Jada Pinkett Smith, twenty years ago, working things out with Will

                               July 1999 By Philip Berk

When Jada Pinkett Smith walks onto the soundstage at Warner Bros. studios, she’s like a breath of fresh air.

All the cast of Matrix Reloaded have been there giving interviews.

It’s been a long day, but surprisingly the studio has saved the best for last.

Adorable, and vivacious, Jada quickly puts everyone at ease.

No wonder she swept Will (Smith) off his feet.

Publicly she’s bragged about how great their sex life was, especially while he was in training for Ali.

And so has he.

But what we don’t know is how big heart a heart she has.

When she and Will first met, he was in the process of divorcing his wife.

Two years later they were married

For a long time there was no love lost between Jada and Will’s ex.

But she learned to overcome that

“I learned to embrace a woman I hated,” she tells us, “which is his ex wife. That was a big step, going from wanting to kill her to being able to embrace her like a sister.”

What motivated her?

“I did it for Trey their son. He was the one suffering. At the end of the day, we were all going to be okay, but it was torment watching him choose which parent he wanted to be with for Christmas. It was like me having to choose between Jaden and Willow (her and Will’s two children) for Christmas. It was just hell to watch him, and it got to the point where we decided we couldn’t do it any more. So now, we do everything together. She is a part of our family. I don’t deny it’s hard but you do it because it works for the children and, Trey is a much different child now.”

Ironically her sacrifice resulted in an unexpected bonus.

Out of this experience she and Will developed a a situation comedy called All About Us, which UPN has scheduled for Tuesday nights.

“It’s  basically a TV show about a blended family. A divorced man who is about to remarry and is trying make it all work out with his ex-wife and his new wife. We’ve just finished the pilot and it’s been  picked it up for next season.”

“I’ve sacrificed a lot of things for the love of my husband,” she says, with no regret.

Before the birth of her first child, she worked primarily with African American directors like the Hughes Brothers, Matty Henry, Doug McHenry, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and Ernest Dickinson, even though she always resisted being stereotyped.

“I had big dreams of having a movie star career, but I put that aside for my husband and the love of my family because I understand love means so much more than anything.” 

However when offered the role of Niobe in the two Matrix sequels it gave her pause.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse, but at the time I was nine months pregnant. It took a lot of conversations.Will was going to Africa (where he was filming Ali) and I would be in Australia (where the Matrix was shot.) We had a pact that we wouldn’t work at the same time, so it took a lot of planning. We had to work out how long he would be in Africa, how long I would be in Australia, and when we would be able to take a break to get back to the States.”

But eventually it worked out?

“It was strenuous. It was a strain because of course the kids want to see their dad. They miss him if he’s not there. ‘Where’s daddy?’ they’d ask me, and I’d be all stressed out because I’m working and Will’s working. But we worked it out. Although I still believe you can’t have a successful family with two mega-superstars.” 

To play Niobe, Jada had to learn kung fu and martial arts, and in the process she put on 15 extra pounds of muscle. 

How difficult was it getting use to the nylon outfit she wears in the film?

“As soon as I put it on, Niobe came to me very naturally. I felt very confident. I felt very strong,  although I’m not really into that type of material. You sweat and you have to peel it off. It’s not my personal taste but I did enjoy wearing it ” 

In the movie she kicks butt. Growing up, did she ever kick some boy’s butt?

“I do remember getting into a fight with a young man in middle school, becoming very defensive because he pushed me. It was a very bad altercation, and I remember being suspended for a few days and my stepfather being very upset because I had defended myself. He felt the boy had the right to kick my ass if he wanted to! My response was, he would have if he could, but he couldn’t.

“I remember being very upset and not speaking to him (her stepfather) for two weeks. But I was in fights all the time as a little girl.”

“I don’t fight anymore,” she jokingly adds.

Which of them is in better physical shape, she or Will?

“If you’d ask me that a month ago, I’d have to say me, but since Ali, Will has been trying to slim down and lose weight, get rid of his muscle mass because he is now filming I, Robot in which he has to have a thinner, sleeker physique. So as of right now because I haven’t worked out for about a month, I’d have to say we’re kind of equal.”

And who’s the boss in the family?

“We both are. There are times when I have to put my foot down, and definitely times when he has to put his foot down.” 

Are they more into fighting or compromising?

“We don’t do a lot of fighting. Our personalities are too fiery. We established in the beginning  that there’s no way we could have a confrontational relationship, otherwise we’d both be dead. So what we do is, we talk, we communicate. Sometimes if it gets too heated we say, ‘Let’s take a time out.’ We go into different rooms, cool it out and get our thoughts together. We write it down on pieces of paper, then we come back. Sometimes it’s a hard road, but we always come to a compromise.”

How did Will handle playing Mr.Mom while she was working?

“He actually enjoyed it. It was funny. He’d come on the set with the kids, and I’d say: ‘How was your morning?’ and he’d say, ‘Man, that was a lot of work.’ I’d say: ‘Now you see what I do at home.’ It’s like I’ve got to take a movie to get a vacation.’ 

But he never complained?

“It was really funny to see us switch roles, him coming down to the set with the kids and having to wait for me in the trailer during lunch. But he was a trooper about it and I think he actually enjoyed it.” 

Will they do it again?

“I don’t think I’ll work again  when Will is working. This experience has definitely reinforced that. We survived, and Will was extremely supportive, but it makes it difficult to allow your children to have a normal life. So I accept the responsibility as the one who monitors what’s happening, the one who takes the kids to their baseball games and basketball games.”

Is she still writing poetry?

“I have been writing a lot of poetry. A lot of things happened when we were shooting this movie, Aaliah passed, Gloria Stuart pass, September 11th. I wrote quite a bit of poetry because poetry is an outlet for me to express my anger. I used it as a vehicle to cope with a lot of obstacles we were up against on that project.”

Will The Matrix change her life?

“I don’t think things are going to be much different. I’m already married to one of the biggest movie stars in the world, so it’s a lifestyle I’m already living. I think everything will continue to be normal.” 

For the record, she and Will have bought a house in Cape Town South Africa, where they intend to live part of the year .

While filming Ali there, Will fell in love with the place, and now he wants his kids to discover their roots.

Jada of course is with him 100 percent on this!

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