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Jada Pinkett Smith Reveals She and Will Smith Have Been Separated Since 2016

The actress/podcaster also told the Today Show that she initially thought Will's Chris Rock slap was "a skit."

Jada Pinkett Smith Reveals She and Will Smith Have Been Separated Since 2016

Jada Pinkett Smith on 'TODAY.'

Courtesy Photo

In a preview of an upcoming primetime special, Jada Pinkett Smith reveals that she and husband Will Smith have been separated since 2016 after the couple became “exhausted with trying” to keep their marriage together. The interview with Hoda Kotb, “Jada’s Story — An NBC News Special” will air on Friday (Oct. 13) at 8 p.m ET on NBC.

Pinkett Smith is doing press to promote her upcoming memoir, Worthy (out Oct. 17), in which she describes the couple’s split for the first time, writing that they have been living “completely separate lives” for more than seven years. Jada told Kotb that it was not a divorce “on paper,” but it was definitely a divorce in their minds, even as the couple continued to present a united public front.


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The actress, who said she considers herself a “straight talker,” told Kotb that the couple were just “not ready yet” to share their secret. “Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in partnership,” she said in an excerpt of the interview released by NBC. “In regards to how do we present that to people? We hadn’t figured that out.”

Walking through her Baltimore home town, Pinkett Smith said the relationship broke down for a lot of reasons. “I think by the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying,” she said. “I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.” Though Pinkett Smith said she considered a legal divorce, she could never go through with it because she made a promise that there would never be a reason for the couple to split.

“‘We will work through whatever,'” she told herself. “And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”

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Jada and Will were married in 1997, with son Jaden born a year later, followed by daughter Willow in 2000. Pinkett Smith said they are still living apart and at present do not plan on getting divorced.

The couple has been dogged by rumors for years, including a persistent one that they were in an “open marriage,” a topic Pinkett Smith addressed in 2013 during a HuffPo Live event when she said, “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay.’ Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I’m here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be and that’s not for me to do for him. Or vice versa.”

After backlash, Pinkett Smith responded in a Facebook post in which she said, “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship… this means we have a GROWN one.” Those persistent rumors popped up again in 2020 when Pinkett Smith, 52, invited singer and family friend August Alsina on to her “Red Table Talk” show to discuss what she dubbed as a romantic “entanglement” that occurred while she and Smith were briefly separated.

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The shocking revelation of the Smith’s separation has added heft in light of her Oscar-winning estranged husband storming the stage at the 2022 Oscars and violently smacking Chris Rock across the face after the comedian made a joke about Pinkett Smith’s bald hairstyle; the actress suffers from alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

Smith famously yelled “keep my wife’s name out your f–in’ mouth!” during an incident that got the star banned from all Academy events for 10 years after he collected a best actor Oscar later in the night for his work in King Richard.

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In a People magazine interview promoting the book, Pinkett Smith said she hasn’t talked to Rock since the March 27, 2022 incident. “[Do I have] any desire to talk to Chris? Here’s my desire: I just hope that all the misunderstanding around this can be cleared up and that there can be peace,” she told the magazine.

“I talk about this in the book, I think that there might be some misunderstanding between Chris and I as far as the 2016 Oscars,” she said of Jada’s support for the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite protest that called for a boycott of the show over the lack of Black representation in its nominations that year; Pinkett Smith lent her support after Will was not nominated for his role in the football drama Concussion. “I that he might’ve taken offense, which I meant no harm in offending. That wasn’t my intention. But I do think that there’s a big misunderstanding there.”

Host Rock made some jokes about Pinkett Smith in his monologue that year and in his Selective Outrage stand-up special earlier this year he said that she had suggested back then that he should give up the hosting slot out of solidarity with the movement. She now says she may not have recognized the “level of pressure [Chris] might’ve been under” back then and that she should have called him to see how he was feeling.

Pinkett Smith said Rock later called her to apologize, which allowed her to say she was sorry to him as well. “So I actually thought that we were good, that the hatchet was buried between us. And we hadn’t talked since then, until 2022 came,” she said, revealing that right after the slap Rock came down to the front of the stage during a pause in the broadcast and tried to apologize to her. Pinkett Smith also told People that at first she thought the stage slap was “a skit” before realizing that the violence was real.

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“He said, ‘I didn’t mean you any harm.’ I said, ‘I can’t talk about this now, Chris. This is some old s—,'” she recalled of what Rock said to her after the attack. “I thought this was [about] the Oscar 2016 and … their stuff that they had before I even came into the picture in the late ‘80s. I’ve got to leave that to Will and Chris to talk about, but they got their stuff for sure.”

From where Pinkett Smith was sitting, she said she couldn’t tell if 6’2″ Smith had struck the comedian, “because, number one, I’d seen Will in the boxing ring with pro fighters — Will’s a heavy-hitter. So when Chris moved, it looked like he ducked or he missed the shot. And when he continued to stand, and then when he continued to walk down to the end of the stage, I was like, ‘There’s no way. There’s no way that Will hit him.'”

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It wasn’t until later, she said, that she realized the smack was real. “I was in as much of a fog as anybody else in that room that night,” she said.

Adding even more drama to the story, Pinkett Smith dropped yet another bombshell, saying that Rock once asked her out on a date during a period when there were reports that she and Will were getting divorced.

“And this particular summer, Chris, he thought that we were getting a divorce,” she said of the nearly annual reports of trouble in the Smith marriage. “So he called me and basically he was like, ‘I’d love to take you out.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Well, aren’t you and Will getting a divorce?’ I was like, ‘No. Chris, those are just rumors.’ He was appalled. And he profusely apologized and that was that.”

This article originally appeared on Billboard U.S.

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