is opting to get personal over political on her new Facebook Watch series “Red Table Talk.”
“I was drawn to this project for personal growth and expansion. I feel like there’s so much political conversation and more people talking about what they’re feeling about external things than what they’re feeling on the inside. There’s not enough conversation about [the latter],” Pinkett Smith tells Variety. “I just want to dive into issues of the heart.”
In order to discuss everything from motherhood to sex to loss, Pinkett Smith, her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and her daughter, Willow Smith, invite viewers into the Smith family home — literally. The show is filmed in their house, which Pinkett Smith admits made her think a lot about “where the cameras were going to be allowed to be” in addition to how deep she was going to get in shedding a public persona to really open her life up to the viewers.
“For me, what it’s about is to create and fortify safe space and have really unfiltered conversations because right now, in this day and age, the world is changing so much, and we’re trying to figure out how we can change with it, what do our relationships look like, how are we supposed to be parenting our kids, what does it mean to be a woman?” Pinkett Smith says. “Now we have so many options — so many freedoms — and there are so many ideas that need to expand and grow. So really for us it was just creating a place where we have permission to talk through that and giving permission for others to do the same.”
One episode that hit particularly close to home was the one centered on loss. Pinkett Smith shares that on the day they were shooting she got a phone call about a friend’s passing. “That was hard, but the show had to go on,” she says. “It was really interesting, sitting at the table with that rawness.” What kept her going was just how much other people’s stories have helped her in the past and how she knew this show — and her stories — could be that for someone else.
The three women serve as hosts of the 10-episode series that streams on Mondays starting May 7 and are also going to do a Facebook Live portion of the show every Wednesday as a way to interact with their audience.
“We just wanted to be organic — whatever the topic calls for,” Pinkett Smith says. “We didn’t ease in [with any topics], but the live shows may give us a chance to clarify some of the things we talked about.”
Pinkett Smith notes that the level of engagement Facebook Watch offers is why she wanted to do the show on such a platform in the first place. “Finding the right producerial partner was important to help communicate the show the way I wanted to,” she says of not only Facebook but also Ellen Rakieten, an executive producer on “Red Table Talk.”
But these three women won’t be the only ones chiming in. Pinkett Smith shares that season 1’s guests include Tiffany Haddish, Gabrielle Union, and her husband Will Smith’s first wife, Sheree.
“Our first episode is me talking with Sheree about us co-parenting together and what our journey’s been like in that experience — what my mother thought about having her at Christmas, what Willow thought about [it],” Pinkett Smith reveals.
While Pinkett Smith says each episode is focused on conversations about internal struggles and serve as opportunities for “personal growth,” she notes that occasionally hot news topics get brought into the discussion as well.
When Union was on, for example, the episode served not only as a “reconciliation show” for the women, who Pinkett Smith reveals “hadn’t talked for 17 years and we didn’t know why,” but also as a chance to discuss the #MeToo movement.
“We talk about her involvement in [that],” Pinkett Smith says, “and what we as African-American women in Hollywood are relating to that movement.”
It is a conversation Pinkett Smith hopes to be able to continue, either through the live shows or with future taped episodes in a second season.
“To me, all of these movements are geared towards us redefining what it is to be a woman and hopefully getting to a place where it can be an autonomous definition — because not every woman is the same,” she says. “I just feel like these movements are moving us into the direction of each individual woman having to ask herself what does it mean to be a woman for her? There’s no one answer.”