A Timeline of Will Smith's Career and What's Next After the Oscars Apology

will smith career
credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

This article is part of a brand partnership.

When many of us think of the word celebrity, our minds will be drawn to the mental imagery of flash photography, red carpets, and Hollywood blockbusters. However, it’s fair to say that this is not an accurate depiction of what a celebrity truly is. To be a celebrity is to be well known by a large portion of society, generally based on your actions and career. Countless individuals can be considered celebrities, but very few earn legendary status. These are the types of people whose name is instantly recognized by almost anyone you speak to, and one of these individuals is Will Smith.

Unfortunately, being in the limelight to such a degree can be a blessing and a curse, as people will remember your actions indefinitely, especially your failures. One wrong move and you can find yourself being condemned by those same people in society that once idolized you. One of the most notable events this year was when Will Smith hit Chris Rock, who was presenting at the 2022 Oscars award ceremony. This was instigated when Rock joked about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from hair loss. We wanted to provide a quick rundown of Smith’s career leading up to this critical moment and where his career will go from here.

Early Life And Music


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Keith Pelzer (@keithpelzer)

Will Smith was born in September 1968 in Philadelphia. Growing up, he quickly developed a strong reputation as a quick-witted and charismatic young man with a knack for hip-hop and rap. At the age of 12, he joined forces with friend and classmate Jeffrey Townes, aka DJ Jazzy Jeff, and adopted the Fresh Prince nickname, which he established after being known as Prince Charming during high school. It was at this time that his career began, and just five years later, the two friends would go on to release their first single called “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.” Two years after this, they released “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” which won them a Grammy Award and is the first-ever Grammy to be awarded for a rap song.

The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

After a few more years of music creation, which was notable for its lighter tone and avoidance of harsh lyrics compared to that of other rap artists in the industry, Smith turned his attention to acting. His success in the music industry led to Smith becoming something of an icon to younger audiences, and this success and recognition garnered the attention of TV producers. Understandably, he was given a leading role in a show loosely based on himself, called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show aired in 1990 and ran for six seasons seeing vast amounts of success. Smith also wrote and performed the theme song to the show, which remains an iconic track to date.

From Small To Big Screen


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Men In Black (@meninblack)

During his time on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith picked up a couple of roles on the big screen, too. In 1992, he landed a role in Marc Rocco’s Where the Day Takes You, where he acted alongside Dermot Mulroney, Sean Astin, and Ricki Lake. The film gave him a taste of the movie industry which naturally feels very different from creating and starring in a TV show. This new perspective led to Smith seeking out other roles, only to land his first leading role in the movie Bad Boys in 1995. This iconic action-comedy movie starring Smith alongside Martin Lawrence saw the two playing narcotic detectives in downtown Miami. While the movie wasn’t the most well-received film from a critic’s perspective, it made over $100 million, arguably due to Smith’s status attracting many to see the film. At this point, directors and movie producers began to note just how impactful Smith was.

Becoming A Legend

After this, Smith began landing even bigger roles in blockbuster movies, with serious and comedic tones in equal measure. He went on to star in the sci-fi epic Independence Day with Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman, in which Smith has to save the world after an alien civilization invades it. At this time, in 1996, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran its final season at the behest of Smith, who evidently wanted to focus on this new direction. With his new Hollywood acting career secured, he went on to star in many other roles, making an even bigger name for himself, alongside the finances that come with that status. Will Smith’s net worth today is more than $350 million, and it’s said that he is among the richest in the industry.

The Oscars Incident


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago)

Skipping ahead now to 2022, many will have witnessed the incident at the Oscars this year. This is where Chris Rock, who was hosting the show, made a quip about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, losing her hair. After seemingly laughing the incident off, Smith’s demeanor switched almost instantaneously and he lost his temper, storming onto the stage and slapping Rock across the face. Smith took his seat amidst a shocked audience who appeared to not know whether to laugh or gasp, unsure of whether this was a comedy bit between the two actors. The event’s seriousness was quickly reaffirmed when Will Smith very explicitly told Chris Rock to keep his wife’s name “out of his mouth.” Of course, we’re paraphrasing there.

The Aftermath And Apology


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith)

Shortly after the incident, Smith actually had to go up on stage to accept an award for his recent movie, in which he plays the father of Venus and Serena Williams in the movie King Richard. Smith struggled to keep his composure on stage, evidently affected by what he’d done, and posited that “art imitates life” and that he had acted like the Williams sisters’ “crazy father.” After the poignant speech, Smith faced a multitude of backlash across the world, as well as messages of support. His fanbase was divided, and discourse took place for days following the event. In July, after the dust had well and truly settled, Smith apologized in a video to Chris Rock and his fans via Los Angeles TV station ABC7. He explains that he didn’t apologize on stage because he was “fogged out” and that he had reached out to Chris Rock to discuss the event with him in person, but that Rock was not ready to talk to him. He also took the time to apologize to Chris Rock’s mother and explained how much he didn’t realize how many people were hurt at that moment.

What Is Next For Smith?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Will Smith (@willsmith)

It’s worth remembering that time heals most wounds, and it’s understandable that it took about three months or so for Smith to formally apologize for the events at the Oscars. It’s truly hard to say what will happen in Smith’s career in the future. Most of his time is being taken up by a number of projects that are still underway, most of which he will be producing and a few that he’ll be starring in himself. One of which is the movie Emancipation for Apple TV. The release of this civil war era drama is now uncertain, with Apple refusing to comment on the matter of its release. What is worth noting is that in Smith’s apology video, he promised that he is “deeply devoted and committed to putting light and love and joy into the world” and alludes to the fact that he can make things right again over time.

Feature photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.