How Will Smith Surpassed Martin Lawrence


“Bad Boys” has to be one of my all-time favorite movies.  It had action, adventure and comedy; everything a thirteen year old boy could want in a summer blockbuster.  When it first came out, I think I saw it three times in the movie theater. It starred two of my favorite actors at the time, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.  Not only was it an awesome movie it served as an example of a valuable lesson.  Not so much the movie but the actors themselves.

When the movie came out Martin Lawrence and Will Smith were both at the height of their respective careers. Both had prior success in different fields; Martin in stand-up comedy and Will in music.  Will was the first rapper to win a Grammy while Martin was the host of “Def Comedy Jam” and the most popular comedian at the time.  Both had hit TV shows; Martin in the so named “Martin” and Will in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”  Business aside, they were both going through divorces in their personal lives.  They may have been on the same movie set but they were literally at the same place at the same time.  As a kid, I thought the director of the movie Michael Bay was a genius to put these two forces together.

The movie was a huge hit and further elevated the two stars careers.  Just as I noticed the similarities of Martin and Will during the making of “Bad Boys,” I also noticed the differences after.  Will went on to have a huge career. He was nicknamed Mr. Fourth of July because he had a string of summer blockbusters that came out around the July fourth holiday.  He later remarried to actress Jada Pinckett and had two more children who would later go on to become famous stars in their own right.  Will went on to become one of the highest paid and most respected actors in the business. He was even nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in the movie “Ali.”

Martin on the other hand seemed to implode.  He had tension on his show with his co-star, he was banned from NBC after making lewd remarks during his opening monologue while hosting Saturday Night Live.  He even had a public meltdown, waving a gun in the air on a busy highway in Los Angeles.

As a teenager the similarities and differences of Martin Lawrence and Will Smith always intrigued me.  I wondered how two people with similar trajectories can go on to live totally different lives?  How did Will Smith surpass Martin Lawrence?

A few years later I saw an interview by Will Smith that would answer my question.  In the interview Will explained how he decided he wanted to be the biggest movie star in the world.  He sat down with his manager and researched all the highest grossing movies of all time and looked for a pattern.  Will discovered that at that time the highest grossing movies were all sci-fi movies which had aliens in its plot – think “Star Wars” and ”E.T.”  Armed with this information, he purposely accepted movie roles which were in the sci-fi genre and had built aliens into its plot – “Men in Black,” “Independence Day anyone?

Astonishing I thought.  He had a goal, he had a plan, and he executed.  That is why he had a different outcome.

My observation of the two actors reminded me of a lesson I learned a few years earlier at my elementary school graduation.  As I sat in the audience, I saw my friend Maria give her speech as class valedictorian.  As I listened to my friend, I secretly wished it was me giving the speech. My mom who was sitting next to me, probably sensed my growing envy and leaned over to me and said in a loving way “that could have been you.”  What my mom was saying was Maria was not better or smarter than me.  After all, we both started school the same day, had the same exact classes, teachers, and work load.  Maria had simply outworked me.  She deserved to win.

We all have the same twenty four hours in a day.  What we do with that time will dictate the lives in which we have.  If you want your life to be exceptional you have to work exceptionally hard to get it.

You get out what you put in.

Jay Will


This post is not in any way meant to demean Martin Lawrence.  I do appreciate and acknowledge his contribution to comedy and he still remains one of my favorite comedians of all time.  


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