In his yet-to-be-released “Will” memoir, Will Smith opened up about his complex relationship with his father and a moment in his life where he contemplated killing him because of a traumatic childhood experience.
In the excerpts that were shared by PEOPLE, the 53-year-old rapper and actor recalled how a domestic violence incident involving his father and mother crucially impacted his life and made him vindictive towards his namesake William Carroll Smith Sr.
“When I was nine years old, I watched my father punch my mother in the side of the head so hard that she collapsed. I saw her spit blood. That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am,” he writes.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star said that act of violence he witnessed had a significant influence on his personal life and career. He also added he carried some guilt along the way.
“Within everything that I have done since then — the awards and accolades, the spotlights and attention, the characters and the laughs — there has been a subtle string of apologies to my mother for my inaction that day. For failing her at the moment. For failing to stand up to my father. For being a coward,” he writes.
He adds: “What you have come to understand as ‘Will Smith,’ the alien-annihilating MC, the bigger-than-life movie star, is largely a construction – a carefully crafted and honed character – designed to protect me. To hide me from the world. To hide the coward.”
The King Richard actor’s parents divorced in 2000, but they went their separate ways when he was a teenager. And though Smith and his father remained close, he said the memory of that violent incident remained in his head. And the thought of seeking revenge against his father came again several years later while he was caring for him after he was diagnosed with cancer.
“One night, as I delicately wheeled him from his bedroom toward the bathroom, darkness arose within me. The path between the two rooms goes past the top of the stairs. As a child, I’d always told myself that I would one day avenge my mother. That when I was big enough when I was strong enough when I was no longer a coward, I would slay him.”
He continues: “I paused at the top of the stairs. I could shove him down and easily get away with it. As the decades of pain, anger, and resentment coursed then receded, I shook my head and proceeded to wheel Daddio to the bathroom.”
Smith’s father passed away in 2016. And despite his violent nature, Smith explained his father was a family man. “My father was violent, but he was also at every game, play, and recital. He was an alcoholic, but he was sober at every premiere of every one of my movies,” he writes. “He listened to every record. He visited every studio. The same intense perfectionism that terrorized his family put food on the table every night of my life.”
“Will” will hit the shelves on November 9.