will Smith stormed the stage to slap Chris Rock across the face after the comedian made an unsavory joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, while presenting the Oscar for best documentary feature. Moments later, Smith won a best-actor Oscar for King Richard. He stayed at the Oscars for the remainder of the ceremony, although the Academy says that Smith was asked to leave. Rock declined to press charges over the incident, but Smith was subsequently banned from attending the awards show for the next 10 years. 

“Because of [the slap] last year, we’ve opened our minds to the many things that can happen at the Oscars,” Kramer continued. “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. 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.”

The Academy chief’s sentiments echo that of organization president Janet Yang, who told attendees at the recent 2023 Oscar nominees luncheon that the Academy’s response to the slap was “inadequate” and that they intend to “act swiftly, compassionately and decisively” if a similar crisis should occur again. Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel also plans to address the lightning-rod moment during the ceremony, albeit in a predictably more lighthearted way.

As for Smith, he appears to be taking a different tactic in acknowledging his actions. Months after offering several apologies and condemning “violence in all of its forms,” the actor seemed to poke a little fun at the controversy in a TikTok video on Tuesday. In the video, which has more than 1.8 million views as of Thursday, Smith watches as TikTok user @missmoneyworking explains that inanimate objects can tell you what they think of you. “So, for example, you can pick up a pen and ask it how it sees you or what it thinks of you, and you will get an answer in your mind from your intuition. You can ask your car what it thinks of you. You can even ask money what it thinks of you,” the user says. In response, Smith picks up his best actor Oscar trophy and gives it a skeptical look.

The 2023 Oscars air on Sunday, March 12. 

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