Will Smith covers Esquire Magazine and shows us a side of him that we rarely see. During this interview, Will speaks on a vast amount of topics from his career to Ferguson to how he is teaching his kids to fight against all the controversy that is constantly being thrown their way.
Check out what Will had to say on the next page.
Photo Credit: Esquire
On his kids and social media hate:
With this generation of kids growing up, the technological battering is almost the norm. They generally avoid the stuff. They’re really well-adjusted around this business and understanding the nature of having to take a battering. It’s a brutal world out there for young people, for everybody. Willow had one moment. The Young Turks are Willow’s idol. They have a TV show online. They’re like a really powerful group of young writers, hosts, and political commentators. Willow loves the Young Turks, and that was the only moment I saw her cry. Other than that, she’s really well-adjusted with it. And Jaden understands that that’s a part of this business. If he wants to do it, there’s a certain amount of battery that you have to be willing to live through. We have a quote that I put up in the house from Pema Chödrön: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” We call it leaning into the sharp parts. Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There’s a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life. And the trick is to be able to sustain it with your heart open and still be loving. That is the real trick.
On Police Brutality
It’s been rough for me trying to find my position in the struggle and where my voice is needed and helpful. You know, I grew up in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia has a really rough police-brutality history. I grew up in a neighborhood where it was very clear that the police were “them” and we were “us.” I also know that when I was seventeen years old, I had a $20,000 car, which made it certain that I got pulled over all the time.
On Black People and Racism
I understand the difficulty and the pain, and there’s no easy way out right now. The change that has to happen is about to be so brutal and so painful. It’s not unlike the sixties. I think there’s actually a deeper issue at play that America is going to have to face. What we’re really talking about in this issue is people walking around the street with guns that can make a decision whether or not they’re going to kill someone, right? And that’s even more difficult, because there’s really no way back from that. This is a gun culture. And it’s painful for me, because I cannot figure out how to be helpful. I’ve always been telling my sons, We have to separate fault from responsibility—whose fault it is that black men are in this situation, whose fault it is doesn’t matter. It’s our responsibility to make it go right. It’s our responsibility. It’s a lot of people’s fault, systemic racism, and it’s a lot of people’s fault that the black community is in the situation that we’re in, but it’s our responsibility to clean up the mess.
Wild Wild West was less painful than After Earth because my son was involved in After Earth and I led him into it. That was excruciating. What I learned from that failure is how you win. I got reinvigorated after the failure of After Earth. I stopped working for a year and a half. I had to dive into why it was so important for me to have number-one movies. And I never would have looked at myself in that way. I was a guy who, when I was fifteen my girlfriend cheated on me, and I decided that if I was number one, no woman would ever cheat on me. All I have to do is make sure that no one’s ever better than me and I’ll have the love that my heart yearns for. And I never released that and moved into a mature way of looking at the world and my artistry and love until the failure of After Earth, when I had to accept that it’s not a good source of creation.
After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.