Q&A: Jada Pinkett-Smith

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Baltimore's Jada Koren Pinkett was born on September 18, 1971. Curiously, as a kid, she only wanted to be either an actress or an attorney when she grew up. And now with Collateral, she had an opportunity to combine both professions, as she plays a stressed-out federal prosecutor whose path coincidentally crosses with that of a flirtatious cabbie played by Jamie Foxx.

Before embarking on her acting career, Jada studied dance and choreography at the Baltimore School for the Arts. While there, she made fast friends with classmate Tupac Shakur. Together, they appeared in a student video in which she danced while he lip-synched to a rap song by her future husband, Will Smith, aka The Fresh Prince, who she would marry in 1997.


Jada also attended North Carolina School of the Arts briefly before heading to Hollywood, hiring an agent, and landing a role on A Different World. In 1993, she made her big screen debut in Menace II Society and has, this millennium, starred in Matrix 2 & 3, Ali, Kingdom Come and Bamboozled. Here, she reflects on her co-stars and on collaborating again with Michael Mann, the director who somehow seems to bring out the best in Jada.



KW: How were you able to establish that meaningful connection between you
and Jamie Foxx so convincingly in that critical opening scene of Collateral?

JPS

: "That was one of the most challenging aspects of making the movie,
creating that connection within the first 15 minutes of the film. It needed
to be something authentic and concrete. Michael Mann, basically, crafted
that performance, which is one of the reasons why I love working with him.
He knows his process. He knows how to dive within the resources of my talent
and pull out whatever it is that he needs. When I look at my performance, I
ask, 'How did he get me to do that?' But he had made it very clear to me
that it was very important that the movie to create that connection in the
first 15 minutes."


KW: How was it working with Jamie again?

JPS:

"Jamie's fantastic. He's such a great storyteller. I enjoy just being
around him, so being able to sit with him in that cab for hours and hours at
a time, listening to his stories and talking about life was so
entertaining."


KW: How about Tom Cruise?
JPS: "Tom was great, because it was an all-night shoot, and he made it so
easy. As you know, the star of the movie kind of dictates the energy of the
set. And Tom was always so energetic, and so full of joy, and so happy, that
he really made it a pleasure to be on the set at 5 in the morning."


KW: Do you think working with Michael Mann effects how you approach your
character?

JPS

: "Oh my goodness! Working with Michael Mann is a tremendous gift. I
would do every movie with Michael, if I could. I know when I'm working with
him, that I'm going to be a better actress. It happened both times, during
Ali and during this movie. I absolutely love his process. I love how
thorough he is. He makes sure that I'm completely clear about my character:
where she's from, what she eats, why she eats it, and why she dresses the
way she does. That might seem like trivial information to the average
person, but it really does help you create a deep-rooted character. And once
you have that character developed, you can pull anything from that
foundation. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of directors that work that
way."


KW: So, did he have you research you role as Annie by being around lawyers?
JPS: "Yeah, I had to go to court with a prosecuting attorney. I observed how
she dressed, what her office looked like, how much stress she was under, how
she spoke to people on the phone, how she presented herself in the
courtroom. What differentiated her from everybody else was her very
confidence presence. So, I said, 'That is a quality that I must have for
Annie.'"

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