Celebrities often have their guard up while sitting on Oprah or The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but what about when they’re being interviewed by their own family member?
Will Smith has cracked open the window of his soul while being quizzed by his own wife to show what lies beneath the iconic Fresh Prince of Bel Air mask.
Chatting to Jada Pinkett Smith on a special edition of her Red Table Talk show, Will invited fans into his personal life with discussions around his upbringing and how he embraces daddyhood for his three kids Trey, 27, Jaden, 21, and 19-year-old Willow.
Jada kickstarted the interview by asking about his parenting skills, asking what lessons Will had learned from his own father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr.
Will said: “The major part was in not beating on them for school.
“I learned that everywhere is school, that anything you do, you have to do it well, that good grades isn’t above cleaning the kitchen. You have to discipline your mind and excel, as whatever you do and all of the lessons you need to teach are everywhere.”
While Will did have praise for his late father, the Oscar-nominee revealed how there is a “yin to every yang” and that he endured domestic violence watching him beat his mother.
He said: “The emotional scars that I have in this lifetime, he delivered that.
“He showed me a lot of things that I wanted to do, but he also showed me the things that I would absolutely positively never want to do to my children.”
Will even delved a little deeper as he spoke out on his first marriage, saying ‘I do’ to Sheree Zampino in 1992 after meeting on the set of TV sitcom A Different World.
Having become a dad at the tender age of 24, Will broke down as he recalled his fears of having a newborn, persistently checking on Trey as he slept in case he wasn’t breathing.
Will, now 51, said: “It hit me how fragile parenting is.
“Just in that moment, I could see all of the spectacular lessons that my father had instilled in me, and I was like, ‘There’s no way I can do that, I’m not that good.’
“But you know me, I got a good night sleep, and game on!”
Disclosing his intimate feelings about the divorce that followed, Will said he was terrified of being seen as failure and it hit him hard.
He was so afraid of following in his father’s violent footsteps, that Will surrendered and took a step back from the arguing to make sure his son was not piggy-in-the-middle.
Instead, he left it to fate and hoped that Trey would look for Will when he was old enough to want a relationship with him – which he inevitably did.
Will continued: “One of the things with you [Jada] and I, is you didn’t demand I do it the way you want to do it, and I didn’t demand you do it the way I want to do it.
“Sheree and I really struggled with the other one needing to do it their way. She needed me to father the way she wanted Trey fathered. And I’m not that guy.
“I’m not the parent-teacher meeting, throwing baseballs guy, I beat myself up for that for a while, wanting to be that dad, but I’m the ‘we’re going to build something together for work’ dad, I’m always looking for things we would both enjoy.”
Will, who said his superhero as a dad “is teaching in the moment”, also reflected on his daughter’s single Whip My Hair, which went double platinum when she was just nine.
At the time of its release in 2010, there was a lot of controversy surrounding Will and Jada for thrusting their child into the spotlight when she was not even double figures yet.
However, that controversy took care of itself as when Willow embarked on a tour with Justin Bieber, after a few shows she had different plans to what her folks had arranged.
Will said: “She had committed to these 30 days, we were in Dublin, Ireland on the fourth or fifth show, and she said, ‘I’m ready to go, daddy.’
“I was like, ‘Well, no. You can’t go home, baby. You’ve committed to 30 days.
“She kept asking, ‘It doesn’t matter how I feel?’
“And I said, ‘Yes, but you have to finish what you started.’
“She said to me, ‘But I’m finished.’”
Will said it was crushing to see Willow cut off all her hair when she returned home, feeling that it was a direct protest to him and a metaphorical flip of the bird to the song.
He said: “It was a Top 10 record, only Michael Jackson had done it younger than her, then she just shaved her head bald. I took that as a sign from the gods, this little girl is rejecting what I’m trying to do for her, she doesn’t want it.
“She had made music, she did it… She retired. No one was going to change that. She wasn’t going to do something she didn’t want to do. It was pretty gangster.
“Then she rebuilt her career the way she wanted it… I saw how much I was forcing her to do the things that I wanted, and in that moment, I saw that it was starting to hurt her.
“My desire for her, was overriding her desire for her, and I had a real epiphany on that in how bad a person can hate you if you keep forcing your opinions on their life.”
Will added: “She introduced me to feeling… I saw there was a higher value in talking to her about how she feels about the situation versus how to fix the situation.”
As Jada and Will concluded their conversation, they summarised parenting perfectly, saying: “Everyone wants rules but it’s more art than it is science.”
Now that needs to go on a T-shirt.