Jada Pinkett Smith's 'Red Table Talk' blew up on Facebook, so now, Gloria Estefan's family is creating a spinoff
Jada Pinkett Smith's "Red Table Talk" is getting a few more place settings — in the form of a spinoff featuring singer Gloria Estefan.
She is joined by her musician daughter, Emily Estefan, and niece Lili Estefan on "Red Table Talk: The Estefans." The new series, which premiered last week on Facebook Watch, follows Smith's blueprint pretty closely: three generations of women having frank and insightful conversations about difficult and often emotional topics. In the premiere, Lili — whom many will recognize as the co-host of Univision's long-running entertainment talk show "El Gordo y la Flaca" — discussed the pain she went through during her very public divorce.
Subsequent episodes cover subjects such as grief and sexuality, and guests include actress Kate del Castillo; social media star Lele Pons; Gloria's husband and longtime collaborator, Emilio Estefan; and various experts.
But the Estefans, who are Cuban American, say there are a few things that will set their show apart, including music, of course, and some Spanish (the show is in English, but all of the women are bilingual).
The hosts talked to The Washington Post about the most challenging topics they tackle in their forthcoming season, the advice they got from Pinkett Smith and more. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What made you want to do a talk show? And what was appealing about the "Red Table Talk" format?
Gloria: Through the years, they've asked me to host a gazillion different talk shows. I had always turned it down because of the time constraint. The right thing never came about.
When I watched this amazing, groundbreaking show that Jada did on Facebook Watch, I thought if I ever were to do this — and this is before I even knew they were going to invite us — this would be the kind of thing I would do because you're free to talk. There's not, like, "OK, commercial," "OK, three-minute sound bite," and you can't expound upon things.
When I asked (Emily and Lili), they were super excited about it. And secretly, I just wanted to spend more time with them. (Laughs)
Q: How will "Red Table Talk: The Estefans" be different from the original?
Gloria: We're immigrants, No. 1. So that brings a different way of looking at things. (Emily was) born here, but she's still Cuban American. We're also part-Lebanese. Well, not me — by osmosis now, I'm Lebanese. But (Emily and Lili's paternal) grandfather was Lebanese. So we have different things to talk about, different ways of looking at things. And we wanted to bring that experience to the table.
Q: Did you get to spend time with Jada? Did she give you any advice that you took to heart?
Lili: She invited us (to the "Red Table Talk" set) months back, before the pandemic. We went to be present while she was doing one of the shows. We learned a lot. We were in the control room, we sat at the table. We spent time with her.
Emily: Her show was kind of a master class. We definitely feel comfortable doing our own thing. But she laid such an incredible foundation and example that we often said to each other, 'You know, we have to do this right and do it justice and let it all out.' There was an element of nervousness that I feel like we usually don't experience in our careers, because when you're onstage, even if your guitar burns up into pieces, you've got to act like everything's fine.
Q: Were there any episodes of the original "Red Table Talk" that stuck with you as you were filming?
Lili: The time where she sat down with Will Smith's ex-wife. And my understanding is that was the first real conversation they had. The way they both learn things from each other, from the ex-wife to the now-wife, and how they had to handle Will's son (with his ex-wife) — for me, that was incredible. I'm like, "How the heck did she have the guts to sit and do this?" And I think a lot of people learned from that.
Emily: When she and Will were speaking openly about their relationship. It's so intimate to open up and say, "I realize that I was doing this for the wrong reasons." It's a magnetism to open yourself up and cleanse yourself and say, "If they're growing in this direction, if they're learning, maybe I need to take a step back" — because we idolize people in the public eye, or we think that their life is easier. We're all just human beings.
Gloria: I thought (Pinkett Smith's mother) Gammy opening up about her addiction issues was very powerful. Especially now with the huge opioid crisis that is going on in the country. I'm sure that episode helped a lot of people.
Q: The Smiths have had sort of their big-picture episodes that talk about larger issues, but they've also talked about issues or news that's happening in real time. Are you open to doing that? Have you talked about the possibility that you would be talking about things that were coming up in your own lives or in the news?
Gloria: Absolutely, we're ready for that. These first eight episodes that we've shot — we're kind of introducing ourselves to the world, to make the connection that Jada has already made. But absolutely, we're ready to take on whatever is a good topic to take on, whether it be an evergreen or something that is of the moment.
Lili: I think mental health is going to be one of the (episodes) that is very timely for everybody. We learned so much doing the episode, because people are going through so much with COVID, the pandemic, losing jobs, families. That's one that I think people are going to connect with a lot.
Q: Of the episodes you've taped so far, are there episodes you found particularly challenging or rewarding?
Gloria: The episode on loss and grieving was tough for us, because I lost my mother three years ago — (Emily's) grandmother — and they were incredibly close. Lili talks about something that's very personal that she's never spoken about, and that was a tough one.
We (also) did an episode on (Fort Hood soldier) Vanessa Guillen's disappearance, and we spoke to her mother. That was one of the toughest things I've had to do, because I'm a mother. Even when (Guillen's disappearance was) in the news, I put myself in that situation, and I'm just beside myself knowing what this woman is feeling and going through. And we wanted to give her a platform because they're trying to change things. You always try to search for meaning in things and try to make some good come of a terrible, horrendous situation.
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