Jada Pinkett Smith reflects on the challenge of balancing a show biz career and family when each member is a star in his or her own right.
Besides playing the title character on the TNT series HawthoRNe, which is starting its second season, Jada Pinkett Smith executive-produces the show through her production company, 100% Womon. With her husband, Will Smith, she is serving as producer of “The Karate Kid,” starring their son, Jaden, and also of Fela!, the Broadway musical nominated for 11 Tony Awards. Pinkett Smith’s recent film credits include “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” as the voice of Gloria, and director Diane English’s remake of “The Women.”
In the past, she’s teamed up with Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle in “Reign Over Me,” and enjoyed a pivotal role opposite Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann’s “Collateral.” However, she perhaps remains best known as the take-charge Niobe of “Matrix Reloaded” and “Matrix Revolutions” fame.
Here, Pinkett Smith reflects on the challenge of balancing career and family when each member is a showbiz celebrity in his or her own right.
Well, first of all, let me say congratulations! You’re blossoming on every front. Let’s see, HawthoRNe’s starting its second season, you’re going to be on the cover of the July issue of Essence magazine, your Broadway musical has been nominated for 11 Tonys and Jaden is starring in “The Karate Kid,” a picture you and Will produced. How does it feel?
It feels good. These are the moments that you keep in your back pocket to remember. All of those were good times! [Laughs]
I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and I think they often come up with better questions than I do. So why don’t I start right off with some of them. Lester Chisholm says, “Thank you for the production of Fela,” and asks, “What would suggest as a lifestyle to keep young entertainers focused?”
Wow … whew! Man, that’s a hard one, because part of the challenge of being young is finding what to be focused on. It’s a time of exploration when you have to discover who you’re not, in order to know who you are. I would say being deeply involved in the art world would help keep a young artist on track. Doing what you love, so that your focus is your artistry.
Reverend Florine Thompson and filmmaker Hisani Dubose had the same question: What is the key to balancing motherhood, marriage and such a successful career?
Staying true to yourself and being able to prioritize. It’s very important to prioritize. I know, for me, my family comes first. That makes every decision very easy.
Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Are there any arenas left for you to conquer?
[Laughs] Definitely! And I’m always looking for them. But as I’ve gotten older, and now that my kids are starting to do what they do, I am now really focusing on sharing my knowledge and insights with them to help guide them on their journeys.
Attorney Bernadette Beekman observes that you and Will come across as down-to-earth and very family-centric. She wants to know how you keep your family values intact with the children becoming stars themselves? Do they have chores and an allowance?
[Laughs] They definitely have chores, and they get an allowance from money they make, believe it or not. I think that what’s critical to keeping them balanced is giving them purpose, and part of giving them purpose is allowing them to do things that they love to do, which is being part of this industry. And as wacky as that might seem, it allows them to contribute to the family, and it allows them to develop their own self-worth. And I feel that when a child has self-worth and purpose, that’s what keeps them grounded.
Cinema professor Mia Mask asks, do you think the roles for women of color — black women in particular — have improved?
I’d say they’ve improved, but there still aren’t enough. And I’d say that’s the case, not only for African American women, but for all women in the Hollywood game. It’s just slim pickings, and a very challenging time for us. I think that’s why more of us need to work our way behind the camera in order to create roles that really illuminate who women are. We still have room for growth in that area, without a doubt.
Marcia Evans says that she’s a true fan of yours because she really respects the mature manner in which you approach being a wife and mother. She wants to know whatever happened to your TV sitcom “Good News.”
I never had a show by that name, but I did have one called “M.I.L.F. and Cookies,” that got picked up and was set to air until the network and I had a disagreement at the last minute. They wanted to change the concept a bit in a way I wasn’t in agreement with, so we had to go our separate ways.
Larry Greenberg says Richmond, Va. is a beautiful and unique choice for the setting of Hawthorne. Were you involved in that decision?
We felt like Richmond was an area that’s growing, but hasn’t really been explored on television at all, in the way that New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have. So, we decided it would make a great location.
The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
I am happy. I have my moments when I’m not, but I am. I’m very happy.
The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
Oh, I’m listening to so much right now. I looooove Alicia Keys’ new song, “Unthinkable.” I’m blasting that all over the place, but I’m also listening to Sade’s new album, and I always have my Heavy Metal, Mastodon. [Laughs]
The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
I’m reading a book right now by John Dewey called “Art as Experience.” That has been a very interesting read for me. And I’m also reading one called “The Heart of Sufism,” which is about a more esoteric approach to Islam.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Oh, man, when I look in the mirror, I see about a thousand different Jadas … Yeah …
What is your favorite dish to cook?
I don’t really cook much. I’m more of a baker. My favorite things to bake that everybody loves, and I can only keep in the house for about 10 minutes, are 7-Up cake and pineapple upside-down cake.
The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
Oh, I laugh hard every day. I mean, my husband is Will Smith! [Shrieks] I’m telling you, that’s one of the joys of being married to him. My life is full of laughter. Thank God I have him. My life is full of laughter because of that man.
How do you want to be remembered?
I don’t know yet. I have no idea.
Well, thanks for another great interview, Jada, and best of luck in all your endeavors.
Thank you, Kam.