Monday’s episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch series, “Red Table Talk”, was an especially emotional one, dealing with the topic of domestic violence.
Jada talks to her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, about her relationship with her father, the late Robsol Pinkett, Jr., who died in 2010. Adrienne says Jada’s father physically abused her and was typically drunk during the incidents, including one time when she says he threw her over a banister and left a scar on her back.
Jada replies, “See, I was a violent drunk too, that’s why I had to stop drinking.”
But the 47-year-old actress is later shocked when Adrienne talks about the extent of the abuse she says she received from Jada’s father.
“He gave me a black eye once, and I tried to hide it from Mommy, but she saw it,” Adrienne says, adding that her mother, a social worker, warned her about him the first time she met him. “But I do know when enough gets to be enough, and you gotta get out of there. And I actually ran for my life.”
Adrienne shares that the breaking point came when he arrived at her parents’ house where she and Jada were staying and was angry, and started hitting her while “in a rage.” Adrienne gets emotional when recalling how she ran to a neighbour’s house across the street and yelled for them to get her help. Adrienne left Jada at the house while she stayed with the neighbour, noting that Robsol would never hurt Jada. When the police arrived, Adrienne says she knew the incident was the last straw.
“His addiction — he just wasn’t rational,” Adrienne says. “I feel like once again I’m trying to make excuses for him. And I think that’s what women do. But whatever the reasons were, you have to — at the end of the day — you have to protect yourself.”
Jada breaks down talking about her late father, sharing that he was a “gentle soul” once he got sober and noting that he didn’t have the best upbringing. Jada was forced to pause at this point, as both her mother and her daughter, 18-year-old Willow Smith, comforted her.
“It’s not easy to hear that your parents experienced that together,” she says, as Adrienne notes that she wishes Robsol was still alive to share his side of the story. “Now that I’m older, I have so much more compassion in knowing what he had gone through. You know, ’cause I was pretty harsh on him.”
Jada says that while she’s never had a physically abusive relationship, she’s definitely had her fair share of emotionally abusive relationships. But she does describe one particularly harrowing incident when she pulled a knife on a man she was dating. The actress says he had been drinking and driving at the time, then got “really aggressive” in the car.
“I ran to the house, I had to take my clothes off, I had to take off my heels, and I always travel with a black Russell hoodie and black Russell sweats just in case something pops off,” she recalls. And I remember jumping in that sweatsuit, grabbing a big old knife from the kitchen, and hiding in his son’s room. And I’ll never forget, he came through the back sliding door, like on a creepy creep creep, like he was going to sneak up on me or something like that … I came out of his son’s bedroom and I was like, ‘Don’t come near me.’ And he said the quintessential line you hear in movies all the time, ‘You think I would hurt you? I would never do that to you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I am in trouble.’ I was in trouble.”
Incredibly, she says director Spike Lee saved her from the situation, calling her about his 1996 film “Girl 6 “at the exact moment. Jada then immediately left the relationship and didn’t see him again until after she was already with husband Will Smith. She says they bumped into her ex when she attended a wedding and he was at the same resort.
“Not a bad guy at all, a very sweet guy, but just has those tendencies of violence,” she now reflects. “But that’s all the sign I needed.”
Jada ended the episode on an emotional note, fighting back tears as she shared a message for people suffering from abuse.
“I just wanna say to anybody that is going through any kind of domestic violence, I just hope that this show could give you the courage and the strength and the understanding to know that there’s no reason to be shamed,” she says. “There is help and you deserve better. And we are sending you love and blessings.”
Meanwhile, “Red Table Talk” continues to be a hit thanks to Jada, Adrienne and Willow’s extremely revealing and candid conversations. Watch the video below to see Jada and her mom sound off on the topic of race.