Hollywood Movies

Stockard Channing Recalls Lovelorn Will Smith on ‘Six Degrees’

March 27, 20242 Mins Read

Will Smith may have fallen in love with Stockard Channing on the set of 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation, but Channing only felt “motherly” to the rising star, who was 23 and a newly married, first-time father at the time.

Channing — who earned an Oscar nomination playing a New York socialite who connects with a young con artist played by Smith in the film — opened up about working with the rising star in a new episode of The Hollywood Reporter‘s It Happened in Hollywood podcast.

“He made a lot [of money] from his music, or even Fresh Prince [of Bel-Air],” Channing said. “Because I remember we talked about it.” Despite his massive success in music and TV at a young age, “there was no big shot stuff at all” about Smith, she said.

“He had a real survival instinct in him,” Channing added, “which was completely perfect for the part. [There was a] genuine charm and a lovely sweetness about him.”

Prior to taking on the role of Paul — who convinces Channing’s Ouisa and her husband, Flan (Donald Sutherland), that he attends Harvard with their children and is the son of Sidney Poitier — Smith flew to London with the film’s director, Fred Schepisi, to see Channing play Ouisa in the stage version of Six Degrees. “We went out to dinner afterwards,” recalled Channing, “and that was it.”

There was an instant “chemistry” between the two actors when filming began in New York City in February 1992, Channing recalled. “[It was] just natural and easygoing.”

In Smith’s 2021 memoir Will, the actor wrote of being newly married to then-wife Sheree Zampino and a new father to his first son, Trey, as production started up.

“During shooting I fell in love with Stockard Channing,” Smith wrote. “After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to L.A. Our marriage was off to a rocky start. I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard.”

For her part, “there was nothing that was between me and him. I felt very motherly towards him. I liked him a lot. He was absolutely adorable. Just a sweetheart,” Channing told It Happened in Hollywood host Seth Abramovitch.

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