Actress Jada Pinkett Smith

Hollywood heavyweight reflects on the new season of her TNT series, HawthoRNe, and discusses her and husband Will’s decision to invest in the Broadway musical FELA!

Multi-talented Jada Pinkett Smith juggles acting, singing, producing, directing, writing, motherhood and married life. The Baltimore native got her break in TV's A Different World and segued into film. She's resisted being stereotyped by roles usually allotted for Black actresses, with credits that include the final two Matrix pics and Collateral. Behind the scenes, she exec-produces and stars in TNT's HawthoRNe and co-produced the Tony-winning musical FELA! Pinkett Smith has also written a best-selling children's book and fronted the band Wicked Wisdom.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Jada Pinkett Smith back to this program. She is both star and executive producer of the hospital drama, “HawthoRNe.” The complete second season out now on DVD while the third season kicks off next Tuesday on TNT. Jada, good to have you back on this program.

Jada Pinkett Smith: It’s nice to be here.

Tavis: I was just saying to you off camera, I don’t know how you do it.

Smith: I don’t either [laugh]. I just keep it real.

Tavis: Let me just start by saying thank you to you and to big Willie. “FELA!” is one of the best things I’ve seen on Broadway in a long time.

Smith: Oh, why, thank you.

Tavis: I saw it three times.

Smith: Thank you.

Tavis: Every time I go to New York, I pop in to see it. I really, really enjoyed that.

Smith: I’m so happy. I’m really happy about that.

Tavis: What made you put your name on that? I mean, the end product was amazing.

Smith: Well, the end product – I’ve been a huge fan, you know, and when we saw the piece, we’re like we have to invest and be a part of this. It was just hands down. You know, to have so many talented, you know, Black folks up there making it happen. You know what I mean?

Tavis: I love that.

Smith: And we hadn’t seen anything like that on Broadway, you know, so we were really proud to be a part of it.

Tavis: I loved it, so thank you.

Smith: Thank you.

Tavis: Third season?

Smith: Third season.

Tavis: Does it feel like three seasons now?

Smith: You know, it’s funny because we do ten episodes a season.

Tavis: Yeah.

Smith: It doesn’t feel like a third season. It feels like we’re actually coming to the end of the first season [laugh]. I’m really happy. I’m really proud of this season as well. It’s very intense.

Tavis: We didn’t show the clip, but in the third season, you’re no longer widowed.

Smith: No, I’m not.

Tavis: Jada got a man.

Smith: I got a man [laugh]. Yeah, I got a man. You know, this is a very adult season dealing with some very adult issues. We come on at 10:00, a bit edgier, a bit more racy. You know, I will say things get complicated [laugh].

Tavis: That’s a last word for it [laugh].

Smith: Right. Things get complicated.

Tavis: Speaking of complicated, Jose, put this cover up of the box. Thank you. This pretty much says it all. There are like five or six Jadas running around on the cover here and it really does speak to all the characters, all the parts of your character. I mean, this is the “I’m every woman” cover.

Smith: You know, I felt like it spoke to most women that I know. You know, that’s kind of the get down. You have to be the mom, the professional, the hot sex kitten for the husband. You know what I mean? I should have had on my little nurse’s [inaudible], but I didn’t put that on this one [laugh].

Tavis: That’s the third season, a little racy, yeah. That’ll be next year’s box set, yeah.

Smith: Right. You know, the many hats that most women have to wear on a daily basis.

Tavis: Yeah. For those who haven’t seen “HawthoRNe” as yet and will check out now in this third season, what are you trying to portray through this character?

Smith: I’m trying to portray –

Tavis: – your mom was a nurse in real life.

Smith: In real life, which is really how I crashed at this character. She was a nurse and she was a single mom trying to raise me, a wilding out teenager, by herself.

So really, Christina Hawthorne to me represents the woman, you know, the woman who’s trying to keep it all together and have everything, a professional life, be a good mother, be loved and know how to love and just kind of figuring it all out as she goes and, as she’s going, she’s doing all these different things. So that’s pretty much what Christina is all about.

It takes place in a hospital which, I think, is very interesting because life and death happens. The extremes of life happen in hospitals which is why I think people gravitate to hospital dramas. You know, you don’t consciously understand that, but those are the things that we grapple with, you know, how we live and when we’re gonna die.

Tavis: It raises that age-old question, though, that women wrestle with, I think, all the time and that is the question of whether or not you can have it all and, if you can have it all, can you have it all at the same time? To that, Jada Pinkett Smith says what?

Smith: To that, Jada says you can have as much as you can have, and that is to be defined for each and every woman. Not one woman can define that thing, you know. There’s some women, the definition of happiness and having it all will be very different than what mine is. You know, I would say that each and every woman has to take the time to figure that out for herself.

Many times people will say, you know, you’re such a great role model. Well, that’s great, but at the end of the day, you have to learn to be your own best role model and learn what makes you happy, not necessarily what society thinks you’re supposed to be or women that you look up to, what they’re doing. I look at that as being a symbol in a blueprint, but never forget that who you are is what’s most important.

Tavis: Since you went there, how do you personally define happiness? What’s happiness to you or for you?

Smith: You know, as I get older, personal happiness is all about love. It’s all about love. You know, how I’m loved and how I love my family and my husband. That to me is happiness when I feel like I am loved and I have a place to love deeply. That to me is happiness.

All this stuff is great, you know, being able to have a TV show and do movies and produce and have kids that can sing and dance, you know, that’s great. But at the end of the day, without that love, I see so many people in this business who are loveless and so unhappy and have all the fame and money in the world and it means absolutely nothing.

Tavis: I’ve had the occasion, as you might imagine, over the years of doing this show to talk to a number of child actors who come on this set from time to time. I don’t do a lot of them, but from time to time. But every one of them always typically has a parent in tow and I crack up.

This is back in the beginning of the show when I said I don’t know how you do it all. I see you on “HawthoRNe,” we see big Willie doing all the stuff that he does and, more often than not, we yet see you all showing up with your kids when they do what they do.

Smith: Right.

Tavis: Again, most parents in this business go with their kids everywhere they go and yet you and Will are showing up with all the other stuff you’re doing. That’s the part I don’t get. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing to see. I don’t know how you manage all that.

Smith: Right. Well, you know, –

Tavis: – I mean, you got two kids whose careers are taking off on their own.

Smith: Absolutely. I mean, right now I’m doing “HawthoRNe” and Jayden and Willow have to stand down, period. You know, she’s in the studio and she records there, but as far as her touring and doing all that, she has to stand down because she has to wait until the three months are done, which is good because she did a hardcore run before I did “HawthoRNe.”

So now she’s just taking her time and having fun in the studio and just being a kid going to Target and shopping and doing all the things that she does. Jayden is, you know, preparing for his movie that’ll come into the fall.

So I take these three months and then the rest of my year is dedicated to my family. So we basically sit there and I say, listen, you guys know I have to do “HawthoRNe” from this month to this month.

Tavis: And you ain’t going nowhere.

Smith: Right.

Tavis: Until momma gets done.

Smith: And when momma gets done, then we can talk about what you gonna do for the rest of the year. All I need is three months. You know what I mean? Then, you guys, I’m rocking with you for the rest of the year.

Tavis: How do you manage raising these kids in show business? I mean, there’s so many examples, as you know, and I’m glad you and Will are there, but there are so many examples of kids who start out as child stars who get in the absolute worst trouble down the road. How do you keep them from going off the tracks, as it were?

Smith: Well, we have to see. You know, my son is gonna turn 13 this year. One thing I will say, with most kid stars, the paradigm gets shifted because they start to become the breadwinner, okay? So then mom and day, I mean, they’re getting paid by their kids. That kind of shifts the paradigm. Well, it’s gonna take a long time [laugh], okay?

Tavis: To out-earn big Willie [laugh].

Smith: You know what I’m saying? You got a ways to go before that’s gonna happen.

Tavis: That’s a good point.

Smith: Right.

Tavis: I’ve never thought of it that way. That’s a very good point, though.

Smith: It’s true, though. So the paradigm stays in place. You know what I mean? It all stays in place, and most of the time it doesn’t. You know, when you can fire your parents, you know, that’s a hard, difficult place to put children because kids in these particular environments have to have a very secured, anchored foundation and they have to have boundaries and wide boundaries, but boundaries in which they feel safe that the people that are around them are there specifically to love them and keep them safe.

Tavis: Let me jump in right quick. I’m glad you went there as well. Thanks for all these wonderful segues. I appreciate it. So how might you and Will feel one day when Willow is older, when Jayden is older, and they know their parents love them.

You’ve been there for them every step of the way, but they feel they’re at the point in their career now – and Michael Jackson and others have come to this place in their own lives – where they think that – BeyoncĂ©, Jennifer Hudson with her daddy – where they say, mom and daddy, we got this now. We’re gonna get a different management team? How you gonna handle that?

Smith: Oh, that’s great and it’s inevitable. We’re already getting there, you know. Willow said, listen, ma, I know what I want to wear and I know what my next vision for my video is. All right, you got it. You know what I mean? Let’s start now.

You know, I’m not here to – as a parent, I believe we are specifically here to help our children mature in the way that they can take on their own lives. I’m not here to live their lives for them. That’s not my job.

Tavis: How do you balance not giving them too much leeway, giving them too much say-so. They are children, after all.

Smith: Well, let’s be clear. It’s like you have to know as a parent. You have to be clear on what freedoms, what area of freedoms. Like Willow with her gear? Here’s the thing. No midriffs, nothing revealing. Anything else, I don’t care. Shave your head, cut off your eyebrow, I don’t care.

Because at the end of the day, my mother gave me those freedoms, right? So I could walk into the world with my own idea and my own identity of who I believed Jada was and reap the rewards or, you know, face the repercussions of those decisions and start to understand what it means to be responsible for myself.

So with Willow, she has freedom. Her gear? Her creative way of being? She’s got that. I stay out of the way of that. That’s all her. The same with Jayden. Those to me are safe places where they can’t hurt themselves; they can’t get themselves in trouble. Now when it comes to what time you’re coming in at night and where you’re going, now that right there, that’s in mommy and daddy lane [laugh]. You know what I mean?

Because it’s our responsibility to keep you safe and there are things because you’ve only been here for 13 years on this planet and 10 years on this planet and there are things that your mom and your father understand that you’re not privy to yet. But we give them spaces of freedom where they can be themselves and explore who they are.

Tavis: Let us bring us back to “HawthoRNe” before I leave. So how much longer you want to do this? This is season three. You’re looking for the third season.

Smith: Yeah. This is season three. You know, I’ll do it as long as we have interesting stories and audiences want to tune in. As soon as audiences don’t want to tune in, then it’s over. It’s that simple.

Tavis: Well, you’ll be okay for a while then.

Smith: I hope [laugh]. I hope.

Tavis: It’s called “HawthoRNe.” Premiers this Tuesday, season three, on TNT. Jada, always good to see you.

Smith: It’s always nice to see you.

Tavis: Glad to have you on.

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Last modified: June 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm