Stockard Channing Says ‘Chemistry’ with Costar Will Smith on “Six Degrees of Separation” Was ‘Very Motherly’

Stockard Channing Says ‘Chemistry’ with Costar Will Smith on “Six Degrees of Separation” Was ‘Very Motherly’

While “there was nothing” romantic between Stockard Channing and Will Smith, she remembered her costar in the 1993 film being “just a sweetheart”
Stockard Channing is fondly remembering her time with Will Smith as a costar.

The 80-year-old star recalled on The Hollywood Reporter’s It Happened in Hollywood podcast that she shared immediate “chemistry” with Smith, now 55, when filming 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation.

“I felt very motherly towards him,” said Channing, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her lead performance as Ouisa Kittredge in the movie. “I liked him a lot. He was absolutely adorable, just a sweetheart… natural and easygoing.”
She added that there was “genuine charm and a lovely sweetness about” Smith from the moment they met, when he and film director Fred Schepisi took Channing to dinner after watching her in the U.K. stage version of Six Degrees.

One of his first major film roles after finding success with DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince and long-running sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Six Degrees screen adaptation cast Smith as Paul, a con artist who enmeshes himself in the lives of an Upper East Side couple (Channing and Donald Sutherland).

“He made a lot [of money] from his music, or even Fresh Prince,” Channing told The Hollywood Reporter. But “there was no ‘big shot’ stuff at all” when it came to her costar, she said. “I remember we talked about it.”

The “real survival instinct in him,” Channing added, “was completely perfect for the part.”
Adapted by John Guare from his hit Broadway play of the same name — which starred Channing and Courtney B. Vance — Six Degrees was inspired by the real-life story of scammer David Hampton, who conned wealthy families by telling them he was the son of Sidney Poitier. The 1993 film costarred Ian McKellen, Mary Beth Hurt, Heather Graham and Bruce Davison.

When asked about Smith’s admission, in his 2021 memoir Will and in interviews, that he had fallen in love with Channing while filming, she clarified that “there was nothing [romantic] that was between me and him.”
The King Richard Oscar winner wrote in his memoir that at the time, his first marriage with Sheree Zampino “was off to a rocky start.” After wrapping Six Degrees, he said, “I found myself desperately yearning to see and speak to Stockard.”

“I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character,” Smith told Esquire in 2015 of the film. “The movie was over and I went home, and I was dying to see Stockard. I was like, ‘Oh no! What have I done?’ ”

Channing has recently appeared on episodes of Julia and Maryland, and will next star in Knuckles. Smith will next reunite with Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys: Ride or Die (in theaters June 7).

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