Will Smith has been a star since he was in his teens. The former rapper and star of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air catapulted his early success into a movie career that has seen its highs and lows. In a new, wide-ranging interview with Esquire, Smith had surprising insights about his spirituality and his approach to acting.
Smith said he aspires to be like his grandmother, who learned the attributes of service in the church. He chooses his movie characters based on their tendency for altruistic sacrifice and desire to make the world better.
“I really am attracted to characters who just want to do things that brighten the world. That probably is the central aspect of my personality. If you started chipping things away, if there were one thing that was really at the core, it is trying to be like my grandmother. Her entire life was in service at Resurrection Baptist Church. And she was just always happy.”
When the interviewer noted that Smith himself seemed happy, he gave a reflective response.
“I have fun. I enjoy my life. And I was hardwired for a deep connection between service, God, and happiness. You kind of need all of those things to be in play for one to have the others.”
Smith also spoke at length about his children, Willow and Jaden Smith, who each have their own creative careers. While he describes both of his offspring as “really well-adjusted around this business,” he said they have not been immune to some of the hurtful comments. A few months back, Willow and Jaden Smith gave an infamous interview that was later reported on in a less-than-positive light by one of Willow’s favorite YouTube channels, The Young Turks.
With regard to his acting, Smith revealed he experimented with “method acting,” during the making of Six Degrees of Separation but it caused him to fall in love with his co-star, Stockard Channing. He later abandoned the practice.
“So the movie was over and I went home, and I was dying to see Stockard. I was like, ‘Oh no! What have I done?’ That was my last experience with Method acting, where you’re reprogramming your mind. You’re actually playing around with your psychology. You teach yourself to like things and to dislike things. It is a really dangerous place when you get good at it. But once I had that experience, I was like, No more Method acting. I was spending—for ‘Six Degrees,’ I wanted to perform well so badly that I was spending six and seven and eight days in character before shooting, and you have to be careful with that.”
Here’s a clip from Six Degrees of Separation as a reminder of the film.
[Will Smith image: Getty]