REIGN OVER ME - An Interview with Jada Pinkett-Smith
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Reign Over Me: An Interview with Jada Pinkett-Smith
It’s not often we get to see Jada Pinkett-Smith on the big screen. After all, besides having a successful marriage with husband Will Smith, and mother to two up and coming gifted children, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith (The Pursuit of Happiness) and Willow Camille Reign Smith (I AM LEGEND), Jada is also the lead singer of the pop/rock band Wicked Wisdom and has appeared on countless magazines describing her marriage, hairstyle, rock band, and kids. So when it comes to films, Pinkett-Smith knows when a good role comes by, it’s hard to resist. From “Set It Off” to “Ali” to The last 2 Matrix films, and “Collateral”, whether big or small, Pinkett-Smith has brought a certain intensity to her roles that’s hard to forget.
In Columbia Picture’s new drama Reign Over Me, former college roommates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson(Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family on 9/11, Charlie-once a successful dentist-has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend. At the same time, Alan-who should be enjoying his beautiful wife (Jada Pinkett-Smith), children and career-is overwhelmed by his responsibilities. Their rekindled relationship becomes a lifeline for the two men, who are both in need of a trusted friend at this pivotal moment in their lives.
Jada Pinkett-Smith stars opposite Don Cheadle as Janeane Johnson, a frustrated wife and mother in a relationship that has lost its passion. Her character struggles with the pain of denial and the challenges of upholding an image in a marriage that has been stretched to its limit. Unlike her character, Jada has managed to find the delicate balance between career, family and Hollywood. Queen Jada is quite in control of her throne. She tells Niambi Sims of blackfilm.com about how she Reigns over her real life!
NS: Hey, Jada how are you doing?
Jada Pinkett-Smith: I’m doing good.
NS: What was it about this film that resonated with you? Why did you choose it?
JPS: You know, I thought it was interesting because it was about friendship and loss. The characters that Don (Cheadle) and I played were very interesting. Here was a marriage that on the surface looks great but when you really get beneath these are two people that have stopped talking to each other. All the resentment and all of the baggage have created a really tangible rift between them that they don’t want to talk about or deal with. You’re looking at Don Cheadle’s character who is dealing with the loss of his affinity and his family life and then you are looking at Adam Sandler’s character who has actually lost his family. These two men come together and they learn through one another how to confront cope and move forward from there loss. That’s always an interesting topic for me because I feel like we lose something on a daily basis. Something as simple as somebody can make a comment to you at work and it makes you realize that you have to lose that chip on your shoulder in order to be better. Its something you haven’t really confronted or looked at but it’s something that you have to lose and it’s a difficult thing to let go of because it’s your guard.
NS: It’s your identity
JPS: Right Your identity! But it is a death! But I feel like these are things that were constantly dealing with on a constant basis but what we have to realize is that there are blessings on the other side of those deaths! There are rebirths! So that when you allow yourself to lose something, you will also gain something bigger and brighter every time! That is the thing that we don’t necessarily trust. The idea that Adam Sandler had such a big loss and now is willing to see what’s on the other side. Don Cheadle decides to see what’s on the other side of confronting his wife.
NS: So it was the BIG picture not just the character?
JPS: It was the big picture! The overall concept. I really just love the idea of loss and how people come together to help each other cope with that.
NS: You are a woman who seems to have everything: the husband, the career, the family. Is there anything that you want?
JPS: Just to be happy. I just do what makes me happy.
NS: So many women find it challenging to balance family and career. How do you do it?
JPS: I think you balance by knowing what your priorities are. You always get imbalance when you don’t know what your priorities are. I could never dictate what somebody’s priorities are but you look at your life and see what’s most important and you always know no matter what, that comes first and that answers every other question that comes your way. My priority is my family so if there is a movie that comes and I have to go Australia and will is shooting in New York then I know I can’t do that movie. I have to wait till the next one comes. That keeps everything in balance, psychological, emotionally and then everything else flows. Most people know and don’t want to admit it. Some people’s careers are more important and they try to act like its not. That creates an imbalance. It’s all about being real with yourself.
NS: Being Honest with yourself
JPS: Yes, most people aren’t honest with themselves. I just try to see things as they are instead of trying to pretend I try to keep everything very real and very true.
NS: Isn’t that a contradiction in Hollywood where so much is based on appearance and illusion?
JPS: Well, that is part of the idea of entertainment. There is a fantasy aspect to it. I think that’s a myth. I think people get very much out of balance because of the harsh realities that we have to face on a daily basis in so many ways (as entertainers). Most of the time it’s the harsh realities that we have to deal with that make us who we are.
NS: For example?
JPS: For example in the business everyday you are under this microscope. You are under this type of scrutiny and the amount of pressure that is put upon artists is so unreasonable. The idea that artist should role models to help raise other peoples children. That’s not the job of an artist. It’s unfortunate that everything is so out of whack that people are really reaching to look outside themselves, their homes and their relationships. That Britney Spears should be the opinion leader of what’s happening to their teenage daughters. This pushes most artists out of whack. So the idea that Hollywood is not real, I have to beg to differ. What I will say about Hollywood that is dangerous is that it can turn into a vacuum. There is certain amount of lifestyle that can pull you outside of reality. I will give you that. There are very few people that like Hollywood stars. It’s real for us because we live it but because it is such an isolated reality compared to the other 98% of the world who is watching, it seems so unreal to other people.
NS: So how do you maintain such a grounded perspective?
JPS: Well, Hollywood is an aspect of my life. It’s not my life. Hollywood is a job. It’s not my world and that’s the difference. It’s a job for me. This is what I do because it’s my creative outlet. This is what I do because it’s how I make my money but it’s not who I am.
NS: What’s your advice to other young actresses that want to be like you?
JPS: I would say be yourself. Never want to be someone else, especially not me. Be better than me. I would tell those girls that if there’s an aspect of who I am that you want to latch on to that idea that’s one thing. We can only be who we are and that is the jewel. So I would say find who you are and do that and that’s what I did. When I came to Hollywood, the strongest gift/weapon I had was ME being a Jada because there was nobody else like me and I knew it. Because I knew it is why I’m where I am today.
JPS: Confidence! When you know who you are you are confident! When I came out to Hollywood I knew what I was and was not going to do and was very clear on who I was. I’m a different person today but I’m very clear on who I am and that’s the gift. That’s the power.
NS: Is there anything that you want people to know about you that you think maybe misunderstood?
JPS: People always misunderstand me because that’s part of who I am. I’m quite the dichotomy. There are some people that would say Oh God! Jada is a Bitch! There are some that would meet me and think “Oh she’s the sweetest girl in the whole wide world. It depends. Different people bring out different things. There’s always going to be much confusion about Jada because Jada is always going to do her and not really care about what people think!
NS: AMEN! I know that all of your kids are now in the business so it’s a family affair. Are there any projects on the horizon that will include all of you?
JPS: UH….. NO (Laughs)
NS: What do you tell your kids about the film industry?
JPS: I don’t tell them anything. They have to learn on their own. The best I can tell them is how they watch their mother and father live. They know that Hollywood is something that we do but it’s not our world. So, I don’t have to sit down with my kids and have little lectures about that because it’s instilled in how we live.
NS: We don’t have too many examples of successful marriages, particularly not in Hollywood. What’s your secret?
JPS: I’m going to tell you the secret for me. I see a lot of women that look to men to fix them. I see a lot of men to take away the pain and make them feel better. We run from ourselves through our relationships and relationships are a reflection of who we are. When we are having bad relationships, it is saying something about who we are. So, the first thing I would tell all women is to get you together because there is no successful relationship with someone else without liking who you are. Because you have to tell him who you are. You have to tell him what you need because I’m going to be honest with you. Men love to make us happy. They really do but if we don’t know what that is and we expect him to identify it and him to give it to us, it will never happen! We have to be able to say “This is what I need. This is what will make me happy. Can you deliver that? No you can’t? Ok baby it was nice knowing you. It really was but I’ve got to move over here.” I’ve been in so many situations with my girlfriends that say they can’t find what they I want and as soon as I say “get you together! We’re going to focus on you!” As soon as we do that (snaps finger) MEN all over the place! Because it just opens up a whole new world!
NS: Since the film deals with loss I know you were very close to Tupac Shakur. The 10th anniversary of the death of Notorious B.I.G came up recently. Are you also a Biggie fan as well?
JPS: Oh! I love Biggie!
NS: Who’s in your IPOD right now?
JPS: OH! I’ve got a whole bunch of people in my IPOD from Masta Don to Busta Rhymes to Ani Difranco.
NS: Who’s your favorite artist of all time!
JPS: My favorite artist of all time would be Prince!
NS: Hey, me too! What book are you reading right now?
JPS: I’m reading a whole lot of stuff. I read several books at one time.
Right now I’m reading a book on Taoism. I’m also reading a Joseph Campbell companion, some of his thoughts on relationships and myths. I’m reading the Art of Dramatic Writing and I’m also reading the Six Archetypes of Heroes.
NS: Favorite author or book?
JPS: The History God by Karen Armstrong is probably one of the most prolific books that I have read in my time. Fiction would be Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley.
NS: Who are your role models?
JPS: I would say the only tangible role model that I ever really had was Debbie Allen. I always love Debbie Allen because she was a triple threat! She was a dancer. She was an actress. She did itall! She wore so many hats. She was the first black women in the entertainment business that wore as many hats as she did which is why I do the same.
NS: What’s the legacy that you want to leave the world?
JPS: I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out.
REIGN OVER ME OPENS ON MARCH 23, 2007
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