Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are, of course, a beloved Hollywood couple. But even though they’ve been together since 1997 and have raised a family, things aren’t always as perfect as they appear. In 2018 Will joined his wife, daughter and mother-in-law on the internet chatshow Red Table Talk, and there, he made some shocking revelations about his marriage.
The episode was called “Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” so naturally both halves of the relationship had their say. Jada and Will weren’t afraid to talk about the most personal things on camera – including their failures at communicating and the times when they felt miserable about being married.
Talking about difficult subjects is not unusual on Red Table Talk. Jada, her daughter Willow and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris have all elaborated on many painful aspects of their lives on the show. And yet, Will’s discussion about the “most poisonous aspect” of his marriage to Jada might still have been surprising to many.
We’ll return to what Will told his wife Jada a little later, but first let’s explore the show in which he made his surprising confession. Red Table Talk started in May 2018, and since then many guests have sat around the table and shared personal secrets. So far, the show has had participants such as Ellen Pompeo, Kid Cudi, Toni Braxton and Jordyn Woods. And they’ve discussed a range of issues: including mental illness, divorce, and interracial relationships.
The hosts themselves have also spoken out in the open about some of the problems which affect them. For example, in another 2018 episode of the show, Willow revealed to her mother and grandmother that she had self-harmed as a youngster for a period of time. Jada, for her part, hadn’t had any idea, and she was shocked to hear it.
In the video, Willow says that she had begun self-harming following the attention she’d received after the release of her song “Whip my Hair” in 2010. She adds, “After all of that settled down and there was a lull, I was just listening to a lot of dark music… I was just plunged into this black hole and I was cutting myself.” Of course, the entire Smith family have always had a strong spotlight on them. And Will is one of the biggest movie stars in the world – with an acting CV that includes Independence Day, I Am Legend, the Men in Black series and more.
Will has actually been married twice – Jada is his second wife. His first was Sheree Zampino, with whom he had his first son, Trey. The latter is now part of a blended family with Jada and her two children, Willow and Jaden. Touchingly, the mom said on the first episode of Red Table Talk that she sees Trey as a “bonus son.”
And Jada is even friends with Sheree, despite the divorce and the very difficult road from there on. In the first Red Table Talk episode, she tells the latter, “The beginning between us was rough, because I did not understand marriage. I didn’t understand divorce. I will say that I probably should have [fallen] back.”
And Jada’s difficulties with the concept of marriage came up in the “Being Mr. and Mrs. Smith” episode of the show, which was uploaded to Facebook. In fact, she had a few revelations to make on that front. On the day of her wedding to Will, she says, she was pregnant with Jaden and she sobbed the whole way through the ceremony.
Jada explains on the show that she had never really wanted to get married. Her problem wasn’t with Will, but with the concept of marriage in general. She tells her co-hosts, “I was so upset I had to have a wedding. I was so pissed. I went crying down the freaking aisle crying the whole way.”
Will, on the other hand, held the exact opposite opinion from Jada; he had no problem with a wedding. He tells his wife, daughter and mom-in-law, “There wasn’t a day in my life that I wanted anything other than being married and having a family. At five years old, I was picturing what my family would be.”
Will asks Jada, “What was the fundamental bump about the idea of marriage in general that you were against?” She then responds, “I just never really agreed with the construct. I don’t agree with it. I never have [and] still don’t. ‘Til death do us part’ is real for me. It’s just all of the rules and all of the ideas.”
Jada says, “Because this title, ‘wife,’ is very difficult… The accepted conventional definition of wife and the paradigm – I’m not that.” Will has a different opinion about being a husband, though. He tells his wife, “I read something when we first got together, that the most successful men in history have been married.”
Will continues, “And for me, I knew that I would squander my life if I was running around. The way my mind works, I can only excel for a woman.” Willow, for her part, was delighted to hear that. Will then says to Jada, “The one thing that has been the greatest motivator and asset for me with you is your absolute refusal to accept anything from me other than the best that I could possibly be.”
But there were many hurdles Will and Jada had to get over at the beginning. The former had witnessed domestic abuse as a child and he disliked it when Jada swore. He continues on the show, “I grew up in a household where I watched my father punch my mother in her father. And I will not create a house, a space, an interaction with a person where there’s profanity and violence.”
Once, Will had apparently heard Jada swear while the two-year-old Trey was in the room, and he’d taken her aside and told her he couldn’t be with her if she kept doing that. On the program, he recalls telling her, “We’re not gonna use any profanity in our interactions, we’re not gonna raise our voice, we’re not gonna be violent. I can’t do it.”
Will concludes, “It was 20 years before we used profanity in any conversation that we had. We didn’t use profanity in any argument, we never raised our voices, we took communication courses and all of that, and never had violence, nothing.” And in the video, Jada agrees with him that this was the best course of action.
Adrienne then asks Jada what she did “with the emotion that comes when you’re angry.” Jada answers, “I had to discipline myself and really handle that within myself, to see, ‘Okay, what are you angry about?’ And then come to peace, and then go and talk to Will when I can actually have a communication.”
Later on, Will and Jada then discuss how they raised their family. The former says to his wife, “We had cross intentions sometimes that made us collide, right? That was one of the major difficulties we had, [because] externally everything was beautiful. As a couple, we are magical. We win in the material world.”
Will says, “When we do it together, we win, right?” He lists off some of the achievements of the Smith family, which included co-hosting the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009. The actor then declares, “Our family did that within a six-month period, right? I was like, ‘I’m parenting the hell out of these kids.’”
Things seemed to be going extremely well for the Smiths during that time. And yet, Will reveals in the video, that wasn’t so. He tells the people around him, “Externally, our family was winning, right? And there was a period where mommy [Jada] woke up and cried [for] 45 days straight. I started keeping a diary.”
Will continues on, visibly emotional, “I think that’s the worst I’ve ever felt in our marriage. I was failing miserably. But on the outside, I was winning. Like, I built the house, and called the house ‘Her Lake’ right? And during that time, I remember saying, ‘I built this house for you! I called it ‘Her Lake!’ And she said, ‘You built this house for you.’”
The actor then tells his family around the table, “It was devastating for me to accept that I built the house for me. [Because] in my mind I was saying I was building it for her, but I wasn’t. I wanted this house. I called it ‘Her Lake’ as an ego cover, right? And Jada was calling me on that.”
Will says, powerfully, “What I realized is, I was building a picture. I grew up in a household where I was scared, and watched my father beat my mother up, right? So I was gonna build the complete opposite of that. It’s gonna be wonderland! Everybody’s gonna be happy all the time!”
The star continues, “I had a picture, and I had a public perception that I wanted to project of our relationship, of the family, and what my kids are and what my wife is and what we are in the world.” Adrienne then drops quite an explosive question, and Will’s response is also quite surprising.
Adrienne asks her son-in-law, “Did you ever feel like Jada was ungrateful?” Will responds simply, “Hell yeah.” And Jada has something to say about that too. She explains, “But that was the other thing, because there were times I felt ungrateful. Because I was like, ‘Look at your life! How could you be so unhappy?’ I used to think I was crazy.”
Adrienne has something to add to that as well, telling her daughter, “I think that’s actually how I felt when I first got wind of your discontent. It wasn’t that I thought you were ungrateful, I just didn’t understand like what [was] wrong. What could possibly be wrong? You have Will!”
Jada tells her mother, “And that’s what everybody thought.” Will then goes on to explain what else went awry. He says, “Jada’s an actress, but she had two babies, and she had to be home to raise her babies while I got to do everything I wanted to do. She was sacrificing herself to fit my picture. But my life wasn’t really disrupted in the least.”
Will then reveals, “If there [was] an individual most poisonous aspect of our relationship in the past, [it’s that] I felt that money and winning make a good relationship.” As Willow states her agreement, Will says, “We’re succeeding in the world. That means our relationship is good.”
In the video, Jada explains how she had tried to deal with the problem. She says, “And I would say to him, I would go, ‘Will, throw away everything that’s happening in the outside world, your career, everything, and it’s just me and you on an island. What do we have?’” Will then responds, “And I was like, ‘We have the island! We own the island!’”
Will goes on to reveal more details about his battle with fame. He explains in regards to Jada’s question, “And it was like, I so didn’t comprehend that. So me and you on an island, what do we have? Not only did I not understand, I didn’t care. I was unaware of what it meant to truly connect with somebody.”
Jada says, “I had been trying to live up to an expectation for Will,” to which her husband responds, “You were trapped in a life that you didn’t build, that you didn’t want.” Jada agrees that she had accepted the situation because of “fear of not wanting to rock the boat,” and because, of course, she’d had children with Will.
Jada continues in the video, “It’s just a lot of stuff you let slide and go past that angers you and you get resentment. You know? But you don’t change it, because you’re scared. At the end of the day, it’s about fear.” And Will then drops another bombshell – this one regarding Willow and something she did when she was nine.
Will tells the story of a time when he and Jada were fighting and Willow had overheard. Apparently, she’d put her hand on Will’s face and then said to Jada in the kitchen, “Mommy, isn’t it sad?” And when Jada asked what the problem was, the young Willow had answered, “Daddy has a picture of a family in his mind and it’s not us.”
It seems remarkable that Will and Jada’s relationship could have survived all that – but it did. To this day they’re still going strong, and in the following episode of Red Table Talk, they explain how they did it. In that video, Will says that they essentially broke up “and had to rebuild with new rules and something way completely different.”
Eventually, Will explains in that episode, he had the realization that his marriage and family were falling apart. He says, “I was building what I wanted for [Jada], and she tried all of the different ways to say ‘I don’t want that.’” Willow was also rebelling at that time and at one point had shaved off all of her hair.
Will explains that finally, “I saw, for the first time, what Jada had been saying the whole time, about hiding behind my ego and my dreams and my desires, and pretending like it’s love. And I realized that she didn’t want none of the stuff I had built.” And from there, the two were slowly able to work things out.
Will and Jada didn’t want a divorce even when things were at their worst, but they did end up redefining what their marriage meant. Jada says on the show, “Will and I have decided to even throw away the concept of marriage. It’s a life partnership in the sense that we created a foundation together that we know is for this lifetime.”
And at the end of the second part of “Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” Jada and Will speak touchingly – and jokingly – of their love for each other. Will asks, “You know why I never got divorced?” And to much laughter, Jada answers, “It’s cheaper to keep me.”
But the real reason for never requesting a divorce, Will tells his partner, is “[because] I’ve never met anybody like you, and I knew if I wasn’t with you I’d be searching in vain for the rest of my life.” Jada smiles at those touching words and simply says, “See, sometimes he says the right thing.”