"There’s a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem," Smith told Robin Roberts.
For the second year in a row, no people of color were included in the 20 acting nominees, and several performers who'd been considered awards contenders, including Smith (star of "Concussion"), Idris Elba ("Beasts of No Nation") and Michael B. Jordan ("Creed"), were snubbed. The Oscars' lack of diversity has sparked a wider conversation about race in Hollywood, with celebrities Spike Lee, George Clooney and Lupita Nyong'o calling for change.
#OscarsSoWhite: Full coverage of the boycott and Hollywood's reaction
Smith struck an optimistic tone in the interview, calling diversity "the American superpower."
"For me, at its best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty," he continued. "But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. So when I look at the series of nominations of the academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty."
Though he praised the nominees as "fantastic" and "deserving," Smith said the all-white acting field "reflects a series of challenges we’re having in the country at the moment" and a broader "slide towards racial and religious disharmony."
"That’s not the America I want to leave behind," he said.
Asked whether the industry has moved backward regarding diversity, Smith seemed to agree. The two-time Oscar nominee noted that he'd lost twice, each time to another black performer -- first to Denzel Washington in 2002 and then to Forest Whitaker in 2007.
Some critics have suggested that Pinkett Smith is simply angry that her husband was overlooked. But Smith said that even if he had been nominated, "we'd still be here having this conversation. This is so deeply not about me. This is about children that are going to sit down and they’re going to watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented."
The actor revealed that he was out of the country when his wife posted a video on social media declaring that she was skipping this year's awards. "She’s deeply passionate and when she’s moved she has to go," he said, confirming that he'd be staying at home this year too.
"It would be awkward for me to show up with Charlize [Theron]. We are a part of this community but at this current time we are uncomfortable to stand there and say this is OK."
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