Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Will and Jada say they created what they call a marriage business plan early on. "If you don't have a purpose for your relationship, if you don't have a place that you're going, something that you want to accomplish, something that you want to do, you can really get lost in the murk of the journey," Will says. "There has to be a vision. Like, why are we together?"
The tough part is when two independent visions need to come together as one, Jada says. "I had my vision and he had his, so we had to join it," she says. "Once we started to see how the children were growing and, you know, Willow and Jaden and Trey were becoming their own beings we decided, 'Okay, we want to make a family business. How do we incorporate all the talent that we have in this family?' So that's our vision—to create a place where their dreams can come true as well."
Sheree says that while getting to that place took time, it was extremely important. "You realize, [Will and I] had our chance, now it's about those kids."
The adults in this family all agree that the goal for the children is for them to be their best selves. "I just want them to live in service to greatness. I want them to live and to create in a way that when people see it, people are inspired and people become better just by having contact with their excellence," Will says.
The trick, however, is letting the children define their own greatness, Jada says. "We might have a vision for what we see, but at the end of the day, Jaden has to have his own vision, Willow has to have her own vision and so does Trey," she says. "So we are there to help inspire and facilitate their vision, because in order to reach the type of excellence that Will is talking about, you have to be able to reach inside yourself to find that drive. Nobody can put that drive in you, so you have to inspire the individual to find and focus on the goal that they want for themselves."
The power couple is inspiring parents because they've managed to raise three grounded children in Hollywood, which is no easy feat. "I tell them all the time: 'Mommy and Daddy are rich. You all are broke,'" he says. "We don't allow them to just sit around. We talk about the concept of the group and the necessity of you adding to the family. Then you have to add to your neighborhood, and then you have to add to humanity."
Will and Jada say they often talk with their kids about the purpose of the entertainment business, beyond just getting the role and acting. "We talk about the idea [that] you create something that is illustrating some aspect of the human spirit," Will says. "It can be funny and it can be exciting. It can be scary. But what you're trying to do, as artists, is to elevate humanity. When you're choosing your work and you're choosing the material that you're putting into the world, you have to understand that somebody else's kids are going to see that. Somebody's grandmother is going to see it. Are they going to be better or worse after they have contact with your material?"
Will uses that generosity to serve the world. In fact, he says he's still searching for his place in life. "I just feel like all of the blessings that I have, you know, with my wife and my family and extended family, there's no way that God intended that just for acting," he says. "I feel energized every day by just what the possibilities are. ... So in bringing the kids up, it's like, oh my goodness. It's a whole new burst of energy and burst of possibilities of what we can do in this world as a family."
So far, their family has risen to the occasion. Seventeen-year-old Trey is a varsity star football player, 11-year-old Jaden is an actor and 8-year-old Willow is a singer and actress.
But even amid all their success, Will says he can't shake the survival mind-set of his youth. "I still have a poor person's mentality. I can't shake it, and it gets really detrimental when you can't just shake off the ideas. It's like when I go to sleep at night, right now, I'm as financially nervous as I was 20 years ago," he says. "With my kids, I want them to be able to have the financial comprehension to not be slaves to working and money that way that my mind has."
Willow says her dad is the disciplinarian in the house. "When I'm in the studio, he keeps me working. He gives me motivation," she says. "He says, 'If you work through this, then you'll get a hit and everybody will buy it and you'll get lots of money.' And he also teaches me that it's not all about money. It's about what you want to do."
But it's not all seriousness in the Smith home, of course. Will made a name for himself as a comic actor, after all. "My parents embarrass me all the time," Jaden says. "When I'm at school, sometimes my dad will just pull his pants down!"
Another common question among parents is what punishment looks like in the Smith home. "That's one of the really difficult struggles because we don't exactly believe in punishment, per se. We believe in restriction, that you can have as much freedom as you can handle," Will says. "You can cut your hair. You can put stuff on your wall. And as soon as you do something that is detrimental to yourself, and when you can't be trusted with your freedom, then you have to be pulled back. But it's not about punishing you for what you did—it's about protecting you from the potential damage that you could do to yourself."
Will and Jada were both producers on The Karate Kid, and Jada says it was the first time they've worked so closely together. "I think we got over some huge hurdles because we're very different creatures creatively," she says. "In doing this movie, we realized what our strengths and our weaknesses are and in which areas we can depend on each other."
More about the making of The Karate Kid