Philly’s Fresh Prince, Will Smith, comes home to talk

Where is the Will Smith mural in Philly? | Getty Images
Getty Images

When it comes to hometown pride, almost no success story has been greater than that of Overbrook’s Will Smith.

From his initial stardom in hip hop as the profanity-free rapper Fresh Prince, to DJ Jazzy Jeff (Townes)’ turntablist in the mid-80s with ‘Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble,’ and ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand,’ to stardom as a dramatic film actor, up through his latest role, ‘King Richard,’ Smith has reached the goal line, and leapt over it with ease. Include Smith’s work as a philanthropist and as a producer — from the upcoming redo of his NBC comedy, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ as a Peacock streamer to his Overbrook Entertainment’s co-ownership of series such as Cobra Kai — and it’s easy to see why his name is gold.

Rather than singing, rapping or acting, however, it is the arc of Smith’s entire life and beliefs that bring him home to The Met Philadelphia on Monday, Nov. 8, to discuss what he has penned in his newly published autobiography, ‘Will.’

Because, for one of the music and film business’ nicest guys, Smith’s life comes with great controversy and delicious rumor: everything from son Jaden’s fluid sexuality and want to be emancipated, to Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s somewhat unconventional views on monogamy, extramarital relationships and the freedom to pursue polyamory, to a possible allegiance and belief system in regard to Scientology.

Written with author Mark Manson, the writer of the bestselling ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,’ Smith’s ‘Will’ tells an epic tale of how “one person mastered his own emotions, written in a way that can help everyone else do the same,” according to Manson’s author notes of the profound journey of self-knowledge.

“Few of us will know the pressure of performing on the world’s biggest stages for the highest of stakes, but we can all understand that the fuel that works for one stage of our journey might have to be changed if we want to make it all the way home. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts ‘Will’ the book, like its author, in a category by itself.”

While ‘Will’ looks at Smith’s life through the prism of Hollywood success – his sitcom stardom with ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ for six seasons, an action film sensation with ‘Independence Day,’ the ‘Men in Black’ and ‘Bad Boys’ series, Oscar nominations for ‘Ali’ and ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ – the autobiography, too, focuses on Smith’s thorough reckoning with the past (his life as a fearful youth in West Philly), his hope for present and his future. The memoir peels back the layers of his marriage and his role as a husband and father, as well as a fully actualized being in command of his own destiny.

Combine ‘Will’ with an upcoming docu-series, ‘Best Shape of My Life,’ and Smith is obviously ready to open up. Wide. Between the two, memoir-based media, the actor-rapper reveals he once contemplated suicide, as well as killing his own father, that he got so deep into Method acting practices that he fell in love with his co-star Stockard Channing, and that his early sex life with Jada was busily active.

“We drank every day, we had sex multiple times every day for four straight months. I started to wonder if this was a competition. Either way, as far as I was concerned, there were only two possibilities: I was going to satisfy this woman sexually or I was going to die trying.” Now, he discusses life with his wife — that each alone could make the other happy was a “fantasy illusion” — and that their marriage is more of an open relationship than a closed door.

Smith himself writes of the positivity and ferocity behind ‘Will,’ that, “It is easy to maneuver the material world once you have conquered your own mind. I believe that. Once you have learned the terrain of your own mind, every experience, every emotion, every circumstance, whether positive or negative, simply propels you forward, to greater growth and greater experience. That is true will. To move forward in spite of anything. And to move forward in a way that brings others with you, rather than leave them behind.”

Will Smith, “An Evening of Stories with Friends,” will take place at The Met on Monday, Nov. 8. For information or to purchase tickets, visit themetphilly.com/event/will-smith

More from our Sister Sites