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Will Smith on David Letterman Netflix special: Actor opens up on pain and protecting one's family in interview recorded before Oscars slap 

Will Smith spoke about dealing with pain and protecting his family during a recorded David Letterman interview (Image via Matt Doyle/Getty Images)
Will Smith spoke about dealing with pain and protecting his family during a recorded David Letterman interview (Image via Matt Doyle/Getty Images)

Will Smith was recently seen on the latest episode of the fourth season of David Letterman’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.

In an interview recorded nearly two months before his now-infamous Oscars slap fiasco, the actor opened up about his thoughts on pain and protecting one's family. Prior to the beginning of the episode, a disclaimer read:

“This episode was filmed prior to the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony.”
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In March 2022, Will Smith left the entertainment industry in shock after slapping comedian Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards following the latter’s G.I. Jane joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald look.

Pinkett Smith reportedly suffers from alopecia, a condition of extreme hair loss. However, Rock said he was not aware of her condition prior to making the joke.

Will Smith was largely condemned for his actions and has since been banned from the Academy for 10 years. The actor also apologized to Rock on social media, resigned from the Academy, and has lost several upcoming roles.


A look into Will Smith’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction interview

Will Smith recorded his 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction' interview in January 2022 (Image via Pablo Cuadra/WireImage)
Will Smith recorded his 'My Next Guest Needs No Introduction' interview in January 2022 (Image via Pablo Cuadra/WireImage)

Will Smith’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction recently aired on Netflix and saw the actor discussing his 2021 memoir titled Will. He told David Letterman that taking his time away from acting to focus on writing has fundamentally changed his work experience:

“My experiences and my life, and the writing of this book have unlocked a part of me, as an actor, that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

The King Richard star said that he was at an exciting point in his life because he could reach people differently compared to how he did in the past due to his pain. He said:

“Life is so exciting to me right now because I can reach people differently than I’ve ever been able to reach people, largely because of my pain. I’m really ready to dive into my heart in a way that I think will be, hopefully, fulfilling for me and helpful for the human family.”
Cardi B, Billie Eilish, Ryan Reynolds, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Durant, and Will Smith will be the guests on the new season of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. Premieres May 20 https://t.co/F5oon9qoIx

Speaking about the life lessons over the years, the actor mentioned that one can never completely protect their family as the concept of protection is similar to having an illusion:

“You can’t protect your family — that’s not real. Protection and safety is an illusion. You have to learn to live with the reality that any moment, anything can be gone in one second. So with that reality, how can you be here? And how can you be joyful and be here?”

Earlier in the interview, Letterman shared that watching Smith arrive on the set of his old Late Show was similar to watching a “locomotive.” However, he noted that the actor often tells people that is not what his real self is like.

In response, Will Smith said that he has always viewed himself as a “coward”:

“There’s a person that you want to be and a person you want to be viewed as. And then there’s who you really are... The first line of the first chapter [of his memoir] is ‘I’ve always thought of myself as a coward.’”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum then revealed that he harboured such thoughts about himself due to the childhood trauma of silently watching his mother being abused at the hands of his father:

“When I was 9 years old, I saw my father beat up my mother, and I didn’t do anything. And that just left a traumatic impression of myself as a coward.”

Smith further shared that his father often told him that “99% is the same as zero” and instilled an obsessive idea of perfection in his mind. He said he was able to battle the idea after undergoing counseling. The actor shared that his therapist said:

“Mathematically, 99% is almost as far from zero as you could get.”

The actor then mentioned that he eventually learned the importance of things beyond materialistic success:

“When you set your sights on material success, there actually is nothing that’s enough. No. 1 movies were much more of an addiction than they were a fulfilling, emotional endeavor. I wanted to be the best, but I correlated being the best with being able to have the love in my life that would make me feel safe.”
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Will Smith went on to win the Oscar Award for Best Actor for his role in King Richard. Unfortunately, the moment was largely overshadowed by his slapping controversy. According to People, the actor is currently focussing on healing and has traveled to India to practice yoga and meditation.

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Edited by Khushi Singh
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