November 28, 2015
Among Philadelphia-born celebrities who have achieved worldwide superstardom, few have done so as dramatically and decisively as Will Smith. From hip-hop artist to sitcom royalty to Oscar-winning actor, Smith has consistently raised the bar in his life and, at age 47, may have yet another vocation in mind: politics.
Appearing in his first ever podcast this week, Smith joined Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" to talk about the evolution of his career, the challenges he encountered making the controversial upcoming biopic 'Concussion,' and how he wants to use the talent he's developed as an actor to benefit other people.
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"I'm a climber, so if I see a mountain, I have to climb it. I'm not a camper; I don't like hanging in one place too long," said Smith. "So I think, at this point, I'm elevating my ability to be useful in the world. I think that that's what my grandmother always hoped, that I would make myself useful to people in this lifetime."
Part of Smith's motivation is to help deliver on the promise of the American dream, a predominant theme in his best cinematic work from 'Ali' and 'The Pursuit of Happyness' to 'Concussion.' In the latter, Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL players and dedicated his life to spreading awareness of the long-term health risks of football.
"It was a huge conflict for me to make this movie," Smith said. "I'm a football dad, I grew up in Philly with my Philadelphia Eagles. The idea of making a movie that illuminated this particular issue was not something I was chomping at the bit to be a part of. Then I met with Dr. Omalu, and I'm looking at his eyes while he's telling his story. As an artist, it's the type of story you live for...there's social ramifications to the piece and it's also a brilliant story about the American dream, all of those elements."
Though Smith didn't identify any specific political issues driving him toward a run for public office, he said the socio-political climate in the U.S. is now weighing on him more than it ever has in his lifetime.
"As I look at the political landscape, I think that there might be a future out there for me. They might need me out there," Smith said. "This is the first year that I've been incensed to a level that I can't sleep, you know? So I'm feeling that at some point, in the near future, I will have to lend my voice to the conversation in a somewhat different way."
'Concussion' premieres in theaters nationwide December 25. Head over to Hollywood Reporter to hear the full "Awards Chatter" podcast with Smith, including a backstory for the origin of the "Fresh Prince" nickname and thoughts on how his strategy as an actor has changed over the years.