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Will Smith ‘couldn’t handle’ Jada Pinkett Smith’s close friendship with the late Tupac Shakur

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith at last year's premiere of “Gemini Man” at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. (Phil McCarten/Invision/AP) (Phil Mccarten/Invision /AP)

Will Smith “couldn’t handle” the close friendship his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, once shared with the late Tupac Shakur, the actor confessed in a recent interview with Power 105.1′s “The Breakfast Club.”

Smith’s admission isn’t what we’re used to hearing from either half of the famous couple, whose 22-year marriage has long been the source of rumors (namely, that they are in an open relationship). The pair addressed that speculation in a 2018 episode of Jada’s Emmy-nominated Facebook Watch show, “Red Table Talk,” where Smith recalled an explosive 2011 fight that forced them to reevaluate their approach to lifetime commitment.

“We broke up within our marriage and got back together again,” he said. “And had to rebuild with new rules, and something way, completely different.”

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Smith echoed those comments in his “Breakfast Club” interview, which aired Monday. “We’ve been wildly tested. We have tested each other,” Smith told the show’s hosts. “We have tested our commitment to the partnership. We’ve tested our commitment to our family.

“There’s a certain amount of, let’s say, battery that you have to subject each other to in order to know that you’re really down,” he added.

The conversation then turned specific as Charlamagne tha God asked whether Smith had been “jealous of the love Jada had for Tupac.”

“Yeah,” Smith said, preceding his confirmation with an expletive. “That was in the early days.”

Smith explained that he “could never open up to interact with Pac” out of insecurity over the close bond Jada shared with the late rapper, whom she met while attending high school at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

“They grew up together and they loved each other,” Smith said, noting that Jada’s relationship with the slain rapper was platonic. “She just loved him, like, he was the image of perfection. But she was with the ‘Fresh Prince.’ ”

Will and Jada met on the set of the NBC sitcom in 1994, and began dating the following year as the actor prepared to divorce his first wife (their blended family is also the subject of a “Red Table Talk” episode). Meanwhile, the contention between Smith and Shakur was so intense, the actor recalled they wouldn’t even speak to each other. “We were in the room together a couple of times,” he recalled. “I couldn’t speak to him. And he wasn’t going to speak to me if I wasn’t going to speak to him.”

Jada did not take part in the “Breakfast Club” interview — Smith appeared alongside his “Bad Boys” co-star, Martin Lawrence, ahead of the franchise’s third installment, which hits theaters Friday. But Jada has been similarly open about her and Shakur’s friendship, which endured through the early days of their careers in entertainment. In a 2015 interview with Howard Stern, Jada recalled falling out with the rapper before he was killed at age 25 in a drive-by shooting.

“It definitely taught me a lesson, which is life is too short,” she told Stern. “Do not let disagreements stand in between you and people that you love and care about.”

Jada has cited Shakur as the reason she took her first film role in “Menace II Society.” The two also guest-starred — as love interests — in a 1993 episode of the beloved sitcom “A Different World.” In an episode of “Red Table Talk” last year, Jada recalled Shakur being somewhat possessive of her despite the platonic nature of their “complex relationship.”

“For him, we were an anchor for each other,” Jada said. “So anytime he felt that anchor was threatened — oh, my God.”

In a 2017 interview with Sirius XM host Sway Calloway, Jada said that her relationship with Shakur began at a difficult time in her life, and that their friendship “was about survival.”

“That’s how it started,” she added. “And I know that most people want to always connect it in this romance thing, but that’s just because they don’t have the story.”

On “The Breakfast Club,” Smith recalled Jada encouraging him to get to know Shakur, insisting that the two entertainers had a lot in common. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

“That was a huge regret of mine,” Smith said. “I couldn’t handle it. I was the soft rapper from Philly. And he was Pac.”

“I was deeply, deeply insecure,” he added. “And I wasn’t man enough to handle that relationship.”


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