Smith said he wants his family to be successful in the entertainment industry across generations, and has searched Hollywood history for models.
“I’ve looked for a lot of years. The Barrymores got really close to what I see in my head for my family,” Smith said, referring to the clan of theatre and film actors famed in the 1930s and now represented by Drew Barrymore.
Smith’s daughter Willow, now 12, appeared in two movies but has focused on music. After causing a stir with the pop smash “Whip My Hair” three years ago, she’s backed away from the spotlight but continued to release songs online. Smith’s other son, 20-year-old Trey, has taken up DJ work and posts electronic dance songs and mixes online. Jada Pinkett Smith is an actress, author, singer-songwriter and businesswoman. She and Smith started Overbrook Entertainment, which has produced many of Smith’s films, including “After Earth.”
Smith makes no apologies for encouraging his children to follow their parents toward cameras and microphones.
“I grew up in a family business. So it’s like everybody works together and that’s how the family bonds and communicates and how we eat,” he said. “In my mind, I’m a warrior and I’m teaching my son how to hunt. And how else would I teach my son how to hunt other than bring him with me and we’re in an interview and this is what I do and this is the business I work in. To me, I can’t imagine what the other option is.”
That said, he approaches parenting differently than his own father, a former Air Force pilot who enforced strict discipline on Smith and his siblings.
“The major difference is I’m trying to release the sense of ownership,” Smith said. “With our kids, Jada and I believe that it’s their lives and we are helping them with their lives. And they’re not our property. They are people that are deservant of our respect and consideration in the same way that any other human being should be.”
Beyond acting, Jaden learned his father’s early raps and now writes his own. While he isn’t looking to replicate the one-time Fresh Prince’s every move, it’s clear he has internalized Dad’s long-term outlook on the family business.
“If I wanted my career to be exactly like his, then people would keep telling me for the rest of my life, ‘Wow, you successfully pulled off your dad’s career. Congratulations!’” Jaden said. “If I was doing just what he did, then my son would feel like he had to do just what I did. I want my son to feel like he can be a classical pianist if he wants to.”