On this day in comedy on September 25th, 1968 Actor, Rapper, Producer, Willard Carroll “Will” Smith, Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
After running through a small fortune obtained by early rap success with partners D J Jazzy Jeff and Ready Rock C, Will Smith switched gears and became a successful sitcom star. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was not just a play on Smith’s rap persona, but also a show based on the experiences of producer, Benny Medina. Smith played a ghetto kid who moves in with his rich relatives and score a major comedy hit for NBC. An admitted non-comedian, (he tried it and found it wasn’t his thing) Smith consistently infused a comedic element in most of his work. For the sitcom he had professional comedian, Alex Thomas coach him on how to pump up the physical funny.
With the visibility and popularity a top rated show afforded him, Smith eyed a film career. Following a small debut part as a legless cripple in “Where the Day Takes You”, Smith appeared alongside Nia Long in the comedy “Made in America” with Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson, then “Six Degrees of Separation” with Donald Sutherland and Stockard Channing and “Bad Boys” with fellow sitcom star, “Martin Lawrence” while still shooting “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”. Once the show went off the air after six seasons, the movie hits came rolling in.
Will Smith made the transition from TV star to film star almost seamlessly. His first major blockbuster was “Independence Day” where he played a pilot who saved the world. From there he piled up an unprecedented strings of hits, including a “Bad Boy” sequel, “Wild, Wild West”, “Ali”, “Enemy of the State” and the “Men in Black” franchise. He’s done animation voice-overs (“Shark Tale”); played an alcoholic superhero (“Hancock”), the devil (“Winter’s Tale”) and several fathers to his own son Jaden (“Pursuit of Happyness”, “After Earth”).
Smith has been nominated for several Golden Globes, a pair of Oscar nods and has won four Grammys. He’s had 8 consecutive films gross over 100 million domestically and 11 gross over 150 million internationally. In 2014 Forbes ranked him as the most bankable star worldwide with box office receipts in excess of 6.6 billion dollars.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton