Will Smith gets emotional on special Father’s Day episode of ‘Red Table Talk’

The actor opens up about the parenthood lessons he’s learned from his strict father and through fighting for parental rights after divorce

Will Smith
(Red Table Talk)

Grab your tissues because on today’s special Father’s Day episode of the Facebook Watch series Red Table Talk, host Jada Pinkett Smith sits down with her husband Will Smith for one of the most intimate and vulnerable conversations the couple has ever shared.

Smith and Pinkett Smith reflect on their 23 years of parenting, including the lessons they’ve learned and the failures they’ve overcome.

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One of the recurring themes within the conversation is the ways in which Smith’s own father, Willard Carroll Smith Sr. (affectionately titled Daddio), has affected his approach to fatherhood.

“From the time I was six years old, I wanted to be a father,” Smith reminisces. “I loved how my family was, but there were massive critical deficiencies in my father’s parenting that I wanted to correct. By the time I was ten years old, I remember looking at my father thinking I could do it better than him.”

Daddio Smith raised his children with strict military precision and physically abused their mother, but despite the negative reflections, Smith understands that the unfettering discipline he instilled helped him become the successful man and father he is today. “I lost my fear of things that are impossible,” he says.

Smith first became a father at the age of 24 with his first wife, Sheree Fletcher.

“That was my first moment of the real weight of parenting.” Smith recalls of the night he brought home his first born son, Willard Carroll “Trey” Smith III. “I brought him home, and I remember we put him in the bassinet, and Sheree went to sleep and it was like stark terror,” he adds while holding back emotion. “I just cried so hard, like ‘I can’t do it. Like I’m not the guy.’ I just knew I didn’t know nothing. It’s like in that moment, [I felt] how much better than me my father was.”

“I’ve been hurt a lot in my adult life, but I don’t think anything touches the failure of getting divorced from my 2-year-old son’s mother,” Smith confesses of the 1995 split with Fletcher. 

Although Smith was able to ultimately cultivate a flourishing relationship with his eldest son Trey, the loss of those first few years of his childhood left a lasting impression on his views toward fatherhood and co-parenting in American society.

“I think there are a couple of cultural roadblocks to fathering. In the Black community, specifically, fathering has been somewhat assaulted and there have been historical and systemic hurdles to African-American fatherhood and attempts to dismantle it systemically.” Smith acknowledges, “It’s a touchy area to talk about and I’m not relinquishing the responsibility…If you have kids, take care of your kids…Now with that said, there’s a necessity that mothers make room for fathers.”

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View the full episode, including touching surprise tributes from all three of the Smith children, HERE.