“Jada never believed in conventional ily members that had an unconventional relationship. There were significant endless discussions about, what is relational perfection? What is the perfect way to interact as a couple? “We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can’t be a prison. And I don’t suggest our road for anybody. I don’t suggest this road for anybody. ”
Smith grappled with whether to include all of that stuff in the book, and it was clear that the final version could look different than the one I saw. But ultimately he decided to leave many of the most personal details out. There was no way to chronicle the parts that happened next from solely his own perspective. There was no way to tell his story without telling others’ too. “It felt like it was a whole book unto itself,” Smith explained.
In , following public revelations of what Jada would describe as an “entanglement” with the RB 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.
I was supposed to be disappointed. But, after reading about the work he’s done to break his addiction to affirmation, to free himself of the need to please, it was hard not to be proud of him for sticking to a boundary. “It may seem hard to believe, but I would lose sleep over not giving you the answer that I know you could use,” Smith told me. “I want to help you, I want you to succeed, I want you to have a headline. But by the same token, I don’t want to deal with the backlash of that in the world. To say I don’t want to talk about that three years ago would have been fucking excruciating for me.”
For decades, Will Smith has been gracious to every interviewer. He gives you 90 minutes after agreeing to an hour. And then when he’s done, he walks outside to take photos with every fan, smiling for each and every one.