Will Smith

Newsweek magazine calls Will Smith the most powerful actor on the planet. His incredible box-office draw from films like Independence Day and Men in Black has earned him the nickname the $4 billion man. Still, nothing could have prepared the superstar for this unbelievable week.

Days after the 2008 presidential election, Will said he was still riding high from President-elect Barack Obama's historic victory. On Election Day, Will gave everyone in his family video cameras to document their experiences. "It was really important to me to capture it," he says. Will's wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, started filming early—6 a.m.! "We filmed ourselves going down to the polls, my daughter went with us ... and then at night we had a party, about 60 or 70 people."
Will Smith discusses President-elect Barack Obama's historic win.

When the announcement came that Senator Obama had won, Will was surrounded by family. "My daughter was sitting on my lap ... Jaden was sitting beside me, and my older son Trey was behind me. Then Barack gave his speech, and I just lost it," he says. "It's like, that's what I believe."

Just thinking about it gets Will choked up. "I'm getting teary again," he says. "Oprah, I'm an action hero. I can't be crying on your show!"

Will says he felt confident in the outcome. "The way that I was raised was, 'Nobody's better than you, and anything that you want, you set your mind to it and you go get it. Period,'" he says. "I believed that it was possible, but I didn't know if I really believed. The history of African-Americans is such that you want to be a part of America, but we've been rejected so much it's hard to take the ownership and take responsibility for ourselves and this country. It was like, at that second, at that moment, all of our excuses were gone."
Will Smith stars in Seven Pounds.

Professionally, Will's been keeping plenty busy. His latest movie is Seven Pounds, a thought-provoking film that Oprah says is a must-see. "I don't want to give too much away, but I'll tell you this," she says. "There are seven seconds in this film that will change you forever."

In the suspenseful thriller, Will plays an IRS agent with a secret. He sets out to change the lives of seven total strangers, but his plan hits a bump when he falls in love with a woman he planned to help.

Will says he was drawn to the script because of its strong message about life and loss. "I've made a decision that nothing in my life is going to be without purpose. I've grown to a place where I realize the only way to really be happy is to live in service to humanity," he says. "I want my work to mean something."
Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith

Though work keeps him busy, it's his personal life that keeps him centered. "I turned 40 this year," he says. "I've never been happier in my life. I feel like my relationship with my wife has purpose. ... We're in love and that's fantastic, but beyond that, we have purpose."

In this month's Cookie magazine, Jada opens up about the couple's golden rules of parenting. "One of the central ideas that we agreed on is that our kids are not our property," Will says. "They're people, little people, who deserve the same amount of respect." 

This philosophy comes in particularly handy when it's time for the kids to clean their rooms. "We say, 'Okay, here's the deal. That's not your room; that's our room that we're letting you borrow," he says. "It makes a big difference when you tell somebody to 'go clean my room I'm lending you' versus 'clean your room.'"

Will says he and Jada try to enforce the idea that everyone in the family needs to contribute to the group. "We started [asking them] from day one: 'What do you do to make this family better?'"
Will Smith and Oprah

Will and Jada also show their children respect by encouraging them to have a children's council. One council meeting came about when 15-year-old Trey asked for an allowance of $100 a week. "I said, 'Okay, all you kids go into the room, and I want you to come back and make a recommendation to me of what his allowance should be,'" Will says. So Trey, 10-year-old Jaden and 8-year-old Willow, along with Will's niece and nephew, gathered to discuss the allowance.

"They all went into a room for about 45 minutes. They talked about it, and what they realized is whatever decision they made was a decision that was going to affect all of them," he says. "If it was unreasonable, they would lose their power." When the children's council came back to Will, he says they decided that Trey only needed about $40 a week.

"That is shocking!" Oprah says. 

Will says Trey started questioning the importance of material things after his grandmother died. "He was there, in the moment, when she passed," Will says. "He got a real sense of that loss and the idea of needing to create the new Trey, needing to create that new idea." So for his upcoming 16th birthday, he didn't ask for gifts. Instead, he asked his friends to donate presents to a children's hospital. "He just realized, 'Gifts? What does that really mean?'"

"You all must be doing something right," says Oprah. "For a 16-year-old to say 'I don't want gifts. Bring gifts and we'll give them to other people.'"
Rosario Dawson

Will's Seven Pounds co-star Rosario Dawson was discovered while sitting on her front porch when she was just 15 years old. Since arriving in Hollywood, this New York native has starred in independent films like Sin City, as well as box office hits like Men in Black 2 and Rent.

Acting isn't Rosario's only passion. In 2004, she co-founded a nonpartisan organization called Voto Latino. She says her goal was to mobilize Latino voters by going door-to-door in states like Colorado and registering new voters.

"I felt really strongly about telling people, especially minority people, saying your voice matters. It doesn't even matter if you vote for the person who doesn't win. It's just important that you use it," she says. "I can't tell people that their voice matters only if you check this box. So I had to just go out there and just push really hard."

In all, Rosario says Voto Latino registered more than 30,000 new voters in just four years. "It was so amazing to be a part of this election," she says.
Rosario Dawson and Oprah

When Rosario isn't knocking on doors in swing states, she's busy making movies. Rosario says she was drawn to the film Seven Pounds after reading the script.

While flying home from the Hispanic Heritage Awards with her mom and grandmother, Rosario says she opened the script and was immediately hooked. "I start, and I'm just crying immediately," she says. "I realized I'm like 50 pages in, and I don't know what's happening."

Before reading the ending, Rosario says she went back and reread the parts she loved. "I acted them out in my chair in the plane," she says. "Then, [I] read the ending. ... I'm not a public crier, per se, and I'm just sitting on this plane with people. I was a weepy mess."

Rosario wasn't the only star who shed a few tears. While screening the film for the first time, Rosario says her emotions got the best of her...and Will had the same reaction. "We walked out crying. I was, like, 'Oh, thank God,'" Rosario says. "'It's not just me.'"
Rosario Dawson and Will Smith

While filming Seven Pounds, Will did something he's never done before—shot a love scene with someone other than his wife! Before this, Will's only other love scene was with Jada in Ali.

On the first day of rehearsal, Rosario says Will peppered her with questions about what would make her the most comfortable and what he should wear. "[He said,] 'I don't want to be that guy with my hand on your thigh when the director says cut. I don't want to be that guy,'" she says. "Then he goes on to tell me, 'Could Jada be there?'"

Will isn't afraid to admit that he was terrified. "My worst nightmare is to have a woman that's around me feel like I disrespected her," he says.

Rosario says she spoke with Jada, who encouraged her husband to go for it. "She was like, 'Don't make me look bad. You better bring it,'" Rosario says.
Will Smith, Rosario Dawson and Oprah

After filming ended, Will says he had a difficult time adjusting to normal life. The movie, which is about a man who suffers a serious loss, took Will to a dark, emotional place, he says.

"That re-entry period back into the family was the most difficult time after a film for me," he says. "I would come home, and my wife and kids are in the bed. ... It was just excruciating to think about what life would be without them."