Will Smith reveals he ‘fell in love’ with Stockard Channing during first marriage
Smith opens up about how method acting practices made him fall in love with his co-star.
Will Smith took method acting to a whole new level while filming the 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation. Smith starred opposite Stockard Channing as Louisa, with whom Smith’s character Paul falls in love. Off-screen, Smith found himself falling for Channing — the problem was that he was married to Sheree Zampino at the time.
“Sheree and I were in the first few months of our marriage with a brand-new baby and for Sheree, I can imagine that this experience was unsettling, to say the least,” Smith wrote in his forthcoming memoir, Will. “She’d married a guy named Will Smith and now she was living with a guy named Paul Poitier. And to make matters worse, during shooting I fell in love with Stockard Channing.”
Even after filming, Smith realized the feelings for his co-star remained. “After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to L.A,” he wrote. “Our marriage was off to a rocky start. I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard.”
Smith opened up about his attraction to Channing to Esquire in 2015. In the interview, he spoke of learning the “dangers” of method acting from his time working on the film.
“With Six Degrees of Separation, I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character,” he wrote. “My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing…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.”
He added that he spent so much time living as his character that it had adverse effects on him.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
Channing isn’t mad about Smith’s revelation. When asked by Page Six about it, she said she was flattered.
“That’s a wonderful thing . . . I adored him from the first time I laid eyes on him because I thought he was genuinely sweet,” Channing said after Smith’s Esquire interview. “I felt very protective of him because it was his first big job. It’s amazing for me to hear that he felt that way, I’m delighted.”
In Will, Smith opens up about fatherhood, his complex childhood, the end of his relationship with Zampino, and his 23-year marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith. The book is slated for release Nov. 9.