Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith are one of Hollywood’s most charismatic couples, but their soon-to-be 21-year marriage almost never happened.
In the newest episode of Jada’s Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk released Monday, Will, 50, shares intimate details about falling in love with Jada, 47, while he was still married to his first wife Sheree Zampino. His daughter, Willow, 17, and his mother-in-law Adrienne Banfield-Jones were also present for the conversation.
Jada and Will first saw each other when she was auditioning for a role on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. At the time, she was also starring in another NBC sitcom A Different World, and Will remembers seeing her and feeling instant chemistry.
“I knew there was something in our energy that would be magic,” he says, adding that he visited A Different World‘s set a few days later in hopes of meeting Jada — but instead hit it off with Zampino, a different cast member. Zampino and Will ended up marrying and having a child together, Trey, in 1992.
“That’s just trippy,” Jada exclaimed as her husband added, “We had all these near misses and every time we saw each other, it was always a beautiful energy. [The first time we talked,] it was a really unique, beautiful power. We had that moment. We connected, but I was married and that was it.”
Jada cut in: “We did not have an affair while he was married, let’s be clear about that.”
Still, their platonic relationship was enough to send Will spiraling. The night after his first conversation with Jada, he remembers he “had to get up from dinner when I had a realization that I wasn’t with the person I was supposed to be with… I was sitting in a stall and I was crying and laughing uncontrollably, and I knew [Jada] was the woman I was supposed to be with, but I was never getting divorced… I went back out, sat down with Sheree and started going back on with my life.”
Zampino, however, had another idea about their marriage, filing for divorce on Valentine’s Day. Will initially refused to go along with it until, he recalls, she told him, “‘So you’re going to make somebody stay with you who doesn’t love you?” That was the one that got me.’ “
The pair divorced in late 1995.
“I literally walked right out [from signing the divorce papers and] I called Jada,” Will says with a laugh. “I said ‘Hey Jada, what’s up? It’s Will.’ She said ‘Hey, you doing?’ I said, ‘Good, are you seeing anybody?’ She said, ‘Uh, no,’ and I said ‘Cool, you’re seeing me now.’ “
Jada quips back: “And my dumb ass was like, ‘Okay.’ ” Next, Jada got on a plane — she’d just bought a farm in Baltimore, which she never ended up spending a single night in — and flew to back to Los Angeles.
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In spite of it all — including a near-separation in the late 2000s, when the Smiths’ lives professionally had never been better — Jada and Will are one of the few celebrity marriages that has stood the test of time.
And part of the reason might be their willingness to evolve their thinking about their relationship, the former Hawthorne actress revealed in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE earlier this month. For example, they now refer to each other as “life partners” rather than “husband and wife.”
“I needed a different form to dissolve all the expectations that I had of a marriage,” Jada said. “I needed to do that to see Will outside of husband and see him as a human being.”
She continued: “We have all these expectations. ’Oh, this is what a husband is. This is what a wife is.’ I started dissolving all the ideas and expectations and labels.”
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