The Smith clan is a multimillion-dollar enterprise. While superstar Will may rule the marquee, make no mistake: Mrs. Smith is running things. Entering the third season of her TNT series, HawthoRNe, JPS talks family, career, sacriﬁce, and the future. Read on for snippets of our cover story and behind the scenes photos of Jada Pinkett Smith.
Jada Pinkett Smith says she’s always been a warrior, but that’s always been just one part of her:
“Sometimes you have to live who you’re not, to know who you are,” she says.
“That same girl you saw in Menace is the same girl who even then was listening to metal. But nobody knew that. If you talk to the Queen Latifahs and the Tupac Shakurs, they’d say, ‘Of course!’ I’ve always been a lot of things.”
“It’s do or die,” she says about HawthoRNe’s third season. She gets animated (and slightly secretive) about it: “I can’t…. You’ve got to watch.”
On the TNT hospital drama, Smith (the daughter of a real-life nurse) plays woman of steel Christina Hawthorne. As executive producer, she promises to deliver ethical, romantic, and life-and-death issues via twisting story lines.
Also a source of inspiration: her husband of 14 years, Will.
“We create together; we love on each other,” Pinkett Smith says of the man she still rocks out with to old-school hip-hop on satellite radio. “We raise our kids together. We are building something together.”
Pinkett Smith admits that the couple’s public perception is vastly different than their reality.
“People think that Will and I don’t spend a lot of time together. Too much time, actually, if you ask me,” she says with a laugh. “It’s always nice to have a little time apart. Sometimes you need that.”
“There was a time when all I had to worry about was myself,” she says. “I’d get offers to do things—to go to Bolivia for three months or go to Prague—and now it’s like, I can’t. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about me being there for my kids. And there’s no one else I would leave that job to.”
“Believe it or not, they’re both like me and Will,” says Pinkett Smith of the couple’s children. “Willow’s a lot like me – just in the chances she’ll take. And then, Jaden has the drive of his father. Jaden and I are what I call introverted extroverts. Willow and Will are more pow! Jaden and I, well, we don’t give that to just anybody.”
Smith fronted alternative-metal band Wicked Wisdom, but her maternal role pushed her musical passions to the back burner. “When Jaden did The Pursuit of Happyness, I was supposed to go on tour with Guns N’ Roses in Europe,” she says softly. She turned down the offer and eventually disbanded the group. “It was probably the most heartbreaking experience. But what I realized is that sometimes God will place things in your life that will make you recognize what your priorities are. I adore my son; he’s my soul seed. There was no way that I was going to allow him to do [a movie] and not have his mother.
“I don’t think that Wicked Wisdom happened for me; I think it happened because of what was going to go down with Willow,” she says. “I needed that experience so I would understand an aspect of her journey.”
“I miss [my music career] tremendously, but it’s one of those things that I wear with a badge of honor because it expresses what I prioritize, and that’s my family.”
“There are so many other kids you can worry about. My kids? They’re going to be all right. I get why people would criticize. But people need to know that Will and I would never put our children in a situation that would bring them detriment,” she says, her hazel eyes flashing.
“My kids have no idea how I grew up,” Pinkett Smith continues. “Even in knowing my story, they couldn’t know what that means. They have no RE-ALI-TY. None. My feeling is, my kids need to have challenges, in a safe way. If I survived everything that I survived in Baltimore and Will survived everything he survived in Philly, these kids surely can survive the Hollywood game. With so many heavyweights surrounding them—from Beyoncé and Jay-Z to Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith to Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony—if they can fail in a circle like that, then they weren’t going to win in the first place.”
“All I want for Trey (Will’s oldest son from his first marriage), Jaden, and Willow is happiness,” she says. “As long as they’re happy, and know how to maneuver in this world, I’m good.”
“This year I’m going to have a quiet birthday. I’ve gone through a major transition. I lost my father, I lost my father’s mother, and I lost my aunt, all within a matter of 12 months. It helped me realize, Jada, you’re going into the next phase in your life. And what old skin I had to shed in order to take on this second half, I did. And that, to me, is the celebration.”
For the full cover story, check out UPTOWN’s June/July issue hitting newsstands this month.