Actor Will Smith surprised his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, on a Baltimore stage Wednesday night to declare his unconditional love and devotion to her.
“I just really wanted to come out and just be here and hold it down for you the way you have held it down for me,” Will Smith said in a surprise appearance at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. “We have had a very, very long and tumultuous [relationship]. We call it ‘brutiful.’
“It was brutal and beautiful at the same time.”
As Smith spoke spontaneously from the stage before an excited crowd and effusive applause, Pinkett Smith stood at his side, one hand covering her mouth. Their son, Jaden, and daughter, Willow, stood toward the wings, gesturing excitedly, while Pinkett Smith’s mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, who celebrated her 70th birthday Wednesday, watched from the audience.
It was an emotional, romantic speech, and it seemed designed to quash public speculation that the couple’s long and storied marriage was over — rumors that reached a fever pitch after Pinkett Smith appeared Friday on the “Today Show” to discuss an extended rough patch in their relationship.
But Pinkett Smith told The Baltimore Sun that what had been a six-year estrangement was in the past. She said she and Smith have been working to repair their relationship and have grown much closer in the previous 18 months — a statement she repeated Wednesday night on the Pratt stage.
“Will and me are good,” Pinkett Smith told Laura Coates, an anchor and chief legal analyst for CNN, who moderated the discussion about “Worthy,” the Baltimore native’s memoir that was released Tuesday. “All the people who don’t understand and got something to say are just going to have to fall in line.
[ Jada Pinkett Smith returns to her roots with visit to School for the Arts: ‘Baltimore has been good to me’ ]
“The truth of the matter is I’m not leaving Will’s side and he’s not going to leave mine. We’ve been on a powerful quest. And I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
It was a joyous and unexpected reunion made even more special by the multiple family members who attended. They included Trey Smith, whom Pinkett Smith has described in her memoir as her “bonus son,” his mother, Sheree Zampino, and multiple other cousins, aunts and family members of both members of the couple.
Will Smith’s appearance capped a conversation that Pinkett Smith, 52, had been having with Coates in front of a capacity crowd at the Pratt about her memoir.
Coates set up Will Smith’s surprise appearance by asking:
“What did your family think about this book? You know what, actually, why don’t I just ask your family? I think they’re here. I know your mom is here,” Coates said, and nodded toward Norris. Then she paused dramatically.
“But,” Coates asked, “is anyone else here?”
As Smith strode onto the stage, the crowd gasped. Dozens of audience members began filming the interaction on their mobile phones.
Smith began speaking into the microphone and at times appeared almost giddy with joy.
“We got together when we were in our 20s,” Will told the audience.
“I had huge dreams of what I wanted to do in the world and in my life, and I was on fire with a vision. And as I stand here before you today, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
Smith said everything he has ever accomplished — his awards, his money, his family — came to him because Pinkett Smith was willing to put her own ambitions on hold.
He said his dreams “were largely built on the foundation of Jada’s sacrifices,” and mentioned that Pinkett Smith had gone out of her way to develop a close friendship with Zampino, his ex-wife and Trey Smith’s mother, “so that I could have all of my children with me.”
The confusion began when Smith confirmed to “Today” host Hoda Kotb that she and Smith had separated in 2016 and for six years, lived almost entirely separate lives.
That interview resulted in a raft of such headlines as this one from London’s The Independent: “Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have been separated since 2016 — when should couples just get divorced?”
Three days later, Pinkett Smith returned to “Today” again to clarify her relationship with her husband.
“This whole journey, as difficult as it’s been, has just brought Will and I closer in such an authentic way,” she told Kotb. “We were in this very fragile place. Now, we’re just super solid. We kind of had to go our separate ways in order to really see each other and find our way back.”
“There might not be a divorce in theory anymore?” Kotb asked.
“There’s no divorce in theory,” Pinkett Smith replied. “We really have been working hard at bringing our relationship together, back to a life partnership.”
Smith told the Pratt audience that he was unaware of the speculation that he and his wife were on the brink of divorce. For the past three weeks, he said, he has been in Papua New Guinea assisting research in a project about biodiversity. He switched his mobile phone off because he had no internet service. It wasn’t until he reached Sydney, Australia, that the rumors finally reached him.
“Our union,” he said, “is a sloppy experiment in unconditional love” and then added:
“Jada is the best friend I have ever had on this planet, and I am going to show up for her and support her for the rest of my life.”