Will Smith is opening up and sharing his truth in his most revealing interview to date.
The longtime actor recently sat down with Pulitzer Prize winner and The Root 100 honoree Wesley Lowery for GQ, where he discussed, among many things, his forthcoming films King Richard and Emancipation currently filming in Louisiana, his career trajectory and the forces that inspired and drove him, and his upcoming memoir, aptly titled Will.
Slated to come to a book shelf near you on November 9, Smith explained the impetus for penning the transparent transcript, saying in part: “I just really wanted to totally destroy the clinging to ‘Will Smith,’ trying to separate the image of Will Smith from who I actually am.”
In an excerpt from the book, he further elaborates: “What you have come to understand as ‘Will Smith,’ the alien-annihilating M.C., the bigger-than-life movie star, is largely a construction—a carefully crafted and honed character—designed to protect myself. Comedy defuses all negativity. It is impossible to be angry, hateful, or violent when you’re doubled over laughing.”
More on the details of Smith’s memoir, per GQ:
The book fills in the details of Smith’s younger years: how he went from making high school raps in his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff’s basement to the duo becoming the first hip-hop artists to win a Grammy; how he blew his money on cars and girlfriends before borrowing a few grand from a local drug dealer to pay for his move to L.A., where he ended up auditioning for the starring role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at a party at Quincy Jones’s house; how he lashed out at his first love, Tamika, after she had an affair; how his first marriage, to Sheree Zampino, ended under the weight of his growing ambition, with divorce papers delivered on Valentine’s Day; and how his jealousy of Tupac Shakur, a close childhood friend of his second wife, Jada, prevented him from ever speaking to the legendary rapper before his death.
If those subject matters weren’t enough to entice you to pry open the pages once the book becomes available, perhaps Smith’s views on the Black Lives Matter movement and “Defund the Police” might. In reflecting on the timeliness and long lasting implications of the Antoine Fuqua-directed feature Emancipation,—which tells the story of Peter, a slave who fled a plantation in Louisiana after he was whipped within an inch of his life—Smith shared his thoughts about the progress today and the movements that help to push those forward and why he feels they may need rephrase if they want true change.
“So ‘Abolish the police. Defund the police.’ I would love if we would just say ‘Defund the bad police.’ It’s almost like I want, as Black Americans, for us to change our marketing for the new position we’re in. So ‘critical race theory,’ just call it ‘truth theory,’ ” Smith said. “The pendulum is swinging in our direction beautifully. And there’s a certain humility that will most capitalize on the moment for the future of Black Americans, without discounting the difficulty and the pain and the emotion. This is a difficult area to discuss, but I feel like the simplicity of Black Lives Matter was perfect. Anybody who tries to debate Black Lives Matter looks ridiculous. So when I talk about the marketing of our ideas, Black Lives Matter was perfection.”
He continued, “From a standpoint of getting it done, Black Lives Matter gets it done. ‘Defund the police’ doesn’t get it done, no matter how good the ideas are,” he continued. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t defund the police. I’m saying, just don’t say that, because then people who would help you won’t.”
Additionally, Smith also took the time to shed some light on that one “entanglement”-fueled episode of Red Table Talk last year that resulted in, among many things, his face being meme-fied and arguably becoming the most accurate representation of how 2020 felt for us all.
More from GQ:
In July 2020, following public revelations of what Jada would describe as an “entanglement” with the R&B singer August Alsina, a tabloid frenzy ensued and Will and Jada took themselves to the Red Table for a 12-minute discussion of the dynamics of their relationship. This did not necessarily clear things up. “The public has a narrative that is impenetrable,” Smith said. “Once the public decides something, it’s difficult to impossible to dislodge the pictures and ideas and perceptions.” Because the impetus for the Red Table Talk was Alsina’s disclosures, a viewer could have walked away thinking that Jada was the only one engaging in other sexual relationships, when that was not, Smith delicately explained to me, in fact the case. Or take one of the memes spawned by their discussion, a screenshot of Smith looking stern-faced and droopy-eyed. “It was midnight and we were going on vacation the next day,” Smith explained, noting that the details they were discussing were, by that point, years in the past. “It was like, no, no, no, guys, I’m not sad. I’m fucking exhausted.”
It was clear that Smith had more to say. I could feel him rubbing up against the guardrails that he and Jada had established about what they would discuss publicly. He told me he’d talk with Jada, but when we spoke again a few weeks later, he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to go much deeper.
To read Smith’s full interview, head on over to gq.com.