My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (2018) s04e02 Episode Script

Will Smith

[Letterman] So we got cousins
and aunts and uncles and stuff.
And we would, uh
Hey, there's an accident
just about to happen.
-[Will Smith] Let's take a picture.
-Oh, look at that!
See that?
-Can I see that?
-We're gonna take a picture. [laughs]
-Let's just Get 'em out of here.
-That's terrible.
[audience cheering]
[theme music playing]
[Letterman] Thank you very much
for being here.
Are you folks all from the area,
from California?
[woman] No.
No. Who came the farthest to be here?
-What's your name? Where you from?
-I'm Jorge, from Brazil.
-[Letterman] From Brazil?
Hmm. Are we okay with that, folks?
[audience laughs]
-Have we all been vaccinated?
-[audience] Yes.
-Have you had your boosters?
-[audience] Yes.
Pfizer is working on a, uh, gluten-free.
-[audience laughs]
-[Letterman] Try that.
-Do you have any idea why you're here?
-[man] For you.
Well, I I wish it was for me.
And you're lucky
that it's not entirely for me.
[audience laughs]
He certainly needs no introduction,
he's America's friend,
Willard Carroll Smith,
ladies and gentlemen.
[audience cheering and applauding]
[speaks indistinctly]
What's going on, Dave?
Good to see you. Good to see you.
-How about that?
-What's up, y'all?
-Hey! Hey!
-[audience cheering]
[Will laughs]
Oh, man.
-Willard Carroll Smith.
-They were like, "Willard Carroll Smith?"
-The audience
-"Who the hell? This is bullshit, Dave!"
-Willard I didn't know about "Willard."
-Willard. That's my real name.
Yeah, and Carroll?
You're doing a lot right now, Dave,
with my name.
-Is it a family name?
My father was
Willard Carroll Smith the First,
and my son
is Willard Carroll Smith the Third.
Wow. It's a beautiful name.
You're a beautiful man, by the way.
As are you, Dave.
[audience laughs]
And as I sit here,
I find myself strangely attracted.
Well, you were on our old show 23 times.
-Twenty-three times.
And on one appearance,
based on an exchange
almost identical to this one
-You kissed me.
[audience exclaims]
Uh, it's COVID now, Dave.
[audience laughs]
I'm just I'm not asking for another kiss.
We're adults here.
We know a proposition when we hear one.
-[audience laughing]
-[Will laughing]
[Letterman] I read your book,
and, uh, whoa!
-I'm glad you read it, Dave.
-[Letterman] Uh
I remember I remember
I did the show with you
when I, Robot came out.
You were trying to talk about I, Robot,
but hadn't seen it.
You thought I wouldn't know.
-[audience laughing]
That doesn't sound like me.
-I saw that other one, just killed me.
-"That other one."
-Oh my God.
-[audience laughing]
You know the one I'm talking about?
-The one with the thing in it.
-[audience laughing]
After I got through
the first three chapters,
I thought to myself,
"This man, in three chapters,
has lived a more interesting life
than I have in 75 years."
[Will laughs]
It was such, uh, a labor
of excruciating discovery.
By the time I got to the third chapter,
once you use "pissed, I was pissed,"
you use it three times,
you have to search for another word,
'cause you're just gonna be
just a crap author, right?
You say, "I can't say 'pissed' again,"
so it makes you actually think
about what you felt.
You'll say, "Oh, wait, I wasn't pissed.
I was embarrassed."
But having to think about those things
-was so, uh, powerfully, just revelatory.
-[Letterman] Mm-hmm.
Dickens went through the same issue.
-[Will] Yes.
Uh, I'm pissed right now, by the way.
[laughs] You're just embarrassed.
[both laughing]
-[Letterman] Your father is Daddy-O.
-[Will] My father's Daddy-O.
[Letterman] Why was he Daddy-O?
[Will] He He was really smooth.
He was the dude that would
put on a red suit with red shoes.
-[Letterman] Mm-hmm.
-[Will] Like, he was real swaggy.
He owned his own business. We sold ice.
We would install those long freezer cases
in new supermarkets,
and then maintain them.
-And supply the ice?
-Supply the ice.
Who came up with,
on the bags of ice, "party ice"?
-Party ice.
-To me, that's genius marketing.
-You don't want the regular ice.
-No regular ice.
-[Letterman laughs]
-We got party ice, Dave.
Do you want regular ol' ice in your drink?
-No! No, I'm going to a party.
-You want the party ice.
-Exactly right.
-[Will laughs]
Now, your father is described
also in the book by you
as the man most feared and most admired.
-Yes. Absolutely.
-How do you put those two things together?
My father is the man
who, you know, taught me how to hunt,
and taught me how to get
a flag to the top of a hill, you know,
and taught me how to go out in the world
and work and conquer.
He taught me, uh, integrity,
and honor, and discipline.
"Ninety-nine percent is the same as zero,"
you know. He would say that all the time.
[Letterman] You use that
in your life with your kids?
[Will] Yes. I've since worked
on my mathematics, Dave.
I was in therapy
and I was saying to the woman,
"I want the kids to know
99% is the same as zero."
And she said,
"Well, you know, mathematically,
99% is almost as far from zero
as you could get."
And I was like
[Letterman and audience laughing]
-"That shit is true."
-[Letterman and audience laughing]
But literally, I had said it so much.
And I started to see some of the flaws
of the the the concepts
that I was clinging to.
When I look at my father,
my mother, and my grandmother,
there's a philosophical triangle
in my mind.
It's like my father
was all hard work and discipline.
My mother was all education.
She believed that you had to be educated,
and what you had in your mind,
they couldn't take from you.
And my grandmother,
as the third side of the triangle,
was God, in the form of love.
Those three concepts
have fought for my attention
my my entire life.
I grew up
in a really beautiful neighborhood.
There were 40 to 50 kids
within four blocks.
Black people in the '70s
were having sex a lot, apparently.
[both laughing]
-Yeah. [laughs]
-[audience cheering]
-[upbeat music playing]
[Letterman] This is what I knew of you.
Every time you'd be on the show,
it was like a locomotive.
-Wow. You light up a room.
-[audience applauding]
We were all excited because we knew
the guy was coming in.
So now you're telling me,
and telling people in the book
that that is not necessarily who you are.
What I realized,
there's a person that you want to be,
and there's a person
you want to be viewed as,
and then there's who you really are.
The first line of the first chapter
is, "I've always thought
of myself as a coward."
When I was, you know, nine years old,
I saw my father beat up my mother
and I didn't do anything.
And that just left a traumatic impression
of myself as a coward.
And then, when I discovered comedy,
I realized negativity cannot exist
inside of a human body
-when you're laughing.
And I started to cling
to a natural ability I had
to make people laugh.
So it started as a defense mechanism.
But ultimately, Will Smith became
a symbol of joy and fun.
And when I showed up,
I wanted people to feel good
-and to be happy.
Because I've found
that when my household was that way,
I felt safe.
That's the guy that we know
from when you would visit us on the show.
But to you and your house,
that was a means of, uh, surviving.
So, let's just, for one second,
take away the abuse that you saw.
Would you have still manifested in a way
of a guy who sought safety and laughter?
Probably, right? Or not?
-I think a big part of that is natural
-I mean, you're funny.
You're funny anyway.
But I think the drive
that I had in my career to succeed
with the the life-or-death energy
behind winning,
I think it was fueled, uh,
largely by a certain insecurity.
And the trauma of the insecurity, I think,
made me have to win, period,
as a means of survival.
In the book, uh, I mean, my God,
what you just illustrated there,
-is endless.
Everything is approached with,
"What is the objective?
How do we achieve it?"
And I think to myself,
"I have trouble picking out shoes."
[Will and audience laughing]
-Not today, Dave. Not today.
-[Letterman laughs]
Don't leave them things
sitting down nowhere.
They gonna be in my bag.
-[Will laughs]
Uh, so, uh
[man] One second, Dave. I'm sorry.
-[woman] Will, can you pull your jacket?
-It looks a mess?
-Oh, for Christ's sake!
-[Will] Yeah.
-We got a guy here from Brazil.
-Brazil, yeah.
[speaking Portuguese]
Wow. Is that Portuguese?
Yes, Dave.
[audience laughing]
[chuckles] Um
-He's from Brazil, so
-[Letterman] I got it.
They speak Portuguese in Brazil.
Boa noite. Boa tarde.
-That was awful.
[Will and audience laughing]
That's where I used to live,
in that building.
At the Best Western Plus.
Is that what it was?
-No, it was the Homicide Hotel.
-Homicide Hotel?
Why'd you live in a hotel, Dave?
My buddies from The Comedy Store
were living there,
and it's across the street
from The Comedy Store.
"How to lose weight
without diet or exercise."
Pretty much leaves disease, doesn't it?
[audience laughing]
[Will] You performed in there many times?
Yeah. That's the only time, really,
that I ever did stand-up.
So, okay, the other thing
that I was fascinated by
is you've been
to the Grand Canyon at least twice.
Yeah. [laughs]
[Letterman] What the hell was that?
[Will] Yeah, bungee-jumping
out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.
-[Letterman] Yeah.
-[Will] My version of a mid-life crisis.
[Letterman] But you had sky-dived.
Was it similar to that?
[Will] Yeah, so
-[vehicle humming loudly]
-[yells indistinctly]
-Hey! Hey! Hey! Get it off the
-For the love of God!
-Get out of here!
-We're trying to do an interview!
-It's a TV show!
[Letterman] Which is more severe,
when the chute opens or when the bungee
-When the chute opens. It's really severe.
-Is it hard on your neck?
Yeah, it's a snatch
when the chute opens. You haven't
-[Letterman] No.
-[Will] Want me to show you?
-[Letterman] Yeah.
-So you're the guy who'll pull the chute.
So I would be here, right?
So I'm here, and, like, you
-you are controlling the chute.
-[Letterman] Mm-hmm.
[Will] You strap me in,
and then we jump out together.
-[Letterman] Right.
-[Will] Then you pull the chute.
You haven't jumped out of an airplane?
[Letterman] Thought about it
when I turned 70. Talked to my son.
Said, "Whenever you're ready, I'm ready."
And I know he's never gonna be ready.
[Letterman] My first awareness of you,
Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince.
The two of you
were at the beginning of hip-hop.
-You were the first class, right?
We'd probably be considered
the the second class.
Who would represent the first class?
[Will] Grandmaster Flash
and the the Furious Five,
uh, the Cold Crush Brothers,
Grandmaster Caz. That was my idol.
How did you know of him then?
Was Was he popular in Philadelphia?
-Was he on the radio?
-So, he was from New York.
Back then, there were
before there were records.
So there were no rap records,
so everything was tapes.
So people would go to parties in New York
and literally hold a radio up for an hour
and record the party,
and they would copy to cassettes.
And that was how rap music went viral
before we knew what "viral" was.
Jeff was thought to be,
still is, a genius.
Yes, Jeff was, um,
one of the early masters
of scratching and cutting.
Scratching is with one hand
and cutting is going back and forth
between the two turntables.
Scratching is manipulating
the turntable under the needle?
Manipulating the turntable
under the needle.
I've never heard it
put like that, but yes.
[both laughing]
Jazzy Jeff was manipulating
the turntable under the needle.
-Okay. Hence, scratching.
-Hence hence, scratching.
-So, as we were cultivating our
-I'm working on my own book.
So, uh, you and he,
your meeting was where?
-I started off DJing.
-Right, and you were very well regarded?
In my neighborhood,
I was coming up as a pretty good DJ.
Jeff stole a party from me.
So I went to the party to battle him.
When you say "battle,"
it was who's the better
Who's the Who's the better
I was gonna, you know, talk
I was gonna be just up in his grill, Dave,
giving it to him.
-You wouldn't want that.
-No, I wouldn't.
You wouldn't want that
if I was on you like that.
[audience laughs]
-It would bother me.
So I was going to do that to Jeff. Um
[audience laughing]
And, uh, I met him.
And he was just the sweetest dude.
[Letterman] So the two of you,
rather than, uh, being adversaries
-[Will] Yes.
-you became a team.
[Will] Our first record was
"Girls Ain't Nothing but Trouble."
And it popped in Philly,
and then started to spread out
to New Jersey and Delaware.
And then, during that time,
once you were on the radio in New York,
then you had, uh
you had a national record.
-You and Jeff had humor to your music.
That was really our major
distinguishing quality at the time.
It was comedy,
it was punchlines, it was fun.
We stood out in a really good way.
-We sort of had our own lane.
Was there pressure from anybody,
or just the industry itself,
to move out of that lane?
Not pressure as much
as it was always that I was soft.
And I ooh-woo.
[mumbling indistinctly]
I hated that, like, being called soft.
The origin of my style
and why I pursued in that way,
when I was about 12,
my grandmother,
she found my first rap book.
I had one of those black and white
speckled composition books.
And I couldn't even curse well.
It was like, "Shit, ass, damn,
Will, you the man." You know?
[laughs] It's not even good curses.
-[audience laughing]
Um, but my grandmother found my rap book
and wrote a letter in front of my book.
It said, "Dear Willard,
truly intelligent people
do not have to use words like these
to express themselves."
"Please show the world
that you're as smart
as we think you are. Love, Gigi."
And that was the reason I never cursed
in any of my my records.
Our first tour, after our record,
was 2 Live Crew and Public Enemy.
-[Letterman] Yeah.
-That was a really interesting group.
Your mother wants you to go to college.
You're thinking, "I'd rather go on tour."
Yes. My mother, um
By the way, your mother,
just to be clear, "Mom-Mom"?
-Don't say nothing about my mother, Dave.
-I didn't. Did I? I don't believe I did.
[Will and audience laughing]
It's [laughing]
[Will laughs]
-It's Mom-Mom?
-Mom-Mom. Mom-Mom. Yes.
-My grandmother was Mom-Mom.
-Yes. Really?
Yeah, I don't know the origin.
Do you know for your mom?
I do not, Dave.
Okay, we'll we'll be right back.
[Will and audience laughing]
[gentle jazz music playing]
[Will] My mother went to Carnegie Mellon.
She worked for the school board
of Philadelphia.
It was her dream that she was
gonna send all of her kids to college.
Her entire self-esteem as a parent
was based on getting her kids
into college.
-Nothing wrong with that.
[Will] Nothing wrong with that.
When I told her I didn't want to go
to college because I wanted to rap,
-she was devastated.
She said, "You can't be no rapper."
I was like, "Why not?"
She said, "'Cause I don't know
what that is!"
Well, yeah.
I mean, in fairness to that point,
-the genre was still pretty brand new.
No one at the time
had made a career, uh, as a rapper.
But it was a dream that I had had.
And I was so completely certain of myself
and what I wanted to do,
-at a minimum, I wanted to try.
-[Letterman] Mm-hmm.
My mother and I, uh,
were barely speaking to each other,
and, you know, my father came in.
And he said, "Okay, we're gonna
support you for this year."
"And you go do
all the rapping you want to do,
and everything
that you want to, uh, accomplish,
but if you don't make
anything happen in a year,
you gonna go to whichever one
of them colleges your mother picks."
And within that year,
we won the first Grammy
ever given to a rap artist.
-In that year?
Oh my God.
So that closes things.
-You're all set now.
My mother, she was okay
for another year after that.
-[audience laughing]
But, I mean, again, uh,
things happened the way they happened,
but you could have done both, right?
You could have gone to college
and still pursued music, or not?
I didn't think so.
During my senior year in high school,
I was
I had been trying
to make records with Jeff.
So I was going to school,
then to Jeff's house to make records.
-It didn't seem, uh, doable for me
at the time,
and I really wanted to, uh, to focus.
I felt like I had a talent.
I felt like I had taken
a good look at the hip-hop landscape,
and I felt like I could carve out,
um, a space for myself.
I, of course, am a student
of the hip-hop landscape.
-Yes. [laughs]
-[audience laughing]
-That's what people say behind your back.
-[laughs] That's what they say?
"Dave look like he know
the whole hip-hop landscape."
[Letterman and audience laughing]
-Thank Thank you.
-[Will laughing]
[Will] I always had, and still have,
friends who believe in me
and who protected me.
[Letterman] Many of these guys,
still with you.
[Will] Yes, James Lassiter,
he's still my manager. Uh
-How old was he when you first met him?
-I was 16, so JL was 19.
-That's remarkable.
And it speaks not only to your loyalty,
but the quality of people
that were available
to anybody who recognized that quality,
in your neighborhood.
I can't say how, um, critical it is
to choose people that believe in you.
When you have a dream,
it's like a really delicate seed.
It can It can die at any moment.
I think Rumi said,
"Seek those who fan your flames."
-Who is the author of this phrase?
-[Letterman] Rumi?
-I'll send you a book.
[audience laughing]
First name? Last name?
No, Rumi. I don't know
Rumi's first and last name.
-How is it spelled?
-"R-U-M-I," Dave.
Oh, "R-U-M-I." That Rumi.
-"That Rumi." [laughs]
-[audience laughing]
Rumi manipulates words
-[Will laughs]
[Letterman] Uh, so you're on tour.
And in those days,
when you guys were on the road,
-there was a hotel chain
which I am dying to mention.
-That had a no-rappers policy.
-Yeah. Yeah.
There were, uh, no-rappers policies
at many hotels.
What were they worried about?
The stuff that happened
when they let us in.
-[all laughing]
Oh, I see. Ah.
I was in there a couple nights.
"This why they didn't want us in here."
-[Letterman laughing]
-"I get it now."
"We gonna go back to the Motel 6."
[all laughing]
Oh my God.
Yeah. Um, rappers weren't allowed
to talk on the radio during daytime.
And when rappers did talk on the radio,
they would pre-record,
in case you said something crazy,
so they could go and air it later.
So you couldn't talk live,
couldn't talk during the day,
and there were many hotels
that you couldn't stay at.
I talked to my son about it,
and, you know, Jaden has
his rap career going now.
And he just can't even conceive
of the idea of rappers
not being allowed someplace.
-Bizarre concept.
-It's ridiculous.
But it's interesting how things evolve
-from the fringe of popular music
to the mainstream.
A big part of that,
um, at the time, was MTV.
-Oh, yeah.
-Right? So MTV really
kind of laid the conduit
between the inner city and the suburbs.
Once rappers could make videos
and reach the suburbs,
it was it was done.
Why didn't you attend
the first Grammy you won?
We were nominated, um,
and the Grammy Awards
weren't gonna televise the rap portion.
So they were going to do the award,
but they were gonna do it before the show,
and rappers weren't going to be allowed
to be on the stage at the Grammys.
And I thought that that was unfair.
All of the rappers got together,
we boycotted the Grammys that year.
MTV hosted the Grammy boycott party.
-Right? So [laughs]
So we had a Grammy boycott party.
You know, it's us,
and it's, you know, Public Enemy,
and Salt-n-Pepa, and LL,
everybody, all the rappers.
We're sitting there, I'm giving
an interview. "It's disrespectful."
And then on the screen, it comes up.
"And earlier this evening, Grammy award
for best rap single was given
to Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince."
And I was like
[Letterman and audience laughing]
[laughter continues]
"I don't care about"
[laughter continues]
Well, this is nice.
The founders are actually buried here.
-[Will] Oh, wow.
-Right, we're gonna have to
Oh, you're all with us.
[Will laughs]
-[Letterman] We're here at a busy time.
-[Will] Ooh, yeah.
-[Letterman] Be lucky to get a table.
-[Will laughs]
-[Will] Yes. How are you, sir?
-[man] Good.
I think I'm gonna have
the shrimp cocktail.
[Will and man laughing]
I'll just take a hot dog
with some stuff, uh, on it.
-[man] Okay.
-But don't kill me.
-Are there any specials?
-[man] Chili.
-[man] Our chili con carne.
-Dave, would you like chile con carne?
-[Letterman] Sure.
¿Cómo se dice "hot dog"?
-[man] El perro caliente.
-[Will] Perro caliente
There's a picture of Jay Leno here.
-[Will] Aww.
-Isn't that cute?
[Will] I'll have a hamburger,
just plain hamburger bread.
And Dave, you didn't say
what you wanted on your dog.
-You just said "stuff."
-[Letterman] Onions.
Chili and onions on the hot dog, please.
It makes very little difference
'cause I ain't eating it.
[Will laughs]
[Letterman] How old is Jaden?
-Jaden is 23.
-[Letterman] Holy shit.
-Holy shit. Oh, shit.
-Yeah, wow. Jaden is 23.
-[Will laughing]
-[Letterman] Uh, 'cause
-[Will] Willow just turned 21.
-[Letterman] How old is Trey?
Trey is 29.
[Letterman] Oof. What's that like?
[Will] We're We're friends now.
Now, the things
that your father had you do,
any of that apply to you and your kids?
Yeah, it was very different,
but I always
Did you get, uh, beaten as a kid?
-Uh oh, yeah.
-So did I.
And you look at that,
and you think, "Really?"
-"What Who What manual?"
-"What manual?"
[Letterman] Honest to God,
it's so primitive.
It never was a deterrent.
Yeah, no.
You're just a kid! You think, "Oh, okay."
-"I guess I'm gonna get spanked again."
-I didn't give a fuck. [laughs]
-[Letterman] Yeah.
-[Letterman] Hi.
-[Will] Hey.
[woman] Hi.
[Will] That's Dave. No, that's Dave.
That one's me. Right, thank you.
I haven't had one of these in years.
[Letterman] Let's get back
to the period of time when
-No, Dave.
-You're not in college.
-We've moved on from that.
-You win a Grammy.
-We've moved on, Dave.
-You win a Grammy.
And now pressure is really on
for a second album.
-And you go to the Bahamas.
Yes. Uh, that was a bad call
to go to the Bahamas, Dave,
uh, to try to record an album.
-We were just spending money crazy,
and we actually didn't
come up with many records.
-Your buddy, James Lassiter
-James Lassiter.
Comes in, takes a look.
Yeah. And he keeps telling us, "Guys,
you're spending too much money every day."
"Let's go back to Philly, let's record.
You're burning through too much."
And we told him, basically,
"Mind your business.
We know what we're doing."
And he did something
I will never forgive him for, Dave.
-He called my father.
-[Letterman] Mm-hmm.
[audience laughs]
And he brought my he brought my father
down to the Bahamas.
We partying in the studio, we had girls,
and I had a rum punch and my shirt off.
To this day, I don't know why
my shirt was off in the studio.
But I'm in the studio,
we talking and playing, with a rum punch,
and my father walks through the door.
He looks around.
It was like he had walked
into Sodom and Gomorrah.
-[audience laughing]
-[Will chuckles]
And he said,
"Everybody get the fuck out."
[audience laughs]
"Will and Jeff, y'all stay."
And I was like, "Oh, shit!" Like
And I'm like
You know, I'm 20.
Like, I'm grown, Dave.
He can't tell me what to do.
I know, but the image of you
with your shirt off, and in comes Dad.
You don't want that.
Out of respect, I put my shirt on.
-[Letterman laughs]
And, you know,
he just really laid into us, you know.
"Fucking off these people's money."
I can't say what my father really said.
-Oh, I see.
[both laughing]
-Can't say what he really said. Uh
-[Letterman laughs]
But he talked some sense into me and Jeff
and we went back to Philly to record,
but the writing was on the wall.
The album And In This Corner came out,
and it was dead on arrival.
I love that your buddy James Lassiter
-sees this nonsense going on.
Knows he can't control it.
He calls your father.
You can't call somebody's father on 'em.
That's disrespectful, Dave.
-Dave, don't tell me you agree with that.
-I do.
Were you, like, a safety at school?
You were one of those kids
telling on people.
You can't snitch, Dave.
I was, uh, for one semester,
and you can look it up in my yearbook,
I was a hall monitor.
Yeah, see? I can see that all over you.
"You have a pass?"
-"Excuse me, you have a pass?"
-That was me.
[Will] I'd always felt
like a new future would be in LA.
I wanted to act, but up till this point,
it had just been music.
How did you know you wanted to act?
My music videos
were always similar to acting.
It was always a story,
there were always scenes to be acted out.
I wasn't just rapping.
I sold my house in Philly.
Broke, moved to LA
with my last couple thousand dollars.
And we started hanging
at The Arsenio Hall Show.
Arsenio Hall Show. I met Benny Medina,
the real-life Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Benny Medina moved from, uh, Watts
to, uh, Beverly Hills.
He said, uh,
"I'm working with Quincy Jones
and I have a television show idea."
"Mind if I get in touch with you?"
And I'm like, you know,
that's some Hollywood shit to say.
"Oh, I'm working on a show." Yeah, sure.
And I get a call, it's from Quincy Jones.
And he says, "Hey, can you come
to my birthday party?"
We were doing a show in Detroit.
So I immediately get on a plane
and I fly out.
And I'm like, "I'm on my way
to Quincy Jones's house."
I pull up.
I see Benny and we walk in.
And, you know, Quincy Jones is there,
and Quincy had been drinking a bit.
And there's a big party going on,
and the top of the top
Hollywood movers and shakers.
He comes over,
and he says, "Hey, Fresh Prince!
The Fresh Prince is here!"
Don't nobody know who the Fresh Prince is.
I was like, "This is a real nice house."
He says, "Yeah, this is Bel-Air.
Benny went from Watts to Beverly Hills."
"He wanna set the show in Beverly Hills.
Show gonna be set in Bel-Air."
"Bel-Air make Beverly Hills
look like public housing."
[all laughing]
"All right, you know what?"
"The show is not
The show is not Watts to Beverly Hills.
The show is Where you from?"
I said, "Well, you know,
I was born and raised in Philly."
He said, "The character go
from Philly to Bel-Air."
"That's what it is. Philly to Bel-Air. "
I was like, "Quincy is drunk as hell."
[Letterman and audience laughing]
I was like, "Sure."
He screams out for a dude.
"Brandon! Brandon!"
And he calls over Brandon.
Brandon Tartikoff.
Brandon Tartikoff, who at the time
-was the head of NBC.
And Quincy screams out,
"All right, we gonna have an audition!"
"We gonna have an audition!""
And then somebody walks up
and hands me the script. I was like,
"He's asking me to audition
in the middle of a party." I was like
And I grabbed him, like, "Hey, Q. Q, sir."
"Sir, listen, I didn't come here
prepared to do an audition."
He said, "All right, all right.
I'mma talk to Will in the library."
So he takes me in,
and he sits me down in the library.
And now he all sober.
He's like [mumbles indistinctly]
[Letterman and audience laughing]
[Will chuckles]
He says, "What you need, Philly?" Right?
So I'm sitting there,
and it's Michael Jackson,
48 million Thriller sold, and Michael
Michael up on his toes,
doing that, you know that thing.
And Oprah Winfrey behind me
on my left side in The Color Purple.
And it's just Grammys
scattered all over the floor,
and Oscars and Emmys all over the place.
And I said, "Mr. Jones, listen."
"I can't do an audition."
-"If I had two weeks, I could prepare."
-He said, "You just need two weeks?"
I said, "Yes. Give me two weeks.
I'll get an acting coach. I'll work."
He said, "Okay, two weeks. You know
what's gonna happen in two weeks?"
"Brandon Tartikoff, something'll come up."
"He'll have to reschedule
for a week after that."
And I was like,
"Well, yeah, three weeks would be
three weeks great."
"I could really be prepared
if I had three weeks."
He got real steely,
and he said, "Right now,
everybody who needs
to say yes to this show
is sitting out in that living room
waiting for you."
"What you gonna do?"
And I'm sitting there.
Michael Jackson's like
[Letterman and audience laughing]
-[as M.J.] "What are you gonna do, Will?"
-[Letterman and audience laughing]
-And I'm sitting there,
and Oprah's like, "I know, baby."
[audience laughing]
And I thought, and I was like,
-"Fuck it. Give me ten minutes."
-[Letterman] Mm.
And the audition was really a blur.
But I was just ad-libbing, I was free.
I just I let it rip.
And at the end of the audition,
it was a standing ovation.
And Quincy turns to Brandon Tartikoff,
and he says, "So what you think?
What you think? Did you like it?"
And Brandon said,
"Yes, Quincy, I liked it."
"You know what the fuck
I'm talking about."
-"Did you like it?"
And he said, "Yes, Quincy, I liked it."
He said, "You, you're his lawyer."
"I need a deal memo.
Draw me up a deal memo tonight."
And I was like, "Yo" Now, he drunk again.
[Will laughs]
And I was like, "Yo, Quincy Jones
is ordering other people's lawyers around
at nine o'clock on Wednesday."
And he got the lawyer
to draw up a deal memo
for a show tentatively titled
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
[Letterman] Yikes. How about that
for a Hollywood story?
-[audience applauds]
[Will laughing]
Party machine. This is Will.
[Will] Fresh Prince comes out,
and it's starting to be successful.
And one of my first movie offers,
JL calls me,
and he said, "You just got offered
$10 million for a movie."
And I was like, "Yo, that's crazy!"
And I went to high-five him,
and he wouldn't high-five me.
And he says, "I'm here to tell you
I don't think you should do it."
-And I was like
-He was like, "It's not right."
-Did they ever make that movie?
They did. Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag.
Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag?
You passed on it.
-Yeah. [laughs] Passed on it.
-That's some duffel bag.
That's [laughs]
-Movie that you eventually did take
-Six Degrees of Separation.
I'm so sorry to bother you,
but I've been hurt
and I've lost everything.
And I made $300,000 for Six Degrees.
Now this begins, uh,
and it's so impressive,
uh, your run of film successes.
Yeah. You probably haven't seen
many of them.
-[audience laughing]
It's, uh
-Dave, you just
-I saw Bad Boys two nights ago.
Really? The first one?
-Well, yeah!
You're just getting started
on the Bad Boys trilogy.
[Letterman laughs]
[Letterman] You're the king of Hollywood.
-You're the bankable Hollywood film star
for a decade.
[audience laughs]
Ah! Like nothing you've ever seen, Dave.
[Letterman laughs]
-It may never happen again.
[Letterman and audience laughing]
[Letterman] When you start training
for the Rumble in the Jungle,
and your trainer shows you
how you know
when a guy's gonna launch something,
show me that.
-But don't hit me.
All right. Why you taking your coat off
if I don't need to hit you?
-There may be trouble.
I want to look good in the autopsy.
All right, so if a guy is standing
with his feet side by side,
he's not gonna do anything
because he can't.
The guy'll start talking,
and you'll watch his feet adjust.
So he drops his right foot back.
And that's how you know
that he's preparing to sneak the shot.
What you see in the club all the time,
is a dude'll be talking, and bang!
Right? So he throws
a looping overhand right.
-Okay, just one more.
-Right? So it's just
What do I do?
This part of your head
is the hardest part.
-So what you're gonna do
-Is apologize.
-I'm so sorry, Mr. Smith.
Please forgive me.
I I didn't know it was you!
-So if I'm throwing the punches
-Looking, I turn, boom.
-You turn into it?
-I turn into it.
I'm gonna try
to break your hand on my head.
-Just touch me.
-Just want to feel what this might do.
Bang, so you draw it in, put it down,
and you just let him hit that.
-Right? And then bang!
-Oh, Jesus!
Your right hand, right back.
[both laughing]
That was frightening.
-Don't do that again.
In our first training for Ali,
you know, we did that a hundred times.
And he's in the ring,
we're doing Boom, bang!
[crowd cheering]
[Letterman] You guys show up
in Mozambique,
and you go on to meet Nelson Mandela.
[Will] Yeah. There's only a couple
of people that I've met,
when you feel that spiritual presence.
I just burst into tears when I saw him,
when he walked in, right?
You know, he spent 27 years
in prison, illegally.
[Letterman] Yeah.
And came out,
immediately won the presidency,
and his first official act
was to forgive
those who would confess
their atrocities. Like
I just I always think about this.
Which is harder to believe?
People who commit those atrocities
or people who endure them?
Endure them and forgive them. Right?
'Cause I always used to see, um
You know, you see those things on
on the news
where somebody kills
somebody in their family,
and you see the whole family there,
and they forgive the person.
I didn't understand that
until I met Nelson Mandela.
He understood the spiritual concept
that you poison yourself
with that energy.
It's so
-It's so simplistic.
-[Will] It's so
But it seems, to most people,
Yes. And being able to hold
a loving condition in your heart
is to recognize
that you're not that totally different
from people who make horrific mistakes.
-And people who commit atrocities.
-The same machine.
-Same machine, yeah! You know.
-[Letterman] Same goddamned machine.
I got stuff in my beard.
You were just gonna not say anything.
It was funny to me.
[Letterman laughs]
[Will laughs]
I was just talking, uh, to Jay-Z,
uh, the other night.
-We had a spirited debate.
-What is he up to now?
He's just chilling.
[audience laughing]
[Will and Letterman laughing]
-Well, give him my best.
-[laughs] Yeah.
Yeah. [laughs] I wouldn't want
to interrupt him with that, Dave.
[Letterman] Yeah.
[Will and Letterman laughing]
No, but we were talking about
-the state of Black America
post-George Floyd.
Jay-Z and I, we executive-produced a show
on ABC called Women of the Movement,
uh, and it's about Emmett Till.
-Oh, my goodness.
-The story of Emmett Till.
We were talking
about the experience of Mamie Till,
uh, Emmett's Emmett's mother.
That situation and circumstance
versus George Floyd.
And the idea of a tipping point
with George Floyd.
It was like the first time
that the entire world
stood up in one voice
and acknowledged
the plight of the African American.
-We have yet to see what that means.
But it was something that
I was encouraged by what's happening
with African Americans in this country.
I'm squirming here,
because once you invoke Emmett Till,
you wonder why, the next day,
things didn't show the same initiative
-that we've seen after George Floyd.
-Emmett Till, just doesn't get any worse.
And George Floyd generated
great enthusiasm for the problem,
and then does it wane?
Do people just think, "Okay, we"
-"Okay, everything's back to normal now"?
What is the quote?
[stammering] "The one thing
we can learn from history
is that we don't learn
anything from history."
I am, uh, an optimist.
Uh, I believe in the power of hopefulness,
um, and positive direction.
So when I look at the state
of Black America today,
I am hopeful for the day
that we don't have to discuss
the state of Black America.
It's interesting
because as I'm reading your book,
I'm hopelessly envious
because I never worked as hard,
never thought about working as hard,
and never as successful as you.
I'm not even in the same part
of the mall as you're in.
-[laughs] That's not true, Dave.
-Uh, yeah, but
If you think of me as, like,
the Neiman's at the end of the mall
-Yes, I'm FootLocker.
-you like the GameStop.
[all laughing]
I'm glad you liked the book, Dave.
I can tell that you legitimately enjoyed
Oh, I didn't read it.
[Will and audience laughing]
[Letterman laughs]
You know the book well.
I bet you don't know what happened
in the middle of I, Robot, though.
[audience laughing]
25 years later, you still don't know
what happened in I, Robot.
-[audience laughing]
-The robot exploded.
[Will and audience laughing]
[Letterman] Uh
I remember there's a film,
opens up Christmas weekend.
You get the call
with the receipts from, uh, James.
-I Am Legend.
-Yes. And he says, "Broke all records."
[Will] Yes.
$77 million, opening day, opening weekend.
-And you say to him,
"I wonder what we could have done
to make it $80 million?"
-Yes, that's what
-Now what
To me,
that's obsessive-compulsive disorder.
That's when I started
to notice the subtle sickness.
When you set your sights
on material success,
there actually is nothing that's enough.
So now, and part of this is
you're learning to face, overcome fears.
-You go 14 days without talking.
That, sitting here talking with you now,
seems impossible.
Yes. Yes. For both of us, Dave.
For both of us.
But you did it, right?
-I did 14 days without talking.
-What difference did that make?
It really helped me to see the madness
of what was going on inside my head.
I had been to the top
of all the material mountains.
I had had as much money
Were you miserable with all of the success
or just mildly concerned or confused?
You know, it was
I wasn't miserable as much as
everything kind of lost its luster.
So did you think, at the time, that you
had been pursuing the wrong route?
Yes, I felt very confident
that, um, number-one movies, um,
were much more of an addiction
than they were, um, a fulfilling
-emotional endeavor.
It's art, but you looked at it
as competition.
Yes. It was a very, you know
-I wanted to be the best.
But I correlated being the best
with being able to have the
the love in my life
that would make me feel safe.
-Is this from your childhood, you think?
-You know, I think
I think it's the natural journey
of humanity.
When we realize that the material world
is completely, utterly,
and totally incapable
of sustaining our happiness.
Beyond the essentials
of protecting yourself and your family.
You can't protect your family, right?
Like, that's not real, right?
So protection and safety is an illusion.
You have to learn
to live with the reality
that any moment,
anything can be gone in one second.
Right? So, with that reality,
how can you be here?
-And how can you be joyful and be here?
So, you know,
I stopped working for two years.
Because of this unsatisfied feeling?
Yeah, and, you know,
I was realizing that, um
that winning wasn't going to do it.
My father died in, uh, 2016,
and that was the first time
I felt like I was free
to be able to talk about my experiences.
And then you end up in Peru,
uh, drinking
[Will] Ayahuasca.
-Yeah. I've done some
-Anybody? Anybody had any?
-One. Okay, we got one.
With soda? On the rocks? Straight?
How do you know about ayahuasca?
Granted, you're smarter
and more worldly than I am,
but nobody has ever said to me,
"You know, tonight, we have ayahuasca."
You know, I was, um
[stammers] I was starting to realize
that I couldn't win enough,
um, my
my marriage couldn't be good enough,
my kids couldn't be healthy enough,
that none of that stuff was going to,
like, scratch the itch that I had.
-And I started a spiritual journey.
You know? And when you start to move
in in those spiritual circles,
people bring up things.
A friend of mine had come to me,
uh, who had done it.
I've done nothing. I've never smoked weed,
never done cocaine,
never taken pills, anything.
-Weren't you fearful of this experience?
You know, I'm a serious researcher.
When I did my research,
and some of the experiences,
I decided that it was something
that, you know, I wanted to try.
-This is psychotropic?
Yes, absolutely. It's a psychotropic.
You're not hallucinating, right?
It's like both realities are 100% present.
So you know you're in this room.
You're sitting in the room.
You don't lose sight.
It's not superimposed over this reality.
It's totally separate.
There's what's going on in your head,
and what's going on in the room.
Could you get up and go to dinner
under the influence of this?
Yes. You wouldn't want to,
'cause you never know what would jump up.
[stammers] You want to be
in a private scenario.
-And what is the duration of the dose?
-Um, usually eight hours.
-Oh, my.
-Yeah, so
And there's no way you can break it?
It just has to run its course?
Once you drink it, you'll see yourself
in a way you've never seen yourself.
-This goes back thousands of years?
-The use of this has been
-Yes. You know, literally millennia.
Um, shamans have used it.
It's the "vine of the gods."
-Is it addictive? Is it the kind of
-Not at all.
-You don't want no parts of it.
-[Letterman] Yeah.
-[audience laughing]
-You don't want no parts of it.
Every time When you have
to go back for the second day,
I literally cried.
-How many times did you do it?
-Um, over a two-year period, uh, 14.
I did 14 journeys.
One of the experiences was
the individual most hellish
psychological experience of my life.
I drank, and it usually takes
about 45 minutes to kick in.
And I'm sitting there, and you always feel
like, "Maybe it won't kick in this time."
So I'm drinking, I'm sitting there,
and then, all of a sudden,
it's like I start seeing
all of my money flying away,
and my house is flying away,
and my career is gone.
I'm like [groans]
And I'm trying to, like,
grab for my money and my career.
My whole life is getting destroyed.
-So this is your fear in real life?
-My fear.
And I'm in there
and I'm wanting to vomit and all of that.
I hear a voice saying,
"This is what the fuck it is.
This is what the fuck life is."
And I'm going [panting]
"Oh, shit!"
And I hear Willow screaming,
"Daddy, help me! Daddy!
How come you won't help me?"
And I'm like, "I don't see you, baby."
The shaman is like, "Relax, relax, relax."
And she tells me, "Sit up."
Then slowly, I stopped caring about money,
I just wanted to get to Willow.
I stopped caring about my house,
about my career.
And I get to the point
where I settled down,
and the voice is still at 100%.
I still hear Willow screaming.
My money is still flying away,
but I'm going
[deep breath]
And I'm totally calm
even though there's hell
going on in my mind.
When I came out of it,
I realized that anything
that happens in my life,
I can handle it.
I can handle any person I lose,
I can handle anything
that goes wrong in my life,
I can handle anything in my marriage.
I can handle anything
that this life has to offer me.
That's part of the psychological training
that happens in ayahuasca.
First of all,
99% of the shit you worry about
never happens.
99% of your pain and your misery
is all self-generated.
It's not real.
If you've ever checked
your partner's phone, you know,
if you've ever worried
about not getting a job,
99% of the shit that makes you crazy
never happens.
But in the book, I get the impression
that you're the kind of guy
that knows that already.
Especially the part where you say
you can handle anything
-that happens in the world, in life.
And also, you're the kind of guy
that is gonna outrun it.
-So this confirms
something that you doubted
as you went through life, chasing it.
Through my journeys, I developed a trust
and a love for me that I never had.
I trust me to be okay,
no matter what happens.
-Could I say something?
-I'm talking to myself right now, Dave.
-[audience laughing]
[Will laughing]
Please, yeah.
You are one introspective motherfucker.
[Will and audience laughing]
[cheering and applause]
[Will and Letterman laughing]
[Letterman] Um
So now I want to mention King Richard.
King Richard, yes.
Whoo! Yes.
You gonna be the greatest of all time
'cause I planned for it.
King Richard was like
I was reintroducing myself
back to working more consistently.
My experiences, and my life,
and the writing of this book
have unlocked a part of me, as an actor,
that is like nothing
I've ever experienced.
Having to look at my life
and to understand my father
helped me to understand Richard Williams.
Post-World War II, African-American male
with a dream and no support.
My father was that guy.
Life is so exciting to me right now
because I can reach people differently
than I've ever been able to reach people.
Largely because of my pain.
I'm really ready to dive into my art,
uh, in a way that I think will be,
uh, hopefully, fulfilling for me
and helpful for the human family.
Well, know what? I'll tell you this.
I have learned that you and I
are more alike than I even knew.
-You know, we're quite similar.
It's like we're twins.
[audience laughing]
-That's what you got from what I said?
-[audience laughing]
-Uh, by the way,
this is Willard Carroll Smith,
ladies and gentlemen.
-[cheering and applause]
-[Will laughing]
-Thank you.
-Thank you.
-God bless you.
-God bless you. Thank you.
-Thank you very much.
-David Letterman, ladies and gentlemen.
[cheering and applause]
[Will] There you go. Thank you, guys.
Oh, was this my water?
This was there the whole time?
[audience laughing]
And you ain't say nothing.
[Letterman] There was no water
in your contract.
[Will and audience laugh]
Thank you, all. Thank you, thank you.
[cheering and applause]
[relaxed jazz music playing]
Previous EpisodeNext Episode