DivineCaroline: You get inundated with scripts all day long. What drew you to this project?
Will Smith: The father and son where the center of the story and I always love the idea of finding something small to center a movie around. The last time I worked with Jaden was The Pursuit of Happyness and for me, the idea of disciplining yourself to achieve your dreams is what drew me to the part Chris Gardner. With this movie, the concept of fear intrigued me. Fear keeps us from having the love and relationships that are the most meaningful. While the science fiction aspect of this film is enjoyable to watch, the central idea is the importance of having a solid relationship.
DC: Will, you got to take your kid to work every day, which is awesome. Jaden, what was it like to go to work every day with your dad?
Jaden Smith: It was awesome. He has all of the information I ever need when it comes to making movies. When we work together and I have a question, my dad is right there.
WS: Jaden spent 10-12 hours a day to get to this moment. That is a rare opportunity especially because Jaden is now a teenager and teenagers, as you know, like to do their own thing. I like Jaden grew up in a family business. Our family was delivering ice in Philadelphia with my siblings. Now that making movies has become our family business, I would not know what to do if Jaden wasn’t there. I love to have those teachable moments with my son.
DC: This movie centers a lot of overcoming fears. What were your fears growing up and how did you conquer them?
WS: Overcoming fear is a very individual thing. For me, attacking it always made me feel better. When I was in seventh grade I would my fears by first walking into the local mall and shouting out, “My name is Will Smith and one day you will know me.” (laughs) As a guy, try walking up to a girl and getting rejected. I worked hard to train my mind to confront things and let my feelings get hurt no matter the outcome.
JS: My favorite story is when my dad was transferred to a brand new high school and on the first day he walked into the cafeteria and screamed, “He is here now!”
DC: Jaden, what is the most positive thing you have learned from your dad?
JS: One of the best lessons he ever taught me was you don’t have to make an entire movie. The idea is to lay one perfect brick down at a time.
WS: It’s like The Great Wall of China. While it’s too intimidating to say, “I am going to build The Great Wall of China,” the only thing you should focus on each day is laying one perfect brick down at a time. Then one day when you look back, there will be your great wall.
DC: What did you both learn from each other after making two movies together?
WS: Jaden is very laid back. He always says to me, not that serious bro. He teaches me to take it easy and watch it unfold. I am a very specific and driven person yet in this film I settled back a little bit by allowing myself to surrender into the flow of things. I tried not to orchestrate every single thing.
DC: Will, in the film you say to Jaden’s character, "I will guide you, lead you and be here every step of the way." How do you as a parent guide, lead yet at the same time let go a bit as Jaden continues to make a name for himself in film?
WS: That was one of the key reasons of what attracted me to this movie. The parental illusion is I will guide you, lead you and always be there to hold your hand. When you think about that sentence it is a metaphor because we as parents have to let go by allowing our children to get bumps and bruises as they find their way. I love that the concept of how my character Cypher wants to control everything but because he is badly injured he has to let his son go and figure it out. In the film you see how my character hopes the seeds and lessons he planted in his son will flower in his child’s heart so when a challenge does comes up you can’t control your child will know what to do to take care of himself.
DC: Jaden, as your dad begins to pull back a bit what do you take away from the experience of having him by your side?
JS: As a teenage boy I sometimes think I can do this by myself. Yet there were scenes in After Earth where I was by myself. At first I thought I was cool then as soon as the director screamed action I was like, “Wait, where are my mom and dad? I need them.” (laughs). But then much like my character Kitai, who is out in the wilderness all by himself, you are forced to get in a zone, hear your dad’s voice and let it guide you to finding the solution.
DC: Speaking of taking a back seat, Will, you are known for starring in many action films. Yet in this one your character is injured and thereby it’s Jaden who does all of the actions and stunts. How did that make you feel?
WS: It was great for me because as an actor I am always on stage and having fun. My character Cypher forced me to go to a stillness position and disconnect from my emotions. It was really powerful. However, as a 44-year-old actor I probably have another four years where my knees will be working (laughs) so maybe one or two more action movies are in my future.
DC: Jaden, did you ever get scared while making this film?
JS: If it is the first day of shooting, yes but that tends to go away once shooting gets underway. What really gets me scared is when there are poisonous snakes around, monkeys or other strange animals you see in this movie.
WS: Let’s just say there were some questionable parenting issues we had to address.
DC: Because this film takes place in the future, how do you get into character when the story revolves something you can’t relate to?
WS: The main thing is research. Find someone who is like your character and then follow them around by watching their every move. When I did Ali I learned how to box and then I studied Muhammad Ali’s voice.
DC: Will, how do you separate yourself from being actor to a role model father?
WS: Being a father is the most important and terrifying job I have. What I teach my children will lay down the ground work for the people they will one day become. I want them to lead by the example I set forth. I only hope the choices, decisions and things I do are the right ones in terms of presenting a positive example.
DC: Jaden, aside from building a successful film career you are also branching out to other business ventures.
JS: I just put out my first album called, The Cool Café and head up a clothing line called, MSFtS.
DC: How would you describe your style?
JS: I look at clothing and style as art, expressing who you are.
WS: A lot of style should come from what you feel. It is just about being yourself and not caring what other people think about it.
DC: Would you as a family all team up together on the silver screen?
JS: I think we should.
WS: We have been talking about it a lot especially since Jaden is 14, Willow is 12 and my other son Trey is 20. The time to getting everyone together is now, before they all grow up.