Will Smith has opened up about the unhappiness his family felt during the early years of their burgeoning success.
The Men in Black star, 54, saw his Hollywood fame skyrocket with his debut role in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which he starred infrom 1990 to 1996.
It wasn’t until two decades later, however, when his two children, Jaden and Willow, followed in their parent’s footsteps that he felt he “had achieved everything I had ever dreamed”.
Smith shares Jaden, 25, and Willow, 22, with wife and actor Jada Pinkett Smith, 51. He also has an older son Trey, 30, from his first marriage with Sheree Zampino.
“2010 was like the greatest year as an artist, as a parent,” Smith admitted on the recently aired season three finale of Kevin Hart’s Peacock TV show Hart to Heart.
“Karate Kid came out in June, ‘Whip My Hair’ came out in October,” the Oscar-winning actor said, listing off Jaden and Willow’s respective early career achievements.
“I’m building this dream of a family I’ve had in my mind. ‘I’m going to do it better than my father did it.’ We’ve talked about it, my father was abusive. I told myself I would never have that kind of energy with my family and I had a dream, an idea of a family I was building. Pretty much 2010 to 2012 I had achieved everything I had ever dreamed.”
Yet, despite the success he and his family had found, Smith recalled that “nobody in my family was happy”.
“No one wanted to be in a platoon. Willow was the first one to begin the mutiny and it was my first realisation that success and money don’t mean happiness,” the King Richard actor reflected.
“Up until that point, I really believed that you could succeed your way – to a house and a family – and you could win your way to happiness.”
It was only then that he came to understand “material circumstances do not equal happiness and, in a lot of cases, they can be the reason you’re not happy”.
“You can have so much stuff that it makes you miserable,” Smith added. “That was my first pull-back and I was like, ‘OK, what am I missing?’ I was driving the people around me in a way that I was leaving scorched earth around me.”
Singer Willow has previously spoken about her relationship with her parents, telling The Guardian in 2022: “My parents are my best friends. They are both wonderful people. I love them not just because they are my parents but because they are Will and Jada, who have their own beautiful, complex and amazing minds and hearts.”