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Jada Pinkett Smith and Sheree Zampino are reflecting on their tumultuous journey to peacefully co-parenting. On the latest episode of Red Table Talk, the duo looks back on the now-unbreakable bond built between them through their relationship with Will Smith.
"We have developed a really nice sisterhood," Jada says of their current relationship. "But it hasn't been easy along the way...sometimes we did have to fake it to make it."
Sheree and the King Richard star were married from 1992 to 1995 and share one child, 29-year-old Trey. Will and Jada married in 1997, and they share two children -- Jaden, 24, and Willow, 21.
As Will details in his deeply personal self-titled memoir, he and Jada met in their 20s and became a couple after the Men in Black actor split from Sheree. The two initially met on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, when Jada was exiting a producer's office following an unsuccessful audition. But it wasn't until much later that the two got a chance to connect, and when they did, they quickly became inseparable.
"My divorce from Sheree wasn’t yet final, so Jada and I decided it would be prudent if we kept our relationship under wraps. (We were both pretty famous, and we felt it just wouldn’t have been a great look.)," he reveals in the book. "The blessed yet unintended consequence was that we spent every single moment together, just us. The first three or four months were as wild a romantic whirlwind as our bodies could have possibly handled."
In the new episode, Jada notes that when she and Will married and she became the stepmother to Trey, the notion of blending families without a "blueprint" quickly presented its challenges.
"For me, it really was just about maturity," she explains. "Not understanding the marital dynamic. Like, 'OK, if divorce papers are sent and people are over it, then this is done.' Guess what? It ain't never done…So that was my biggest misconception -- that this woman is part of this family."
The 51-year-old actress admits that looking back, she realizes that she crossed several boundaries early on in her relationship with Will -- specifically recalling an incident when she tried to speak to Sheree about Trey's behavior. "I can remember some times that I really crossed the line," Jada shares. "It was a lot of intertwining and it got kind of messy."
Sheree concedes that the action was "out of line" but gave Jada grace at that point because "you didn't mean any harm. You were like, ‘Listen, we gotta get him right.'"
But the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star wasn't without her own moments! Jada recalled a time when Sheree overstepped boundaries by "marching in" and "looking around" at Jada and Will's master bedroom during a visit.
"It was early on," Jada recalls, noting that both of them were "very fiery" at that time. "I think you were just trying to, like, 'I just need you to know who Queen Bee is around here'...She marched all up and in that house."
Now, the duo are such close friends that Jada openly admits that she "never" gets upset at how much Sheree and Will "enjoy each other."
"It's fun for me to watch them enjoy each other. It takes time though," the Girls Trip star says, making sure to clarify that the trio is not a throuple.
Sheree shared how a conversation changed her perspective of Jada, saying, "I remember you coming to me, and you were teary, you were very emotional and you said, 'I just didn't know.' And basically what you were saying is, 'I was in the picture too soon.' And you apologized for that."
Recalling how she was recently in a similar situation, Sheree noted that nobody is "really in their right mind to start making permanent decisions in the midst of something" and thanked Jada for her apology. "You've always been one to, like, you know, 'Ree, I done missed it. Forgive me.' And we were able to move on."
"Yeah. I think we were able to have difficult conversations. We were always able to own up," Jada notes, adding that the pair knew "it was gonna take the two of us."
The unifying element was their common goal, Sheree points out. "Coming into this, doing the blended thing, my only requirement was that you treated my son well," she tells Jada. "You did that. And your heart was always right towards him, wanting the best for him."
"I'm not gonna say that it's easy. I think early on my heart is always my child. My child comes first," Sheree said. "So, it's not about me anymore. We're not together [meaning Sheree and Will]. It's about him. Then Jaden comes along, then Will's got these babies. So, how do we do this where we honor them and put them first and we don’t deprive them of any good thing? [The] good thing being the relationships they have with each other. The relationship they have with me. The relationship my son has with Jada, you know?"
"When you have a mutual respect it becomes easier. When you take yourself out of the way, like, it’s not about me," Sheree explained. "It’s about him, and my thing was, with Jada, it was like, ‘As long as she treats him well, we’re good. We’re good.' And she’s treated him well and she’s loved him. Sometimes moms get jealous. It’s like, 'I’m getting jealous over another woman because she’s treating my child right?’ What?! That’s insane. Don’t you want her to treat your child right? It could be worse. Think of the flip side of that. It could be horrible. If the new wife or the new girlfriend is treating this baby right, you shouldn’t have any problems. Really, what’s the problem? It’s not rocket science. It's not hard. That part of it is not hard."
But there have been challenges, and Sheree admitted they've bumped heads from time to time.
"You got three different dynamics, three different personalities and different belief systems, different way of doing things," she said. "And there were times where we have bumped heads and it hasn’t been pretty. But listen, we get back on that horse and we press on. We do what we have to do because again, at the end of the day, it’s about the kids. We have a responsibility to them."