Monday Night Conversation is our candid conversation with stars of the big and small screen, athletes, entertainers, politicians and other icons.
In this episode, BlackTree TV Executive Producer, Jamaal Finkley, fills in for the host Ms. Brooke Christopher, and sits down with the Big Willie himself, to ask him about his new movie, family, and saving the world. Stay tuned for more interviews, including the NY Premier of the movie 'I Am Legend'.
Willard Christopher "Will" Smith, Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is a Golden Globe and a two time Academy Award-nominated American actor, and a multiple Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist. He is one of a small group of people who have enjoyed success in three major entertainment media in the United States. Newsweek has called him the most powerful actor on the planet. Smith's most notable television role was that of William "Will" Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In his film work, his notable roles include Agent J in Men in Black and Men in Black II, Muhammad Ali in Ali, as well as his role in the blockbuster Independence Day and more recently as Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness with his son Jaden Smith.
Smith started as the MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, with his childhood friend Jeffrey "DJ Jazzy Jeff" Townes as turntablist and producer as well as Ready Rock C (Clarence Holmes) as the human beat box. The trio was known for performing humorous, radio-friendly songs, most notably "Parents Just Don't Understand" and "Summertime." They gained critical acclaim for winning the first ever Grammy in the Rap category (1988). He had a line in "Voices That Care", a 1991 Gulf War song by a celebrity group.
Smith was nearing bankruptcy when in 1990, the NBC television network signed him to a contract and built a sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, around him. The show was successful and launched his acting career. Although he made a notable dramatic film debut in Six Degrees of Separation while still appearing in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Smith's film career took off with his role in the buddy cop action film Bad Boys (1995) along with co-star Martin Lawrence.
Will Smith at 45th Emmy Awards in 1993
Will Smith at 45th Emmy Awards in 1993
After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended in 1996, Smith began a successful solo music career while simultaneously starring in a series of films. The first two films were hugely successful summer blockbusters: Independence Day (1996), in which he played a fearless and confident fighter pilot, and Men in Black (1997), where he played the comic and confident Agent J against Tommy Lee Jones's deadpan Agent K. Smith's acting in Men in Black won critical praise. He originally rejected the lead role in Men in Black, but wife Jada Pinkett Smith coaxed him into acceptance. The two films established Smith's commercial reputation as a bankable star whose appeal across age, race, and gender lines could "open" a film at the box office. Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild Wild West. After the failure of Wild Wild West and watching Keanu Reeves' performance, he suggests that he would not have been the appropriate actor for the role at the time, but still considers passing on The Matrix as a big mistake. He then gained lead roles in several box office successes including Men in Black II, Bad Boys II, Hitch, and I, Robot.
Smith is one of only two hip-hop artists to receive an Oscar nomination in an acting category (Best Actor, Ali, 2001), for his portrayal of the boxer Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, in the biopic. He was also nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his role in another true-life movie, The Pursuit of Happyness where he played Chris Gardner in his rags to riches story.
Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith created the UPN (later CW) sitcom All of Us, which was loosely based on their lives. The show debuted on UPN in September 2003 and aired there for three seasons before moving to The CW in October 2006 for one more season. The CW cancelled All of Us in May 2007.
Smith appeared as himself in Jersey Girl delivering the Silent Bob speech that appears in nearly all Kevin Smith movies. The lead character's situation is due to the claim, "Will Smith is just a rapper".
A BlackTree Media Production
Produced by Jamaal Finkley
Personality: Jamaal Finkley
Footage of 'I Am Legend' Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
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