What Will Smith Is Really Like, According To Coworkers

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Vote up the most intriguing comments from Will Smith's colleagues.

Now that Will Smith walked onto the stage at the 92nd Academy Awards and slapped Chris Rock in the face, people want to know more about him. The move seemed a bit out of place for fans who only know him through his roles, but plenty of stories are cropping up online detailing how "the slap heard 'round the world" wasn't as surprising as most people thought it was. Still, there's no way to know what Smith was feeling in the moment, and despite apologies and constant internet reminders, there's only one way to determine what kind of man Smith actually is.

You need to talk to the people closest to him, and in Smith's case, that means his costars. Since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990, he has managed to star in numerous mega-hits, pairing him with Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Martin Lawrence, Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, and dozens more. Several have spoken out over the years, explaining how they liked or hated working with him.

Take a look at the actors and directors who have or haven't enjoyed collaborating with Smith over the years. Their comments are the best way to know what the man behind the slap is really like, as most of us won't get the chance to star alongside him in another Men in Black or Bad Boys movie anytime soon.

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  • Janet Hubert Revealed She 'Lost Everything' Because Of His Actions
    Photo: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air / NBC

    When The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air arrived on TV sets in 1990, Vivian Banks (Aunt Viv) was played by Janet Hubert. She remained in the role for the first three seasons and was fired at Smith's urging. Daphne Maxwell Reid took over the role for the three remaining seasons. Fans tuning in to the first episode of season four were left scratching their heads, but Reid didn't take long to make her mark on the show. The reason she came on stems from a feud between Hubert and Smith that lasted for decades.

    The details of their conflict have come to light over the years, and it was finally put to rest when they reunited in 2020 for a 30th-anniversary special that included all the primary actors discussing their involvement with the series. Smith and Hubert spoke for the first time in many years, and Smith acknowledged:

    During that time of her pregnancy, I wasn't sensitive. I wasn't perceptive, and now that I've had three kids, I've learned some things that I did not know at the time, and I would do things very differently. But I can see where I made the set very difficult for Janet.

    While Smith began speaking about how he understands how Hubert must have felt, admitting that she was in pain and struggling while showing up every day for work, Hubert interrupted him, adding the following:

    But you took all that away from me... with your words. Words can kill. I lost everything - reputation, everything. And I understand you were able to move forward, but those words, calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood is the kiss of death. It's the kiss of death, and it's hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business. But I have felt it was necessary for us to finally move forward. And I'm sorry that I have blasted you to pieces.

    Upon hearing this, Smith said he thought she hated him, but she replied, "I could not do a 30-year celebration of this show and not celebrate you - celebrate your contribution to this show and celebrate your contribution to my life." They exchanged apologies on both sides, and the cast rejoiced in their breakthrough. It's a fascinating exchange between two actors whose careers went in wildly different directions.

    496 votes
  • Tommy Lee Jones Said He 'Is More Generous Than Anyone'
    Photo: Men in Black II / Sony Pictures Releasing

    Smith and Tommy Lee Jones began their acting partnership with the first Men in Black film in 1997. They played opposite each other in two sequels, with their final collaboration, Men in Black 3, hitting theaters in 2012. They have amazing on-screen chemistry, which is one of the reasons their movies have done so well. That chemistry doesn't end on the silver screen; the men are close friends outside of work as well.

    When asked about his co-star, Jones said

    Will is more generous than anyone, and he spreads joy, he walks into a studio, walks onto a set, and... he makes certain that everybody's happy. He can't help himself.

    Jones also explained their on-screen chemistry, describing it by saying that "partnerships are good engines for narrative. If you think of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, the Cisco Kid and Pancho, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. On and on."

    265 votes
  • Charlize Theron 'Fell Madly In Love With' Him
    Photo: Hancock / Sony Pictures Releasing

    Smith had the opportunity to work with Charlize Theron on two films, beginning with 2000's The Legend of Bagger Vance and then in 2008's Hancock. In the latter, they both played supernatural beings whose love for each other made them vulnerable, with some superhero shenanigans, a lot of liquor, and plenty of fighting thrown into the mix. 

    After they shared the screen twice, Theron spoke about her time in the spotlight with Smith

    We didn't get the chance to work that much together, and yet it took us all of about five minutes to really fall madly in love with each other. We just hit it off instantly and were always messing around. There was something about me and him. We're very similar people. 

    Theron described their relationship as a "brother and sister" kind of vibe.

    267 votes
  • Tatyana Ali Described Him As 'An Explosion Of Energy'
    Photo: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air / NBC

    Tatyana Ali began working with Smith on the first episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and they continued all the way until the end. Ali portrayed Ashley Banks, and they had amazing chemistry on the small screen. She appeared on TODAY in 2018, where she shared her experiences working on the series and what it was like to work with Smith:

    He's a ball of energy and he still is... not even a ball; he's just like an explosion of energy when he walks into the room and that's just how he was. And he's incredibly funny and a great storyteller and so charismatic and he just... made me laugh all the time. We shared a lot of inside jokes for some reason, Will and I.

    After Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, Ali spoke out against her former on-screen cousin's actions, posting a Tweet saying:

    I love [Smith] very much. [Rock] didn't deserve to be hit. Period. My heart aches for what has happened. I don't know what caused that chaos & confusion, but I do know that Will has a big heart. I've seen him many times try his best to do what is right. I believe in him.

    191 votes
  • Emma Thompson Said 'It's Been Bliss' Working With Him
    Photo: Men in Black 3 / Sony Pictures Releasing

    Emma Thompson and Smith have worked on two movies together. Most people probably know of their time working on Men in Black 3, but that wasn't their first collaboration. In 2007, both appeared in I Am Legend, although they didn't have a lot of time together on set. Thompson's role in the movie is very small and comes via a recorded TV segment at the opening.

    They shared the screen much more in Men in Black 3, and from what Thompson has said, Smith made an impact. She talked about her co-star while promoting the film in 2012, and she didn't hold back on her feelings about him:

    I love working with Will. We did a couple of days on I Am Legend and got on very well and could play very well together, for some reason or another. It must be something to do with energies. It's always to do with the way in which your energy works with another person's energy, and our energies seemed to meet and spark and work very well together. So it's great to have an opportunity to do some more because we only got a couple of days on Legend, and here we've got a much bigger patch and it's all full-on stuff and it's been bliss. He's the most wonderful man.

    167 votes
  • Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Fred Schepisi, was Smith's third cinematic outing. The 1993 film did well, and it helped Smith showcase his raw acting talent in a way fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hadn't seen. Before landing the role of Paul, Smith's acting credits included two films and a TV show, so he hadn't refined his talent and skills to the point he's at today.

    Schepisi recognized this in the young actor, and recalled that Smith paid careful attention to his peers' processes when he was getting started in the role:

    The other characters were asking a whole heap of questions about the text - this, that, and the other. Will looked at them and said, "God, you guys ask a lot of simple questions." Donald Sutherland looked at him and said, "That's how we learn the character." So he got right into that. They all fed off Will's enthusiasm, and he fed off their experience.

    After this exchange, Smith's question-asking intensified, and he was able to develop his character further. Schepisi said he could tell Smith had a lot of talent, "but in acting terms, it was pretty raw."

    106 votes