by Michael P Coleman

The Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation recently announced they will launch a “Careers in Entertainment Tour” to support Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative on its two-year anniversary.

In keeping with the initiative’s goals, the tour will be aimed at helping underserved high school and college students interested in entertainment industry careers, the foundation said.

“The Careers in Entertainment Tour is an engine for change in our industry, and a means of closing the gap between dreams and the tools necessary to achieve them,”  Pinkett Smith said.  

This initiative is just the latest highlight in Will Smith’s career.

Willard Christopher “Will” Smith, Jr., 47 first came to our attention 30 years ago as a teenaged half of the rap group DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.  The group won the first Best Rap Grammy ever awarded, in 1988.  Two year’s later, NBC brass noticed Smith’s hysterical, smooth swagger and offered him the lead in the semi-autobiographical sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  The series was a huge hit, staying on the air for 6 seasons.   

After his success on television, feature films were the obvious next step for Smith.  His first major role was in 1993’s Six Degrees Of Separation, delivering a critically-acclaimed performance that challenged perceptions of gay and bisexual black men of the day.  Smith hit the big time a few years later as part of the ensemble cast of the smash Independence Day.  SPOILER ALERT:  it may have been the first time Hollywood actually allowed a black man to literally save the day!  The budding actor followed that success up with the first of his Men In Black films, opposite Hollywood veteran Tommy Lee Jones. 

With his first marriage to Sharee Zampino — who’s the mother of his eldest son, Willard Smith III — having ended in divorce in 1995, Smith turned his attention to another budding actor, Jada Pinkett, and the two married in 1997.  The Smiths welcomed son Jaden and daughter Willow to their family soon thereafter. 

Smith has weathered the pitfalls of Hollywood stardom quite well.  For every Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness (for which he was nominated for Academy Awards), he’s survived flops like Wild, Wild West and After Earth.  The former film was a project he took on after having turned down the lead role of “Neo” in the highly successful Matrix franchise.  It seems Smith didn’t think much of the script, and didn’t think the movie would be a hit.  (Adjusted for inflation, the trilogy earned Warner Brothers almost $900 million at the box office.) 

The Smiths have made a few controversial decisions with regard to their personal lives, as well.  While they were major contributors to the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, they have also reportedly been major contributors to the Church of Scientology.  They have taken a fairly non-conventional approach to child-rearing, supporting their children publicly through all of Willow’s sartorial risks (remember when she shaved half of the hair that she had been whipping back and forth?) and through Jaden’s gender non-conformity — he’s worn dresses publicly and he was recently named the new face of Louis Vuitton womenswear.

According to HollywoodLife.com, Will Smith can explain.    

“Will and Jada have their own arguments about their kids and some of the choices they make,” an unnamed source says, “but they are both on board when it comes to Jaden’s fashion choices.  They are so used to it by now that it doesn’t bother them at all.  They like his choices and think he looks pretty cool.” 

Another source reports that Smith thinks their nonconventional parenting approach has gone “too far.” 

“Yeah, I think it may have been a mistake,” Smith told the BBC with a laugh.  “I think we may have gone too far.”

“There’s a really powerful internal quality as an artist that as parents we encourage,” Smith continued.  “Jaden is 100 percent fearless, he will do anything.  So as a parent it’s scary, it’s really terrifying — but he is completely willing to live and die by his own artistic decisions and he just doesn’t concern himself with what people think.” 

This summer, the elder Smith will be living or dying by an artistic choice of his own.  He opted not to star in the sequel to his hugely successful Independence Day, which hits theaters June 24, deciding instead to enter the budding DC Cinematic Universe with the highly anticipated Suicide Squad, which is due to arrive August 5.  It’s the third film in the budding DCU, following 2013’s Man of Steel and this year’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. 

Smith says the upcoming comic book adaptation is “really crazy” and was hard to pass up. 

“It’s a character that hasn’t really been explored in cinema,” Smith explained to ComingSoon.net of his “Deadshot” role in the upcoming film.  “I get to design it and be a part of creating the first round of Deadshot in the history of cinema…It’s a really great opportunity to work with a really great ensemble.  it was perfectly cast.  It’s an insane group of super actor villains.”  

Needless to say, we’ll be watching when Suicide Squad hits cinemas this summer — and everything ELSE in which the Smith family gets involved!  

Michael P Coleman is a Sacrament-based freelance writer.  Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 

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