Will Smith is a coward.
At least that’s what the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” dynamo-turned-Grammy Award winning musician and Oscar-nominated actor grew up believing about himself.
He admitted as much while documenting his weight loss journey for YouTube Originals miniseries “Best Shape of My Life,” out Monday.
As Smith, 53, set out to shed the more than 20 excess pounds he’d packed on by snacking throughout the pandemic, he also began shedding the weight of the childhood trauma and domestic violence he endured.
“At eight-years-old Will began developing this concept of himself as a coward because he idly witnessed his father abuse his mother,” filmmaker Dexton Deboree told The Post.
“He was the oldest of his siblings, but found himself so paralyzed by the sight of his dad [the late Willard Carroll Smith Sr.] hitting his mom [Caroline Bright, 78] that he couldn’t jump in to save her,” Deboree, 47, added of Smith — who recently revealed that he contemplated killing his father in order to “avenge” his mother shortly before Smith Sr. died of cancer in 2016.
“Will carried the heaviness of not standing up for his mom his whole life,” the filmmaker added. “And it played a role in his weight issues.”
Deboree directed the docudrama chronicling Smith’s physical transformation as he set out to drop “20 pounds in 20 weeks,” with a starting weight of about 224 pounds.
Filming began shortly after the once-chiseled, musclebound megastar shared a half-naked, full-body picture that showcased his abnormally bulging belly and lumpy love handles on Instagram in May.
Smith was writing his memoir, “Will,” out Tuesday, while simultaneously battling the bulge. As he cut back on unhealthy carbs and exercised for up to two hours a day, five days a week, the pangs of his tumultuous past began to surface.
“I’ve worked with Will for almost 10 years now, and I’ve never seen him be as emotional and vulnerable as he was during this ‘Best Shape of My Life’ process,” said fitness trainer Aaron Ferguson, 49. A tearful scene from the series shows a sobbing Smith admit to his mom, wife Jada Pinkett Smith and three adult children that he once considered committing suicide.
“As he was undergoing this intense physical metamorphosis on camera,” Ferguson continued, “he was also peeling back the layers of the personal turmoil he’d been hiding from the world and himself for decades.”
Ferguson, who first began fine-tuning Smith’s physique ahead of his 2015 romance-thriller “Focus,” led the Hollywood honcho in twice-daily strength conditioning and cardio workouts during the making of the documentary.
Their scheduled sweat sessions — complete with dedicated chest, leg, abs, arms, back and rest days — initially took place in the decked-out home gym of Smith’s $11.3 million mansion in Hidden Hills, California.
Then, after only a few weeks of filming, Smith whisked Ferguson, Deboree and the videography team away to Dubai to continue his wellness overhaul overseas.
“Every day we’d get to the track as the sun was rising and do at least a 30-minute jog or a 10-minute mile run,” the exercise guru said. “Every three days we’d do 45-minute interval workout, which meant we’d run a high paced, six-minute mile, then jog a lap at a slower pace, then go back to the six-minute mile and repeat.”
And as Smith neared the 20-week weight loss deadline that he’d set for himself, the extra pounds began melting off.
But, even with the finish line in sight, for Smith, the pressure of letting his emotional guard down, for both the documentary and the memoir, proved to be too much to handle, and he subsequently quit filming.
“Will’s spent his entire life living behind the mask of ‘Will Smith, the vivacious and lovable movie and TV star,’” said Deboree. “But while I was interviewing him for the doc, and forcing him to take that mask off and be his honest, authentic self — something he’s never allowed himself to be in front of the public — he said ‘I’m done’ and walked away.”
But after a 24-hour respite Smith decided to continue recording his physical and emotional evolution.
“My crew and I went to his hotel room the next morning, he let us in and said he needed to hit that emotional wall in order to move forward,” Deboree recalled. “He promised to just go with the flow from that moment on, and we ended up creating this radically powerful and transformational series.”
The filmmaker added: “People are going to watch this and say, ‘If Will Smith can be unapologetically vulnerable and expose his good, bad and ugly truths — even when his public image is at stake — I can do it too.”
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