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Jenifer Lewis Says She Thought She Was Going to Die After Falling 10-Ft. Off a Balcony During African Getaway

"It was hard even to take a big breath to scream," the 'Black-ish' star recalled to ABC News' Robin Roberts in an interview previewed Tuesday on 'Good Morning America'

<p>Eric McCandless/ABC</p> Jenifer Lewis, in conversation with Robin Roberts at the

Eric McCandless/ABC

Jenifer Lewis, in conversation with Robin Roberts at the 'Black-ish' star's home on Feb. 18, 2024

Jenifer Lewis is opening up for the first time about a harrowing near-death experience she had in late 2022, when she fell 10-feet off a balcony while vacationing in Africa.

Speaking for the first time about the incident in an interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts previewed on Tuesday's Good Morning America, the 67-year-old Black-ish star said the past year has been "the hardest" as she recovered from the fall.

"Did you think you were going to die?" Roberts, 63, asked Lewis, to which she responded, "I did."

"I didn't know you could be in that much pain and be alive," she added. "I went from that high kick standing on my star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, five months later, I was on the ground of the Serengeti and that same leg couldn’t move."

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The accident happened in November 2022, three months after the publication of her memoir, Walking in My Joy: In These Streets. Black-ish had wrapped that April after eight seasons, and Lewis was feeling on top of the world.

"I was going to retire, move back home," she said. "I had traveled around the world and life was wonderful."

But on what Roberts dubbed "a trip of a lifetime" to Africa, Lewis nearly lost her life.

She and her friends had traveled from Cape Town to Rwanda, where she went up in the mountains with the gorillas. "It was scary but it does give you a sense of fearlessness and courage," she said. "We're having a good time, we're feeling a lot. We're going where the real people are."

<p>Eric McCandless/ABC</p> Robin Roberts interviews Jennifer Lewis at her home on Feb. 18, 2024

Eric McCandless/ABC

Robin Roberts interviews Jennifer Lewis at her home on Feb. 18, 2024

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From there, the group went to the Serengeti and checked into a hotel. It was at the end of her first day there that Lewis fell. "When the sun sets in the Serengeti, there are no street lights. It's pitch black," she recalled. "I was escorted to the lodge, my room, but I wasn't given a tour. I should have been given a tour."

"I laid out my safari clothes and I saw the infinity pool out on my deck. So I went out, I was just taking in that I was back in the Serengeti once again. And I'm walking and all of a sudden, I had fallen 10 feet into a dry ravine full of boulders and stones and sharp rocks. There was a space that was not sectioned off and there was no sign that said, 'Caution, 10-foot. drop.' "

Asked what kind of pain she was in, Lewis told Roberts "Of course I was in shock."

"My right hip took the impact. My shoulder went up against the stone," she said. "A lightning bolt went through my mind's eye. In pitch black, I didn't know I was falling. nothing would move. So I laid there and said, 'Move your body, baby. Come on Jenny, move your body.' "

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Jenifer Lewis at her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2022
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Jenifer Lewis at her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony in 2022

Related: Jenifer Lewis Pens Book of Essays About Finding Joy, Activism and 'Falling for a Con Artist'

Lewis called for her friend Laurie following the fall. "It was hard even to take a big breath to scream," she said.

And scream Lewis wanted to, especially when Laurie shined a flashlight down at her and spotted a Cape buffalo 10-foot. away — one of many animals in the area.

"When Laurie ran to get help, I heard a lion roar," she recalled. "My last thought, because I'm Jenifer Lewis, was 'What a headline! The King Ate the Queen: Pieces of Jenifer Lewis' Body Is Being Flown Back to the States.' "

More of Roberts' conversation with Lewis will air Tuesday on ABC News Live at 8:30 p.m. ET. Dubbed, After the Fall: A Conversation with Robin Roberts and Jenifer Lewis, it will also be available to stream on Hulu.

"I have been humbled," she said in a clip shared online Monday. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do, but I do know that I have to earn being alive."

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As for why Lewis waited this long to tell her story, she told Roberts, "I didn't want y'all to know I had fallen until I could show you how I got back up."

Good Morning America airs weekdays on ABC begging at 7 a.m. ET.

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