Keeping That ‘Organic Flow’
By LEANNE ITALIE, AP Entertainment Writer
Sex, love and loss, self-harm, addiction and recovery: There isn’t much Jada Pinkett Smith, her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her 17-year-old daughter, Willow, aren’t willing to talk about around a shiny round red table in a unique Facebook show that has a growing, grateful audience of women.
And that, Pinkett Smith said in a recent interview, is the point.
Pinkett Smith, who has been both TV talk show guest and TV talk show producer, considers “Red Table Talk” intimate, authentic and fluid, a combination difficult to achieve through more traditional channels. The weekly show debuted about a month ago on Facebook Watch and includes live extras like viewer questions and guest appearances by friends and family.
“It’s not about format,” she said. “I want to keep that organic flow. I don’t want anything to be forced.”
It certainly doesn’t feel that it is as the three generations venture into some sensitive territory.
So far, Willow has revealed that she was once a cutter, hated her “Whip My Hair” fame and years ago walked in on her mom and dad, Will Smith, having sex. Pinkett Smith said she herself was 9 when her grandmother filled her in on the wonders of masturbation and she later spent a stretch of quality time alone with sex toys, sometimes achieving multiple orgasms in up to five forays in a single day.
Norris, fondly referred to as Gammy, spoke honestly about her past struggles with drug addiction and the pain of losing a daughter. Pinkett Smith and Gabrielle Union shared their 17-year feud and their mending of fences. Pinkett Smith and her husband’s first wife, Sheree Fletcher, went over rockier times raising the now-grown Trey, Will’s son with Fletcher.
Gammy noted she wasn’t always on board with the unconventional freedoms Will and Jada have allowed their kids, including 19-year-old Jaden, who was allowed to move out at age 15.
The idea, Pinkett Smith said, is to testify rather than preach. The former takes courage and is much more helpful, she said.
“We talk so much about what’s happening outside of us and we’re not talking enough about what’s going on within,” said Pinkett Smith, who earlier this week on Instagram paid tribute to the late Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade with the acknowledgement that she has in the past contemplated suicide.
“We’re all up in here going through (stuff). We’re all in pain. We’re all trying to figure it out. For those of us who have figured out even a sliver of all of this, just tell me your story, because maybe I can get an answer for myself. That’s what this show is all about,” she said.
Sharing on such sensitive topics takes “getting to a certain place where you have a deep sense of comfort with yourself,” said Pinkett Smith, who most recently co-starred in the comedy “Girls Trip.”
Control is key, and Facebook is just the place to keep it loose, she said.
The show is an outgrowth of an online Mother’s Day video the three made when Willow was just 12. Pinkett Smith’s producing partner, Ellen Rakieten, with Miguel Melendez, was the one to suggest they revive it. Facebook is committed to 10 episodes, but it’s possible the run will be extended.
“I just wanted a place where people could have the comfort level to talk about real things, where you can really have a raw conversation, with a transparent nature, and not have to worry,” Pinkett Smith added. “Facebook creates a certain intimacy and community. I can go into Facebook and actually talk to people.”
The show has a separate Facebook group with nearly 280,000 members where regular conversations and those interactions are happening. Their premiere trip to the red table, which is in Pinkett Smith’s California home, has been viewed about 27 million times. The latest episode, which aired this week, has been watched 4 million times — so far. The show airs Mondays and question sessions on Wednesdays.
“I love being able to go in an actually talk to people,” Pinkett Smith said. “Our community is growing every day and I’m a part of it and actually in it. That’s what I love. We love the female communion, where young people and older people can learn from each other. It feels like an old-school women’s ritual, whether it’s in the kitchen cooking and talking or somewhere else. That’s hard to come by these days.”