As most know, Six Degrees of Separation was a very important film for Will Smith. It wasn’t only one of Smith’s first movies, but he also genuinely fell in love with his co-star Stockard Channing while filming. But the love he had for Channing affected him so much that he avoided starring in romcoms for years partially because of it.
How Will Smith fell in love with Stockard Channing
Smith has been very open about falling for his Six Degrees of Separation co-star. The actor largely credits his newfound feelings at the time as a case of method acting gone wrong. In an interview with Esquire, Smith recalled how exactly he ended up so smitten.
“Six Degrees of Separation, I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character. My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing,” Smith shared.
The connection had gotten so deep that it followed the actor off-set.
“So the movie was over and I went home, and I was dying to see Stockard. I was like, ‘Oh no! What have I done?’” Smith asked himself.
But the incident taught Smith a valuable lesson about himself and the dangers of method acting.
“That was my last experience with method acting, where you’re reprogramming your mind. You’re actually playing around with your psychology. You teach yourself to like things and to dislike things. It is a really dangerous place when you get good at it. But once I had that experience, I was like, No more Method acting,” he said.
It was a decision that would later play a part in him avoiding romantic comedies.
How falling in love with Stockard Channing prevented Will Smith from doing romcoms
Will Smith first jumped into the rom-com genre in the successful 2005 film Hitch. With Smith’s natural charm and positivity, many saw a rom-com as a perfect fit for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum. But Smith explained in an interview with Blackfilm why he’d avoided the genre for so many years before Hitch.
“I had a bit of a mental block against on-screen romance,” Smith shared. “I just couldn’t get comfortable. You know, you’re doing a scene and you’re kissing, kissing, kissing, and then they say ‘cut,’ and you can’t just snatch off when they say ‘cut,’ you know? Because you really have to let your mind go to that space where ‘I’m in love with this person.’”
Smith once again cited his one-sided romance with Channing, describing how hard it was to get over her. It made Smith feel like he wasn’t a good enough actor to draw the line between on-screen romance and reality.
“Six Degrees of Separation, that’s probably the most lost in character that I have ever been,” Smith revealed. “Just I lost my mind in love with Stockard Channing, and I was like, ‘dude, you have got to get your s*** together,’ and I couldn’t shake the character and I was like ‘wow.’ I think part of it, I never actually intellectualized it at the time, but I think part of that was my feeling comfortable that I had not created my skills as an actor enough to draw the line properly.”
Will Smith’s method acting led to troubles in his marriage
In his memoir, Will, Smith went into a bit more detail about how his method acting interfered with his personal life. Mainly, it began to influence his marriage to his first wife Sheree Zampino.
“Sheree and I were in the first few months of our marriage with a brand-new baby, and for Sheree, I can imagine that this experience was unsettling to say the least,” Smith wrote according to Yahoo. “She’d married a guy named Will Smith and now she was living with a guy named [his Six Degrees of Separation character] Paul Poitier.”
The trouble persisted when even after the movie ended, Smith still thought about his co-star.
“After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to LA. Our marriage was off to a rocky start. I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard,” he confided.