When Jada Pinkett Smith launched her Facebook Watch show Red Table Talk last May, she considered it more of a hobby than anything else. She was already having conversations about topical issues like mental health and abusive relationships with family, friends, and her own Facebook community. So building a show around that concept co-starring her daughter Willow and her mother Adrienne Banfield Norris–shot in the Smith family home, no less–seemed like a simple side gig to add to her career as an actor and producer.
That is until Red Table Talk caught fire.
Since its debut, Red Table Talk‘s 23 episodes have pulled in more than 275 million views combined, making it one of Facebook Watch’s most successful shows to date. But it’s not just the views–it’s the engagement around the topics that has inspired people to create spin-off Red Table Talk groups in Tennessee, Virginia, California, and beyond–and it’s pushed Smith to adjust her priorities.
“I did not expect this kind of response and this kind of success with Red Table Talk, but it’s the one [part of my career] that I’m most passionate about,” she says. “I was looking at this to be more for, like, a hobby. It’s taken the forefront–this is the thing I want to do.”
What pulled Smith in is the fact that she’s been able to foster a forum focused on black women at a time when they need it the most. Red Table Talk has tackled the victim-blaming that grew out of Lifetime’s damning docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. Smith has openly discussed her own family’s history of depression and addiction. There was even an episode calling out the racial divide specifically between white and black women.
In this two-part Red Table Talk special, Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow sit down with R. Kelly accuser Lisa Vanallen as she shares details of her decade-long ordeal with the R&B singer.
Posted by Red Table Talk on Friday, January 11, 2019
“I think people, in their own lives, are wanting a safe place where they can put the mask down and just go, ‘Okay, can I just have a real conversation?'” Smith says. “Specifically black women, I don’t think that we have a lot of open forums where we feel safe enough to be vulnerable. That’s part of my work on Red Table Talk for me, specifically as Jada, is being okay and embracing that more vulnerable side of myself because usually in the public I have given more of the harder shell Jada. It’s taken me many, many years to get to that place and to also show the beauty of vulnerability.”
Smith says she’s in talks to expand Red Table Talk globally, with different families talking about important issues within their culture. She’s also considering taking Red Table Talk on the road for live shows. Red Table Talk has filled an underserved audience’s need and has allowed Smith to flex a different creative muscle.
“It’s what I enjoy most,” Smith says. “In this part of my life, it’s like just do what you love.”