Jada Pinkett Smith opens up about her new show, "HawthoRNe," and about what she and First Lady Michelle have in common.
Jada Pinkett Smith is focused. It's this level of concentration that makes her a renaissance woman who has masterfully maintained a healthy balance of family and career. As a result, she is fast becoming a Hollywood mover and shaker—producing and directing films and costarring in small- and big-screen gems. She's even got her own rock band on the side. Nowadays, Mrs. Smith is rolling up her sleeves as Chief Nursing Officer Christina Hawthorne on TNT's new medical drama "HawthoRNe." ESSENCE.com caught up with the busy lady to talk about her character's unconvential parenting skills, why Pinkett Smith is not as secure as you think, and what the Obamas and the Smiths have in common.
ESSENCE.COM: We love that your character, Chief Nursing Officer Christina Hawthorne, fights for the underdogs and makes sure that her patients and staff don't fall by the wayside. How does she mirror Mrs. Smith?
JADA PINKETT SMITH: (Laughs.) Well, I'm definitely more of Mrs. Smith than I am Mrs. Hawthorne, but in my personal fight for the underdog it's in my blood, my roots, because I myself was an underdog growing up in Baltimore. Thankfully, I saw beyond my circumstances, so I constantly want to encourage every human being to reach for their highest goal if they are willing to take that journey. In that way she and I are a lot alike.
ESSENCE.COM: Now, where do you two stand on opposite sides of the fence?
PINKETT SMITH: She's married to a White guy and raising a [biracial] daughter, which presents its own set of challenges. Also, I'm a different kind of mother. Christina wants to do everything for her daughter, where as I've always believed that children are little adults and, at the end of the day, you have to teach them how to be responsible for their own lives. As parents our job is to take their power and use it in a way that is prolife, not take all of our child's power to make them do the things we want them to do.
ESSENCE.COM: Your show has perfect timing, especially since one of President Obama's leading issues is health care reform. Will your show tackle this issue?
PINKETT SMITH: We are definitely going to have some story lines that touch upon the politics of health care next season. However, this season we focus on how nurses interact with one another and how doctors heal and the nurses heal the soul. So there are a couple of issues where we do address the politics of health care and hospitals but it's something we'll dive more into in the future.
ESSENCE.COM: You're a woman who appears to have it all together. Is there ever a time that you've lost faith in yourself?
PINKETT SMITH: (Laughs.) Are you kidding me? I'm constantly losing my faith. You never get to a place where you don't question whether you're on the right path. I'd be surprised to find anyone whose foundation that hasn't been shaken in some capacity. Sometimes people don't want to take the responsibility of winning or losing so they lose focus as a [defense mechanism] which keeps them from doing what they need to do. But to achieve great things you have to stay focused and be clear about what you want. The only way to do that is to prioritize. This way you are extremely clear about what you're giving up, gaining, and what you will and won't do.
ESSENCE.COM: Perhaps President Obama and the First Lady have taken some of the pressure off of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who have been deemed as the epitome of the Black family nucleus. How do you think the Obamas have inspired and influenced Black men and women?
PINKETT SMITH: I always hear from people who know us, "That's you and Will!" And I have to tell them, "No, it's not just me and Will." You know Will and I, we try to walk the talk. When you can be what you're talking about and still work in the community with your fellow men and women and treat them with respect—just that idea alone means that everyone learns from each other. It's an idea of what the Obamas have done and spread worldwide. This kind of love and partnership doesn't just happen with one or two couples. That level of unity creates a certain power and it's not done by President Obama or First Lady Michelle, but together. When it comes to Black love we need to really acknowledge what we can achieve.
ESSENCE.COM: So true. As a mother, wife and strong Black career woman who supports her man, what would you say to those who criticize women like yourself and Michelle Obama for sacrificing some of your own dreams?
PINKETT SMITH: I don't think people really understand the amount of pressure it is not to allow the foundation of your relationship to crack. The sacrifice that Mrs. Obama has made is not only for her husband, the President, but for us as a country. People look at Obama and yes, he's the President, but don't forget that the woman in every household is the glue. Mrs. Obama keeps the mind, body, spirit and household together of America's President. She is the source for strength and comfort, and sometimes I don't think people recognize that position. It's such bullsh-- because what she's doing right now is the hardest and most important thing, so people who make such a criticism have a very limited perspective and a lack of awareness. It doesn't mean that Mrs. Obama is falling in the background, but simply standing her ground as many of us strong, secure women have done for years.
Check out the premiere of "HawthoRNe" tonight at 8 P.M. EST.