Will Smith’s Father Gave Him a Piece of Advice That Led to His Success in Rap, TV and Movies

Will Smith‘s father may have given him the key to success. It’s hard to imagine a time when there was any question whether he’d make it. However, his rap career as The Fresh Prince was not a sure thing. His TV show was not a sure thing and it was definitely a question whether movie audiences would accept him as openly as music and television fans did. Smith once said a piece of advice his father gave him kept it all in perspective.

Will Smith raises arms in front of Tokyo fans
Will Smith | Jun Sato/WireImage

On the verge of becoming Mr. 4th of July with Independence Day, Smith spoke with reporters at the film’s 1996 press junket. Asked about his impending crossover prospects, Smith recalled the wise advice of his father, Willard Carroll Smith, Sr.

What happened to Will Smith’s father?

Smith’s father, Willard Caroll Smith, Sr. died of cancer in 2016, 20 years after his son starred in Independence Day. While discussing his first giant outer space special effects blockbuster, Will recalled his father’s advice. This guided him from music to television to film.

Will Smith's father Willard Smith Sr. talks to reporters in Philadelphia
Willard Smith, Sr. | Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

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“I think what my father always made very clear to me is just do one thing well,” Smith said. “Just concentrate and focus. If you do one thing well, everything else will come from that.”

Will Smith did a lot of things well

Smith proved there was more than one thing he could do well. However, focusing on one at a time was the key. When he started rapping, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince went from Gold to multi-Platinum.

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“I started off rapping and I did it as a hobby,” he said. “That’s kind of when you really get good at something. When you enjoy what you do, you’re going to get good at it. I just really concentrated on that and I focused on it.”

Doing more things well 

Perhaps another key to his father’s advice was allowing transitions to happy naturally, without forcing them. By the time Smith auditioned for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, he had already released three albums. So, he was secure in music and then took on a new endeavor.

“And then the television show came from that and I worked really hard,” he said. 

Will Smith sitting in a chair and pointing
Will Smith | Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

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Smith dabbled in movies like Where the Day Takes You, Six Degrees of Separation and Made in America in between Fresh Prince seasons. By the end of the series, he was ready to give movies the same focus he gave music and television. 

“I just think I focus really well,” he said. “I did focus really well on the things that I was doing. Everything’s come from that. The good things come from that. I’m just excited.”