Born Willard Christopher Smith Jr. on Oct. 25, 1968, in Philadelphia, Smith grew up amidst the middle classes, his mother serving on the school board and his father owning a refrigeration company, installing and maintaining freezer cabinets in supermarkets. The second of four children (the younger Harry and Ellen are twins), Will was a bright child, constantly playing upon his natural charm, a habit which, at Philly’s legendary Overbrook High School, earned him the nickname Prince.
The Smiths were a Baptist family, yet Will would attend a Catholic school. His neighbourhood was half populated by Orthodox Jews, and close by was a strongly Muslim area. School was 90 percent white, but 90 percent of Smith’s playmates were black. He learned how to be liked by everyone.