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Will Smith and Priyanka Chopra to Develop Original Content for YouTube

It sounds like a win-win situation for a platform that hopes to entice advertisers and celebrities who could always do with great press.
Will Smith Focus
By  · Published on May 4th, 2018

It sounds like a win-win situation for a platform that hopes to entice advertisers and celebrities who could always do with great press.

At the end of last year, Will Smith joined YouTube, ostensibly to promote his Netflix feature Bright; his very first video on the platform chronicled part of the promo tour for the film. Since then, he has continued to embrace the website as only a bona fide YouTuber could: by posting sharply-edited vlogs and motivational videos that bank on his hilarious personality. These videos present an image of a genuine guy who simply wants to entertain his audience.

It’s no wonder, then, that YouTube itself seems to want to capitalize on this particular goldmine. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Smith has original content in the works for the video-sharing website. He isn’t alone in this venture, as Indian actress Priyanka Chopra will also have her own series on the platform.

The catch is that neither actor is diving into the realm of scripted content, unlike most other content producers looking to join the rosters of Apple and Facebook. Instead, Smith is planning to live-stream his birthday bungee jumping experience for charity in a video called The Jump Off. Chopra, best known in Hollywood for starring in Quantico and the Baywatch reboot, will host a show titled If I Could Tell You Just One ThingThroughout the series, Chopra meets people who inspire her, hoping to garner some insight from them as to how to “change the world.” These projects will be part of YouTube’s initiative to push ad-supported original content that wouldn’t just be reserved for YouTube Red subscription holders.

This literally sounds like perfect YouTube content: fun, interactive, and a further proliferation of the cult of personality. The whole concept of YouTube revolves around maintaining oneself as a brand. Regardless of whether that means showcasing one’s talents alongside a winning personality or simply banking on the lowest common denominator when figuring out the next offensive prank video, the core design remains the same. This is where Smith and Chopra — two very well-established people in their industry who are already brands in their own right — come in. Having them join the YouTube family ensures that people will stream whatever content they put out. It’s a win-win situation for the company and the actors involved.

Smith and Chopra wouldn’t be the first actors to make this leap into the online realm, but they are such big names that we are more likely to take notice. Immediately, though, the question of whether audiences want to see a bunch of actors doing anything except their jobs comes to mind as well. Doesn’t the very notion of a cult of personality mess with that sense of distance most performers cultivate in order to effortlessly transform into their next role?

Not necessarily. Looking at how many people actually watched Bright on Netflix, Smith doesn’t have trouble inspiring clicks. Despite the fact that many of his recent movies have been critical failures, audience reactions have tended to be more favorable in comparison anyway. That could very well be because he’s an endearing person, a fact that’s only made more apparent through his vlogs and epic Instagram posts. Meanwhile, Chopra is a lauded actress in her home country of India, and her foray into western media has been noteworthy too. If anything, an added social media presence just boosts brands that are built on their mettle.

And who knows? Should these projects go well, scripted content could follow down the pipeline in potential further collaborations between them and YouTube. YouTube Red has, after all, put out content from non-YouTuber creatives in the past, such as a new Step Up series from Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, and a Karate Kid show starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)