Will Smith, whose three-pronged career encompasses rap music, television, and movies, is concentrating on the silver screen these days.
He's starring in a new film, Enemy of the People, as a man in the wrong place at the wrong time who must rely on a former intelligence agent (played by Gene Hackman) to survive. The movie also stars Jon Voight.
"I was petrified," says Smith.
Smith, 30, says he used his background in the music business to help prepare for his scenes, psyching himself up with loud music, dancing, and sometimes screaming.
"It looks a little weird," he says, "but it works for me, just that psyched-up thing. I just don't give myself a chance to even think about being anything less than great."
While it was Smith's comedic talents that helped launch the sci-fi fantasies Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997) into the stratosphere, Smith is seeking recognition in more serious roles.
"I didn't want to just be the 'July 4th alien guy.' I've been so far beyond my dreams for so long, there's not really a specific place that I want to go," he explains. "I just want everything that I'm involved with to be good."
Smith became famous as one half of the rap team DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. They released their first album, Rock the House, in 1987. Smith moved on to series television in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which debuted in 1990 and continued for six seasons. In 1998, he won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance.
The honors he has received run the gamut from a 1997 MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss Performance (with Vivica Fox in Independence Day) to a 1993 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Six Degrees of Separation.
In his personal life, Smith has been married for nearly a year to actress Jada Pinkett. Mondale asked him if he has any secrets on how to find true love.
"You got to put in the time," he says. "You got to think about it. You got to ask for help when you need help. You got to conceptualize how you're going to make the next day better than the last dayÂ… You have to look at it as you look at your work. It's something that's not going to just be there that you can take for granted."
Smith has two sons, five-year-old Willard C. Smith III (nicknamed Trey) from a previous marriage, and four-month-old Jaden with Pinkett.
Smith's next project is a film based on the life of Muhammad Ali. Smith, who plans to play the boxer from a young man to his later years, says he hopes to do the Raging Bull thing and gain 30 pounds for the role, as Robert De Niro did to play Jake LaMotta.