Opinionated, self-assured and fiercely talented, Jada Pinkett Smith has seemed to us like "the girl most likely..." ever since she hit the Hollywood scene. Back then the ingénue from Baltimore was Jada Pinkett, a home girl with stars in her eyes and a mega-drive to succeed. These days, she's an accomplished actress ( Menace To Society, Set It Off, The Nutty Professor, Woo), first lady to top actor, brother Will, and about to be a mom for the second time.
Now on the eve of giving birth (she's due at the end of this month), Jada stars in Bamboozled, Spike Lee's latest, a satirical and controversial look at Blacks in Hollywood. We caught up with her between juggling career, family and fame to find out what's next.
Describe your character in Bamboozled.
"I play a television writer's assistant named Sloan Hopkins who goes against her conscience and gets involved with a television program that she finds morally offensive. Sloan is an idealist who unwittingly gets sucked into the whole madness of trading in her beliefs for the sake of her job."
Did you agree with her feelings about images of Blacks on TV?
"Absolutely. Too often Blacks in this business are forced to chose between sticking by principals and eating or paying their bills. The trappings of success in this business are very seductive and it's easy to get caught up in things that are really not good for you. Like a lot of people in Hollywood, Sloan thinks that by going along with the program eventually everything will work out. But the opposite comes true and she ends up feeling trapped."
What did you think about her character's involvement with the men who she works with (Pierre Delacroix, played by Damon Wayans, and ManRay, played by Savion Glover)?
"I didn't have a problem with that aspect because the relationships took place after Sloan started her job. No one should confuse her involvement with those men as a case where a woman uses her sexuality for professional favors or advancement. These people are lonely and overworked, and what happens between them just happens."
You've got a new baby on the way and a career on the upswing -- how are you juggling it all?
"Over the years I have learned how to pace myself and prioritize. A lot of responsibility comes when you're married and a mom, plus the demands of my work. If I tried to do everything at once I would go crazy, so I just take my time and focus on what's closest to my heart -- my family and then my work."
What else have you got coming up?
"Next, I have a movie called Kingdom Come (early 2001), which stars Whoopi Goldberg, Vivica A. Fox, LL Cool J and Darius McCrary. Doug McHenry directs. It's a hilarious look at a dysfunctional family that comes together after the death of their patriarch. After that, Will and I are expecting another bundle of joy, so the new year will be filled with the both of us changing a lot of diapers!"