If your Facebook timeline is like mine, you didn’t have to find Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith’s “life lesson” talk show with her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and daughter, Willow Smith; it found you.
Since its premiere on May 7, the show has struck a deep chord with so many of us. Whether it’s Jada squashing her longtime beef with fellow actress Gabrielle Union, Adrienne detailing her years of drug addiction, Willow revealing how she used to cut herself or Jada coming together with Will’s first wife, Sheree Zampino Fletcher, Red Table Talk has gone where few of us go in real life—or any other format.
And that’s intentional, Jada explained during press rounds in Atlanta, with mom Adrienne by her side, for a private event for select Red Table Talk fans celebrating the show’s return today with “Becoming Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Part 1),” with special guest, husband Will Smith.
“The last past seven years [in] this life transformation that I’ve been under [going], some of the most powerful elixirs for me have been people’s testimonies,” Jada explained as the impetus for the show, exclusively to The Root. “People who had the courage to just tell me the real and be deeply honest with me about journeys they’ve had in their lives. So whether it’s in relationships, parenting, whatever the area of difficulty I might [have] been having . . . when they were courageous enough to tell me their stories, it changed the trajectory of my thinking, it just put me on a whole ‘nother path.
“So I felt like through Red Table, my mother has come through so much, I’ve come through so much and even Willow at such a young age has so much to offer. As women, I feel like we have to have the courage to share more of our stories with one another.”
And the family hasn’t hidden much. During the first season, Ms. Adrienne bravely shared her battle with drug addiction, which she admits was scary.
“Of course my drug addiction was really difficult to talk about. It was so many years ago and it’s not like I tried to keep it a secret,” she told The Root. “It’s been out in the world for many years but, still, in that atmosphere at the table, it was difficult. It was difficult just going back and revisiting all of that because it was a very painful time for both of us. It wasn’t easy.”
Because the show is so personal, finding the right home for it was even more important, and Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s challenge to YouTube, was the right fit, according to Jada.
“We had networks that wanted our show, [but] Facebook just understood what we wanted to do—that we wanted to create a community and we really wanted to create a place that we can have real talk. They totally got what we wanted the integrity of the show to be, and it’s not about trying to be exploitative.”
Being so personal isn’t for everyone, Jada understands, especially as an actor.
“I get that a lot of people’s calling is not to talk about what is happening in their world,” she told The Root, “but that’s just something that brings me real joy, to talk about real issues that are happening in regards to racial difficulties, marriage, professionalism, whatever the topic might be. I like having those kinds of real conversations.”
Being real means also discussing the joys and challenges of her 21-year marriage to Will Smith, with whom she shares daughter Willow, son Jaden, and stepson Trey; which is why that series of conversations kicks off the second installment of the show.
“I think in relationships you’re always trying to hold on to what it was in the beginning instead of evolving,” she shared during the press roundtable.
“We just dropped marriage altogether and decided to have a life partnership. I just don’t believe in some of the ideas that society decided to put around marriage. In the episode, you’ll see,” she promised, dressed regally in a long white coat splashed in black with a red turtleneck underneath.
Talking publicly about her and Will’s relationship hasn’t historically been their thing, but Jada’s says she’s doing it now for a greater purpose than just the two of them. Speaking exclusively with The Root, she explained that “because of the last seven years of our transformation, we’ve just gotten to a place where we can [now], and I feel like so many people are having such difficulty relating and having relationships. I think people think it’s supposed to be easy, and it’s not. So once again, it’s just sharing that testimony.”
At a roundtable later in the evening, Jada revealed that she’d had a conversation with actress Ruby Dee, who was married to husband Ossie Davis for nearly 60 years before his death in 2005 (Dee died in 2014). Speaking privately about the struggles of marriage, Dee’s advice was surprisingly unexpected.
“She said, ‘How long you been married to that man?” Jada recounted. “I said, ‘15 years’ and she said, ‘You don’t even know him yet.’ She said, ‘You don’t know him yet’ and I was like, ‘You got to be crazy. I’ve been with this dude for 15 years plus. We’ve been married for 15 years. I was with the joker for three years before that.’”
But as time has ticked on, it seems that Ruby Dee was right. Part of the reason that Jada has been able to move forward with Will was due to a major realization she had about her relationship with her father, Robsol Pinkett Jr., who passed in 2010.
“I couldn’t believe that I had allowed my father to die without seeing him as a man, meaning I could only ever relate to him as my father and, because he had failed as a father, he failed as a man [in my eyes], and he had so much to offer me,” she admitted at the roundtable. “He had so much to offer me outside of being my father. And, if I had just been able to see him as a human being, that he was a man that came to this planet not to just be my dad, [that] he was a man first. It was a revelation and I felt like I was doing the same to Will as a husband.”
Sharing their relationship publicly, however, has given her mother, Adrienne (or “Gam,” as Red Table Talk followers best know her), pause because she feels a lot of people just won’t be ready.
“I just don’t think that generally speaking, people are openminded enough to handle the truth, and it’s not going to be what they expect and I don’t like all of the judgment,” she told the press roundtable.
She admitted that the revelations about her daughter’s period of unhappiness in the marriage were particularly challenging. “That was hard for me,” she shared. “When we had that discussion [prior to taping the show]; it was difficult because I realized that she had been in pain for many, many years and I didn’t know. And that was hard. I felt like I wasn’t there for her.”
Jada instead insisted that she was protecting her mom, particularly the relationship she has with Will as her son-in-law. “I didn’t want to bring her into it because I didn’t want her to have thoughts about Will. I didn’t talk to anybody because—in regards to relationships like that, I have to protect what she and Will have and I can’t always bring her into the gutter of my stuff, because a lot of that is my stuff.”
As for how her kids feel about her putting all their business in the streets, she was very adamant that “my kids don’t care.”
Catch the new season of 13 episodes of Red Table Talk, including “Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Part 1)” on Facebook Watch now, where the first 10 episodes are also available to revisit.