“I used to box on my block; that was the thing. My mom would say to get a bike, but we just didn’t have enough for a bike,” Smith tells National Geographic in a visit to his old stomping grounds in Huntersville, N.C. “So I got to my neighborhood grocery store and I said, ‘Get that sweet BBQ.’ I rode my bicycle to the store and I had that sandwich. Two days later, I went back in.”
Smith, 48, and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, 47, started in America’s circuitous road to showbiz fame on the poverty-stricken side of the tracks. They’ve made millions by creating the popular film “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and moviemaking sensation “Bad Boys.” But the couple, whose friendship dates back to childhood, have returned to the way things were in a new video series for National Geographic.
In “Welcome to Earth,” hosted by star and co-executive producer Ridley Scott, the Smiths check out their six most memorable locations (and one hot spot). With stunning photography from the team behind National Geographic Nature, those six spots will blow you away. There’s a visit to Smith’s maternal grandfather’s home in Sweden and to his late sister’s grave in Oakland, Calif. He also picks his sister’s nine-year-old coffin from under a staircase — and will, he promises, never touch it. There’s also a trip to Rio de Janeiro, the journey of another distraught immigrant’s body out of the city and a dramatic flight from Vladivostok on a plane owned by another contributor to the series, British actor Colin Firth. As Smith put it, you don’t go to Rio by RIBADAO.
There’s a tender tête-à-tête with Smith’s adopted daughter Willow. The family also visits the father they never knew: Keith David, the soccer phenom who established the first Boys and Girls Club in Los Angeles. David walks the Smiths past his boyhood home and school, including an empty classroom covered with posters from the ’60s promoting school riots.
“I was a great athlete,” David recalls. “I was a gifted kid. The only thing I didn’t have was my father to hold my hand and yell at me.” Smith is quick to point out how David — who is now a papa to Smith’s 2-year-old son, Trey — would greet his son every morning at school. “When you’re young, you think everything’s yours,” Smith said. “Then you find out, it’s not.”