everett collection Will Smith and Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation
Will Smith is sharing a more vulnerable side of himself in his new memoir Will, including how he “fell in love” with his Six Degrees of Separation costar Stockard Channing during his first marriage.
Smith — who had just welcomed son Trey with his then-wife Sheree Zampino — remained in character even while off the set of the 1993 film. As his romantic feelings for Channing grew, their relationship remained professional, the star writes.
“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,” writes Smith, 53, in his memoir, which will go on sale on Nov. 9 and is exclusively excerpted in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “She’d married a guy named Will Smith and now she was living with a guy named Paul Poitier,” his character’s name in the movie. “And to make matters worse, during shooting I fell in love with Stockard Channing.
“After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to L.A,” the actor and singer continues. “Our marriage was off to a rocky start. I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard.”
There are many such complicated and nuanced stories in Will. It’s a candid look at Smith’s often-difficult childhood; the end of his relationship with Zampino, 53; his 23-year marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith, 50; and his journey as a father to Trey, 29, Jaden, 23, and Willow, 21. Despite his decades of success across the film and music industries, Smith writes that he treasures his personal relationships the most. “To love and to be loved is the highest human reward,” he writes.
The Six Degrees scene in Will is not the first time he’s opened up about his feelings for Channing. In a sit-down interview with Esquire in February 2015, Smith talked about the “dangers” of method acting.
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“With Six Degrees of Separation, I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character,” he told the magazine. “My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing.”
“Will Smith the human being did?” asked Esquire reporter Scott Raab.
Phil Mccarten/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Will Smith
“Will Smith. 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 told Esquire. “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.”
He continued: “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. I was spending—for Six Degrees, I wanted to perform well so badly that I was spending six and seven and eight days in character before shooting, and you have to be careful with that.”
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When asked about the story a couple of weeks later, Channing told Page Six that she was “flattered.”
“Well, I’m very flattered,” Channing told the outlet at a “Six Degrees of Stockard Channing” event in March 2015. “That’s a wonderful thing . . . I adored him from the first time I laid eyes on him because I thought he was genuinely sweet. I felt very protective of him, because it was his first big job. It’s amazing for me to hear that he felt that way, I’m delighted.”