Jada Pinkett Smith is telling her side of the story — and revealing some never-before-heard revelations.
The 52-year-old actor sat down with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb for an intimate look at her life, career and “complicated marriage” to Will Smith in a NBC News prime-time special that aired Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. ET.
Pinkett Smith is no stranger to giving the low-down on her life, especially when she hosted “Red Table Talk” with daughter Willow Smith and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris. But now, Hoda went back to the actor’s hometown of Baltimore, exploring Pinkett Smith’s roots and rise to fame ahead of the release of her memoir, “Worthy,” out Oct. 17.
What to know about Jada Pinkett Smith
- Jada Pinkett Smith says she and Will Smith have been separated since 2016
- Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Chris Rock have a long history. See a timeline of their relationship
- Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and the August Alsina ‘entanglement,’ explained
- Everything to know about Jada Pinkett Smith and Tupac’s friendship
- Who are Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s kids?
- Everything Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have said about their relationship
For everything you missed from Pinkett Smith's sit down with Hoda, read below.
Pinkett Smith reiterates why she and Smith haven't divorced
Earlier in this interview, Pinkett Smith tells Hoda, "I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce."
Hoda now asks Pinkett Smith: "Here's just a straightforward question: Why not just amicably divorce?"
"We don't want to," she replies. "We love our family. And we love each other. It's more of a life partnership. Now, 10 years from now, Hoda, who knows?"
She adds, "Right now, what we're focused on, which has been so beautiful, is deep healing. Because of everything that's transpired. What happens after that, I don't know yet."
"Is it possible there will be a full reconciliation?" Hoda asks.
"He's getting old!" Pinkett Smith jokes. "Who's going to be there for him, Hoda? It's going to be me."
Pinkett Smith and Smith haven’t spoken to Rock since the slap
Pinkett Smith shares that to this day she and Smith have not spoken to Rock since the Oscars in 2022.
After releasing a statement after the slap incident, Smith apologized to the comedian in a July 2022 video. Rock declined to comment on the situation for almost a year.
Rock then touched on the incident during his Netflix stand-up special, “Chris Rock: Selective Outrage,” which aired in March 2023.
“These kinds of moments can do two things. They can amplify love or they can really make you bitter, angry, resentful,” Pinkett Smith tells Hoda. “We’ve chosen to really look at this moment and heal.”
Pinkett Smith reacts to the ‘poor Will’ narrative after the slap
In the wake of the Oscars slap, Smith was under heavy fire, but he wasn’t the only one.
“You became the bad guy,” Hoda says to Pinkett Smith. “‘Look what Jada made him do. Jada rolled her eyes and look what he did. He ran up there and hit Chris.’”
“Yeah,” Pinkett Smith agrees. “My honest opinion about that is that narrative had more to do with the false narrative that I helped to create on the ‘Red Table,’” she says, referring to that “Red Table Talk” episode in 2020 when she discussed her “entanglement” with Alsina.
“Poor Will because of …” says Hoda. “The adulterous wife,” finishes Pinkett Smith. “Who forced him to go to the ‘Table’ and sit there. You know what I mean? And now look what she’s done. She has the power with an eye roll to make him go up and slap somebody onstage.”
What viewers didn’t see after the Oscars slap, according to Pinkett Smith
Pinkett Smith recalls Rock leaning over the stage to tell her that he meant no harm. However, she remembers that only appeared to infuriate Smith more.
“And now he’s mad because Chris is talking to me,” she says. “And I go, ‘Chris, this is about some old s---.’ That’s all I could think to say. I couldn’t really take in his apology.”
She tells Hoda that she still didn’t believe Smith truly struck Rock until Smith’s publicist tells her that the comedian had left the building and wasn’t going to press charges.
“I look to Will and I said, ‘You hit Chris? Like, you actually hit Chris?’” she says. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m like, ‘All right.’”
Pinkett Smith says Smith hadn’t called her ‘wife’ in a long time preceding Oscars slap
In a moment not captured on the U.S. telecast of the Oscars but aired in other countries, Smith returned to his seat in the audience after the slap and yelled back to Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out your f---ing mouth!”
At that moment, Pinkett Smith tells Hoda, she still did not understand what was happening.
“Now first of all, I’m really shocked because, mind you, we haven’t called each other husband and wife in a long time,” Pinkett Smith says. “I’m like, ‘What is going on right now?’”
Pinkett Smith recalls the Oscars slap in 2022: ‘And then — Will swings’
Pinkett Smith then flashes forward to 2022, when she says Smith invited her to attend the Oscars with him despite being separated. She explains that even though they hadn’t been romantic, “we’re family.”
Ahead of the ceremony, she says she knew that Chris Rock was presenting an award and hoped the comedian would “place nice” since he had previously poked fun at her and Smith at the Oscars in 2016.
When Rock got on stage, he took a jab at Pinkett Smith and referred to Demi Moore’s shaved head in “G.I. Jane.” Pinkett Smith struggles with hair loss resulting from alopecia.
At first, Smith laughed but Pinkett Smith rolled her eyes.
“I did that eye roll not so much for me,” she says. “And I think this is really important. But the fact that there could be a jab at alopecia, and I was thinking about everyone else that suffers from alopecia and suffers from alopecia in shame.”
She says she then saw Smith get up. She tells Hoda she didn’t realize what was happening when he got onstage and thought it was a planned skit that Smith didn’t tell her about.
“Chris is making light of it,” she says, adding that her view was partially blocked because Smith walked in front of Rock. “And then — Will swings. … As Will’s coming back, I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Hold up.’ Something is off. And then when he sits down and I look at him and I grab his hand, and I’m just trying to see where he is. And then it continues, and I’m like, ‘Oh, s---.’”
Why Pinkett Smith and Smith haven’t legally divorced
“Along the way, we’d had a lot of stop and go,” Pinkett Smith tells Hoda. “By the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”
Though she contemplated divorce, Pinkett Smith says she couldn’t follow through (this also was part of the preview clip from earlier in the week). “I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”
While the couple remains married, Pinkett Smith tells Hoda that they currently live separately.
The real secret? Pinkett Smith and Smith separated in 2016
This was news revealed earlier this week in a preview clip of this prime-time interview: Pinkett Smith says she and Smith have been separated for seven years, since 2016.
But in public, the couple appeared solid and still very much in love. In a 2017 appearance on “Watch What Happens Live,” for example, Pinkett Smith took host Andy Cohen’s question about secrets to her long-lasting marriage.
Hoda asks Pinkett Smith why the couple hid their marital status for so long.
“I think just not being ready yet,” Pinkett Smith says. “Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership. And, in regards to, ‘how do we present that to people,’ you know, we hadn’t figured that out.”
The ‘entanglement’ with August Alsina — and when Smith learned about it
More rumors surfaced in 2020 when rapper August Alsina said in an interview with Angela Yee that he gave “years of (his) life” to a relationship with Pinkett Smith. She and her husband then went on her “Red Table Talk” show to address the situation.
In the episode, she said that when she met Alsina, she and Smith were going through a difficult time and had decided to temporarily separate. “From there,” she said to Smith, “I got into a different kind of entanglement with August.”
The dynamics of who knew what during that “Red Table Talk” seemed unclear, Hoda says.
“You and this young man had, as you call it, an entanglement,” Hoda says. “And you and Will were talking about it, and me not knowing what was going on, I said, ‘My God, this guy’s been blindsided. What’s going on here?’ So I’m watching this weird dance go on. It looks like this guy’s been humiliated on national television.”
Pinkett Smith then says her husband had asked to appear on the show and knew about the relationship prior to the episode.
‘None of it’s true’: Pinkett Smith addresses past rumors about her marriage
Throughout their 26-year marriage, Smith and Pinkett Smith faced many rumors. Among them? That the pair were swingers, shared an open marriage or that either were secretly gay.
“I mean, a million things were out there,” Hoda says of the whispers about their relationship. She asks Pinkett Smith if the gossip bothers her and, moreover, if any of it is true.
“No. You know, that’s part of it. I would say that none of that’s true. I definitely can understand why there’d be misunderstandings,” Pinkett Smith says, “but none of it’s true.”
Pinkett Smith says she struggled with suicidal thoughts
This post discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
By all appearances, the Smiths were living the perfect life in 2011. But behind closed doors, Pinkett Smith says she was struggling. And just shy of her 40th birthday, her thoughts took a turn for the worse.
“I’d been struggling with depression for a long time,” she tells Hoda. She adds that she felt that nothing, including her job or husband, could prevent her from hitting what she calls “a terrible wall.”
“It got really unbearable,” she says before sharing that it led her to contemplate suicide.
“You start to think that everybody’s better without you,” she explains.
To escape the pain, Pinkett Smith says she devised a plan to end her life by driving off a cliff along Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. “As morbid as it might sound, when I would come up with a plan, it made me feel like, ‘OK, you got a plan, so you’re good.’”
To cope, Pinkett Smith tried an unconventional remedy to help combat her depression in the form of Ayahuasca, a plant-based psychedelic that’s mostly illegal in the U.S. Pinkett Smith tells Hoda that the non-traditional approach helped her feel as though the “veil had been lifted.”
Jada and Will: A Hollywood love story
Pinkett Smith tells Hoda that she knew there was something special about Smith the first time they went out.
“He was a different kind of guy than I was used to dating,” she says. “Extremely intelligent, which I really liked because he kept me on my toes, and he was just such a big dreamer.”
In the two years that they dated, their careers flourished with Pinkett Smith starring in movies like “The Nutty Professor” and Smith headlining blockbusters including “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.”
In the summer of 1997, Pinkett Smith discovered she was pregnant and on New Year’s Eve the same year, they tied the knot.
“There’s no way I was going to have a baby and us not be married,” she tells Hoda.
In 1998, the couple became parents to son Jaden, now 25, and on Halloween in 2000, daughter Willow, now 22, was born. Including Trey, Will’s son with ex-wife Zampino, they made a family of five.
Pinkett Smith first met Will Smith when he was married
With the success of “A Different World” and her film debut “Menace II Society,” Pinkett Smith was getting more work and in 1994 auditioned for a role on the hit TV show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” where she caught the eye of Will Smith.
What did she think of him?
“I was like, OK, he’s hanging out here, you know, fishing, you know what I mean? Seeing all the pretty girls coming out the audition room. And I was like, ‘Don’t talk to me unless you trying to get me a role,’” she tells Hoda.
A year went by, and their paths crossed again and they started talking — something Pinkett’s mom didn’t approve of because Smith was married to Sheree Zampino. The couple had a son, Trey.
“‘Y’all hang up that phone. You don’t need to be talking to no married man,’” Pinkett Smith recalls her mom saying. “So, I was like, ‘Will, I’m so sorry, but my mom says please don’t call me anymore.’”
And they didn’t talk for another year. But when Smith and Zampino divorced in 1995, he called up Pinkett Smith.
‘A Different World’ and Pinkett Smith’s big break
After dropping out of college, Pinkett Smith says she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. She scored bit parts in TV shows like “Doogie Houser, M.D.” and “21 Jump Street,” before producer Debbie Allen cast her in the “Cosby Show” spinoff, “A Different World.”
Pinkett Smith recalls auditioning for a guest role on the show and Allen telling her, “I’m not going to give you the role. I’m going to make you a series regular.”
That was it, according to Pinkett Smith, who says that after that, “I blew up.”
'I grew up where friends of mine were dying every day,' Pinkett Smith says
During her tumultuous teen years dealing drugs, Pinkett Smith says that death and survival were part of everyday life. “If you’re thinking you’re going to die, you’re going to die,” she tells Hoda.
Flush with cash and jewelry from dealing, Pinkett Smith says she was targeted by two armed robbers, who held her up at gunpoint when she was 17. “Two guys, two nine-millimeters,” she says.
Hoda wonders how she survived that emotionally.
“Obviously I haven’t,” says Pinkett Smith. “I’m still PTSD and all of that.”
But at the time, that’s just how it was, she says. “I grew up where friends of mine were dying every day.”
Ultimately, she says it was her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, who “put her foot down” and convinced her daughter to clean up her act.
Pinkett Smith began dealing drugs at age 14
Pinkett Smith's future was nearly derailed by her involvement in drug dealing, which started at age 14, she says.
“It was crack,” Pinkett Smith tells Hoda, “until I was about 17 years old.”
Though she didn’t use, she sold, recalling that, at the time, it seemed almost routine. “That was the life I was living at the time, so it didn’t seem so abnormal. That was my every day.”
Pinkett Smith takes Hoda to her childhood home, walking along the streets where she learned to live a double life.
“I’m going to the Baltimore School for the Arts during the day,” Pinkett Smith says.
“Then you got a job in the afternoon. And you’re dealing at night,” Hoda replies.
“Multiple worlds at one time. I’m used to that,” says Pinkett Smith. She explains that she learned to be in “all kinds of environments” from her grandmother.
Pinkett Smith at first had a different name for her memoir: ‘Unlovable’
Pinkett Smith says she initially had a different title in mind for her new memoir, “Worthy.”
“I have to be honest about something,” Pinkett Smith says. “I wanted to call the book, at first, ‘Unlovable.’ I feel like that’s the journey we’re all on. Trying to figure out how to feel more lovable.”
Finding love and acceptance is something Pinkett Smith says she has been seeking since childhood, which she spent in Baltimore. The daughter of a mother and father who were both addicts, Pinkett Smith says she was raised, in part, by her grandmother and encouraged by her teachers to get through school.
Interview begins with Pinkett Smith reflecting on meeting Tupac
Pinkett Smith shared a close friendship with rapper Tupac Shakur until his death in 1996, when he was killed during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
Pinkett Smith and Shakur first met in 1986 at the Baltimore School for the Arts.
“Pac was new. It was my sophomore year, and he looked over, and he saw me, and he just targeted me,” Pinkett Smith says. She tells Hoda Kotb that her first impression of Shakur was that he was “charismatic” and had a “beautiful smile.”
“He had a little peanut head. ... He was just this happy, bouncy, energetic, just full of life, vibrant, you know? And I was like, ‘Whoa.’”
Pinkett Smith previously revealed that Chris Rock once asked her out
Pinkett Smith sat down for a People magazine story published this week and revealed that Rock had once asked her out on a date. At the time, rumors were circling that she and Smith were divorcing.
“I think every summer, all the reports would come out that me and Will were getting a divorce,” she told People. “And this particular summer, Chris, he thought that we were getting a divorce. So he called me and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.’ He was appalled. And he profusely apologized, and that was that.”
Pinkett Smith, Smith and Rock have a long history that we recapped in a timeline here.
Why haven't Pinkett Smith and Smith divorced?
When Pinkett Smith revealed that she and Smith separated seven years ago, some were left wondering why, after all this time, they didn't decide to legally divorce?
Pinkett Smith touches on this briefly in her discussion with Hoda, as seen in the preview clip released earlier this week.
“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce,” she says. “We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”
The two publicly discussed their views on divorce over the years. For example, in 2008, Smith once said on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show that “divorce just can’t be an option.”
Read more about what they've said about divorce here.
Pinkett Smith revealed she and Smith have been separated since 2016. Why fans are so confused
In a preview clip from the prime-time special released earlier this week, Pinkett Smith reveals to Hoda that she and Smith have been separated since 2016, despite their denials that their marriage was on the rocks.
Some wondered whether that 2020 “Red Table Talk” episode — in which an emotional Smith discussed with his wife her relationship with rapper August Alsina (or “entanglement,” as she called it) — was just a charade.
If these two were separated, fans also asked, what was actually behind Smith's outburst at the 2022 Oscars? As viewers saw, he slapped Chris Rock during the live telecast for mocking Pinkett Smith and shouted, “Keep my wife's name out your f---ing mouth.”
Read more about fan reactions here.