A film role that Will Smith took more than a decade ago is haunting him amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, making him feel responsible for some of the misinformation going around about the disease.
Smith, 51, starred in 2007’s I Am Legend as Dr. Robert Neville, a U.S. Army virologist who believe he is the last human survivor amid a plague that turns people into vampire-like creatures. This week, the actor looked back on the role in a coronavirus-themed episode of his family’s Facebook talk show, Red Table Talk.
“I wanted to do this because in 2008 [sic] I made I Am Legend, so I feel responsible for a lot of the misinformation,” Smith said on the program. “So I wanted us to have the opportunity to go through the basics and bring in the experts.”
His part in the film, Smith said, required research that included a trip to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that made him realize the severe impact a pandemic could have on the healthcare system and society at large.
“There was a basic foundational comprehension of viruses and viral pathogens that I developed,” he said. “It really changed my life and how I looked at the world, and there’s basic concepts that people do not understand.”
Smith went on to provide an example of a hospital being overwhelmed with patients, saying that if “50 people show up in that hospital at one time to get 40 beds, now you have 10 people in critical condition,” which could make the “mortality rate [shoot] through the roof.”
The show went on to feature appearances from experts who explained elements of pandemics and the coronavirus to the family. Daughter Willow, for example, asked guest Dr. Michael Osterholm to explain what a pandemic is, which he explain as a “worldwide outbreak of a new virus or a new bacteria.”
Son Jaden, however, was not part of the program, as Jada Pinkett-Smith explained. The young Smith, she said, was practicing social distancing.
“He has been doing a lot of traveling and his main concern has been about” his grandmother, Pinkett-Smith said. “So he decided to stay indoors and he’s actually following orders.”