2008 has been a great year for Jada Pinkett Smith thus far. Not only did she complete and showed her directorial debut film, 'The Human Contract' at this year's Cannnes Film Festival, but she has two films coming out this year, and also executive produced one of the most anticipated films of the year, 'The Secret Life of Bees'.
Besides being a mom to three kids, who are all in the acting field now, and a wife to Will Smith, she really has her plate full. The fact that she can manage all this and keep it together is astonishing. With 'Madagascar: Back 2 Africa' set to open in November, her latest film that comes out this Friday (Sept.12) is 'The Women'. The film is a remake of the 1939 George Cukor film, but has been modified slightly with Jada playing a lesbian character.
'The Women', which is directed by Diane English and based on the play by Clare Boothe Luce, tells the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer who seems to have it all – a beautiful country home, a rich financier husband, an adorable 11-year-old daughter and a part-time career creating designs for her father's venerable clothing company. Her best friend, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), leads another enviable life – a happily single editor of a prominent fashion magazine, a possessor of a huge closet of designer clothes and a revered arbiter of taste and style poised on New York's cutting edge. But when Mary's husband enters into an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a sultry 'spritzer girl' lurking behind the Saks Fifth Avenue perfume counter, all hell breaks loose. Mary and Sylvie's relationship is tested to the breaking point while their tight-knit circle of friends, including mega-mommy Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and lesbian author Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett-Smith), all start to question their own friendships and romantic relationships as well.
Jada Pinkett-Smith: I play a lesbian which is fantastic, and I got to be in love with Eva Mendes, which is even more fantastic. Will was like, 'Oh, I had her already. You can have my leftovers'. I love Eva. That's my girl. We had a good time together. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do 'The Women'. It was a first time female director. She had been working on this project for 13 years and it's called 'The Women' and its an all-female cast, and I was like, 'I have to do this'. It was just the statement alone.
How aware were you with the original film prior to getting involved with this one?
Jada Pinkett Smith: My mother and my aunt loved that film. When my mother found out that I would be participating in this film, she and my aunt went through the roof. She was like, 'You have to do it'. I was getting phone calls everyday. I met with Diane and I read the script and I loved it. This is a must. I have to do it.
Did you get a chance to see the original?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I've seen pieces of it.
What was it like working with an all female cast?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I found it to be a very beautiful experience. To be able to sit with such a talented group of women to collaborate with and we created a great camaraderie, and it's great because most of us are moms and we got to share stories. I got to meet Meg's daughter. We got to know each other intimately through our families and shared relationships and war stories that we have been through. It was great to work with a group of people that you feel that you just know without really knowing.
In the original film, it was implied that your character may be a lesbian, but in this film, it's very clear. What do you think about the transition of the character?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I think today people are a lot more open. I found it liberating that Diane just put it on the table with this particular character and brought me in as a black woman, where there were no black women in the original. I just decided that I would fly with it.
Do you know any lesbian that you could have gone to for a frame of reference for the character?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I know lots of lesbians. (Laughs). I think there is a lesbian inside of me that I just pulled out. (Laughs)
Was there one scene that stood for you while making this?
Jada Pinkett Smith: Well, they took my favorite scene out. I thought I was going to the opportunity to kiss Eva Mendes, but that didn't happen.
Are you still working with your band?
Jada Pinkett Smith: Yes. I am. I have a heavy metal band, Wicked Wisdom, but my kids decided they wanted a career and were imposing on my music, so I have had to sacrificed it. (Laughs)
Can you talk about the producing aspect of the business?
Jada Pinkett Smith: Well, you find projects that you love and you basically put all your muscle behind getting it done. Then you look for other components to bring the vision to life. I just executive produced 'The Secret Life of Bees'. I was also going to be in the film as well, playing the part that Alicia Keys has, June. At the time I was directing my own film and James Lassiter told me that Gina Prince Bythewood was coming on as the director of the film. I loved that idea and I think Alicia Keys was absolutely brilliant as June. It's just being that muscle behind the scene and being the voice to push everything along.