Pinkett Smith bounds into the
Waldorf Astoria suite for a friendly chat about life
and family, she exudes energy and an intensity that makes this
petite 40 year-old actress a lot bigger in the chair than she seems.
Opening at Cannes
Film Festival 2012, Madagascar
3: Europeís Most Wanted Ė the third installment
of the billion-dollar franchise Ė stars
Zoo refugees Alex the
Stiller), Marty the
Rock), Gloria the
Smith) and Melman the
Schwimmer) who are determined to return to New
Leaving Africa behind,
they detour to Monte
Carlo on a hunt for the penguins and chimps that had
left them stranded.
pals break the bank of a local casino, the animals are soon
discovered by dogged French animal
control officer Capitaine
Chantel DuBois (Frances
McDormand) who doesnít appreciate these foreigners
running wild in her city and is thrilled by the idea of hunting her
surfaced, quite literally, in Europe Ė
the Zoosters hide out in a down-and-out traveling circus where
they plan to reinvent it without humans, discover a few new talents
and make it home to the USA alive.
For the first
time in 3D, the Madagascar crew
is doing death-defying tricks with a wild bunch of new friends.
Both as hippo
Gloria and in her many other roles, Pinkett Smith has proven to be a
versatile star both on and off screen. She has amassed an impressive
array of film and TV credits, including Hawthorne
(the TNT medical drama that ran from 2009-2011;
she also served as an executive producer), Reign
Over Me (opposite Adam
Sandler and Don
Cheadle), and in Michael
Mannís Collateral (where
she had pivotal role opposite Tom
Cruise and Jamie
Foxx). But sheís probably best known as the
take-charge Niobe in
the iconic sequels, Matrix
Reloaded and Matrix
production company, 100% Womon, Pinkett Smith wrote, directed and
co-starred in The
Human Contract opposite Jason
Clarke and Paz
Vega. She also put pen to paper resulting in the
New York Times bestseller Girls
Hold Up This World, published in 2005.
Pinkett Smith assumed executive producer duties for the feature
Karate Kid, starring her son Jaden Smith and was
also an executive producer on The
Secret Life of Bees. Together with husband Will
Smith, she created and executive produced the CW
Networkís All of Us.
medium of TV and film, the Smiths have
collaborated with record industry mogul Jay-Z
to produce the Broadway musical hit Fela! which
earned three Tony Awards.
her musical interests, Pinkett Smith became the lead singer of the
rock band Wicked
Wisdom, which opened for Britney
Spears during her Onyx
Hotel Tour. Her most recent musical project, a
sensual ballad entitled ďBurn,Ē was released on iTunes on
Valentineís Day 2012 and was dedicated to her husband.
raised in Maryland,
Pinkett Smith studied dance and acting at the
Baltimore School of the Arts and North
Carolina School of the Arts. Her big break came when
she landed a role on the long-running NBC series A Different
3 is her latest high-profile project, this
actress/producer/writer is constantly developing or producing for
various media including now a web series, Red
How was it channeling your inner animal?
Well, for the
inner hippo in me Ė this is our third installment so itís like
putting on an old jacket, shirt, or a pair of old slippers that you
are very familiar with. Itís not difficult at all.
Do the animators give you pointers as to how your dance moves should
be or do you have a certain strategy around your moves?
You know itís
funny because while we are actually recording they have a video
recorder, and they are actually recording us while we are doing the
movements we are doing at that time, they actually use them in the
film Ė whether itís facial expressions, actual physical movements or
what have you. So thatís always interesting to see their
interpretation of what youíve done.
At least they didnít make you wear the suit with all the little
Oh yeah. No,
didnít have to wear that this time. That was for Matrix,
but not for this.
Is it easier being in a studio talking to a microphone, than it is
being on set as an actress performing in a regular film?
actually. Itís difficult when itís just you and a microphone because
you are so used to interacting with other actors. And yes, it can be
challenging because you are there alone all of the time, and so you
donít knowÖ the directors tell you, ďOh, you know, Chris did this.Ē
Or, ďDavid did this, and we would love for you to try and do that.Ē
But you really donít have a reality on what it is.
Chris Rock made a few comments last year about his work in animation
that a black guy can play a zebra and white guy can play an Arabian
prince, as well as, someone feeds you your lines and you get a
million dollars. Is the process of animated film really just that
depends on how you come and approach it. It wasnít that easy for me
because I found it took me three installments to get the swing of
this. And because Chris is a standup comedian, heís used to being a
one-man show, right? I was so used to interacting with other people
and didnít have a set or clothes, and you just have people telling
you all of this stuff. Iím like, ďI donít know what Iím doing right
now, and I donít know what this is. Iím just going to give what I
got.Ē I found it to be a very trying process because also you have
to be able to reenact. Like if you see Gloria running, I actually
have to run, Iím screaming, my voice is hoarse and Iím [heaving].
Theyíre like, ďOkay we are going to save this section because after
this you arenít going to be able to talk. I was like; ďWe will do
this at the end of the session.Ē It was like, ďOkay. Cool.Ē Itís a
lot of work. But for somebody like Chris heís probably like, ďI do
this every night.Ē
Have you seen the finishing product yet?
What are your favorite parts from the film?
I love the
bear, Sophie the
bear and Sacha
Baron [Cohen who
Julien]. That is probably the most adorable aspect
of the story line to me. I just I love it. I donít get enough of it.
That bear is hilarious.
What did your family think of the film?
seen it yet. They wonít see it until the premiere.
So are there obligations to see each otherís films when they open so
near to each other like
Men In Black 3?
definitely. Itís like when you create thatís just being part of a
creative group. You have to check out each otherís products.
So you donít worry that the kids might want to see Dadís film versus
your film anything like that?
Oh no. No you
donít have any of that.
You recently released an episode of your web series The
Red Table Talk on
Motherís Day and that was so empowering.
A lot of what you do is empowering women. Why is that so important
to you and when will the next installment happen?
because it was really something that I did organically. I just
wanted to offer it as a gift to women, especially mothers, for
Motherís Day. I get asked a lot about how do I communicate with my
and about my relationship with my mother [Adrienne
Banfield-Jones] being that weíve had very humble
beginnings as far as our relationship and what we have overcome.
Because of Red Table Talks I
am now in discussion about creating a television show. I have a
couple of people coming after me for a television deal for it. Also
a couple of web deals which are interesting. So I will continue it,
and want to focus on issues in regards to relationships that will
eventually and extend into other areas. Not just relationships in
regards to familiar or even love relationships but also like we have
the Human Trafficking Report is about to come out. I donít know if
you know this, but African American women and Latino women hold the
number one and number two spot as far as women who are trafficked in
the United States of America. So I want to do a Red
Table Talk with a fantastic beautiful woman, Rachel
Lloyd, who heads the GEMS organization here in New
York which works in regards to this issue.
I have another
special project coming out on June 19 with Salma
Hayek that Iím doing in Spanish
with regards to that particular issue as well. I want to use Red
Table Talk as a forum in which you can come and be real. Itís
really that simple. I think that any relationship that you have with
anyone you have to be able to put it on the red table. Meaning it
has to be raw. So whether you are dealing with love, with family, a
social issue, or whether you are dealing with creation, it has to be
raw. I think that now in this particular culture people go so hard
at artists. So to be able to create a place where people and artists
can come and feel safe to just be raw and not feel that they are
being attacked or stripped down. Thatís the only way that we can
keep our authenticity as people, as human beings, to be able to keep
those genuine relationships to ourselves and to whomever we are
interacting with. So to me that is the reason for the red table.
Itís exciting. Real and raw are two very appropriate adjectives for
watching it. Your openness was inspiring.
Even watching Willow she displayed a lot of vulnerability and
strength, and it was very interesting to see you interacting with
her and kind of getting her to put words to her emotions. What was
it like for you in that moment?
I have to be
honest with you, I donít know which segments you watched because
thereís been so many segments dispersed but there was a segment
where Willow comes to the table and says, ďI just want to tell you
how much you mean in my life.Ē And she bursts into tears. The Red
Table Talk was over, okay. Weíve gone to the other room, and she
goes, ďMommy, I still have something that I need to put on the
table.Ē I was like, oh the lights, the guys, the technicians, had
taken the lights. The cameras were down, but she was so adamant.
Because you can see itís dark outside, right, versus when we started
it was light, right? I was like, ďIím sorry guys but weíve got to
put these lights back.Ē She got on the table, and I didnít know what
Willow was going to say. When she started to cry I was just like,
ďOkay. Just let this flow. This is her moment. This is what she
wants to express.Ē But it was challenging because as a mother you
want to go, ďCut. Cut it. Okay. Cut it.Ē You know what I mean? But
she wanted to come to the table [with] her expression and wordsÖ the
things that she said. I was in utter shock. I had no idea. Just her
perspective I was just like, ďWillow, I never even thought about it
like that.Ē So the red table for us was just as I meant to be
because it wasÖ You guys saw, it was a bowl with questions. You know
what I mean? I learned more about my daughter and my mother in that
day, and I think that Willow learned a heck of a lot about us. We
were at that red table for about two and a half hours. I think weíve
shared with you maybe 45 minutes of that. But she has another
segment thatís crazy. She has another segment thatís out of sight.
You know I had to just figure out when to, but she was just amazing
throughout the whole thing.
How do you balance your career and raising your children? Obviously
they are top notch, how do you do it?
The career and motherhood?
separate. I never stop being a mother and I never stop being an
artist. You understand? Which is probably why my kids are so
creative, because itís not separated. You see, when Iím with my kids
Iím creating, and Iím still a mom. When Iím creating Iím still a
mom. I donít wear two different hats. My kids will be on the set
with me. Thatís one of the reasons that I had my mom on. I had that
segment where my mother was on because I was breastfeeding so she
had to sit on that set. Literally, on a chair while Iím sitting up
there doing karate sheís sitting up in that chair with Willow in her
lap and walking Willow around because she canít go anywhere because
Iím breastfeeding. None of my kids took a bottle. They would not
take a bottle. Do you hear me? They couldnít leave my side for a
very long time. Iím sitting up there doing Kung Fu, the movie Kung
Fu, but I still have to do the mommy thing. Thereís no separation
and if Iím at home with my kids and feeding them... I remember
talking to [Queen] Latifah and sheís like, ďGirl I remember coming
to your house and seeing you dancing in front of them kids. Feeding
them kids, rapping, and signing, and all that.Ē And I said, ďThatís
why, thatís how they got all that. Thatís just what you call good
genes. You know what Iím saying?Ē You get with the artist you make
artists. You know? So. Yeah.
One of the things about Gloria is that in all three movies she never
apologizes for her appearance and how she looks. How can we use that
to empower little girls as far as positive body images?
Thatís why I
love Gloria Ė the idea that sheís a lot of girl and she loves it. I
try to give her that sass and swagger. Itís not even about
necessarily talking about it but sometimes just showing it, that
itís about how you look at yourself and how you carry yourself. Iím
dealing with this issue very deeply right now in dealing with the
idea of romanticism in this next video that Iím doing, that comes
out on June 19 in regards to human trafficking because how most
women and girls get caught up in this is the dream. You get sold the
dream, that whole romantic idea that you are going to find the
perfect person. You are going to find the perfect situation. A lot
of times we give away our power in thinking that we have to look to
someone else to have acceptance for who we are. That our images of
ourselves are based on how other people see us. Anytime that you do
that you are going to be a very unhappy person because it varies too
much. He might be happy with something that she might not be happy
with. So now you are stuck in between the middle in trying to figure
out, ďWell who am I supposed to be?Ē versus focusing on, ďWho are
you happy with? What are you happy with?Ē At the end of the day what
she thinks and what he believes has nothing to do with your
existence. I tell you what, the moment that you understand your
power and your beauty, your life changes. When we get out of
expecting him to accept you, her to accept you, or anybody else to
accept you. Okay because itís too varied. Itís too varied. But Iíll
tell you whatís not varied, how you feel about yourself. And if you
can carry that with you, you are going to be okay.
When did you understand your power and beauty?
something that you continue toÖ because you learn it on so many
levels. You find one aspectÖ I look at even my daughter Willow, and
sheís way ahead of the game now than I was at her age. I can only
imagine who sheís going to be as a 40-year-old woman because itís a
journey. Itís a journey. Itís something that you continue. You donít
get to a destination of it because the more you start to grow, and
the more you start to understand, you never stop. So you never get
to a place like, ďAh, here it is.Ē You might get to a place like,
ďOkay, Iím finally glad to be here and be comfortable in my skin no
matter what.Ē But the lessons donít stop.
known for balancing business and your artistic side. You have your
own production companies, and take your own ideas and actualize
them. How do you know what to do from this business point of view or
that creative one?
Even now Iíve
learned how to separate art from commerce. There are certain things
I do creatively for commerce and there are certain things that I
donít do for commerce Ė like my music. I donít do it for commerce at
all. I just do that to be creative, so I separate that from business
completely. That is strictly art creation. Depending on what Iím
trying to achieve really depends on how I will approach something
from a business standpoint. Itís like, ďOkay if I want the masses,
how do I get masses of people to gravitate to this particular
project?Ē Then you have to strategize creatively, and you have to
strategize business-wise also, like what partnerships you create or
what have you. Like Fela! for
instance. Jay Z came to us about that particular project. So here
you have three very recognizable African-Americans that are behind
this Broadway show Fela!
Great show by the way.
Right. So when
you look at it from a business point of view, for us that is
something that we did creatively and something that we did for
business as well. We joined forces and I have to say one of the
things that I love about Jay Z, and love about the relationship that
I have with him business-wise. I think Roc
Nation and Overbrook
Entertainment [Willís company] are maybe the only
two African-American entertainment groups that I know of that merge
together all the time, on all kinds of different projects Ė and we
have such wonderful success. Iím hoping that, that will set an
example for African-Americans. We donít always have to be in
competition. Thereís more power in numbers. That goes for everybody,
not just African-Americans. That goes across the board for
everybody. Everybody just wants to alone. Forget about the power of
the groups. Iíve learned that over the years that to really be able
to create alliances on a business side to encourage growth and
prosperity on the whole for everybody.
With the summertime coming up who are some of your favorite artists
that you are listening to on your iPod?
Oh my gosh.
Who am I listening to right now? Probably not many people you would
recognize because I like a lot ofÖ. You know Iím a metal head. I
like a lot of metal music. Thatís really what I listen to a lot. Or
off the cuff, I love artists like Santigold or
GoldFrapp. Yeah. And Pelican.
Thatís kind of where Iím at right now. And I like a lot of old Police.
A lot of throwbacks. What else am I listening to?
A Police song like ďRoxanneĒ would seem appropriate of course with
the sex trafficking issue in mind.
course. Of course. Of course.
A lot of people have been vocal about negative images on reality TV
Basketball Wives and
Housewives. People like Star Jones and even Nicki Minaj have come
forward saying how negative they are. As a mother, and as someone
who is in the industry, what do you think about these shows?
think thereís room for everything. I think what we have to focus on
is balancing. Listen everybody is trying to create. Everybody is
trying to make a living. Donít be mad. Donít come down on them. Talk
to the people that are actually putting these shows on and ask them
to balance it out. Itís not that those shows shouldnít exist. Itís
not about coming down on people. Itís just about creating a balance.
But also as a community, we have to be more responsible about what
we are willing to watch. Now how about that? Okay? Thatís what
people really donít want to talk about. Iím going to tell you
something. Itís not that people try to put on programming for us
that is varied. Itís not that people donít try to create movies for
us that are varied. Iíll tell you what people Ė we need to be more
responsible about what we are going to see. Because people only
create what we are going to watch. So donít you come down on them?
Folks need to be looking. Take responsibility about what you have
you have on your TV and about what you are out there supporting.
People need to check their own individual selves on that one.
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