Jada Pinkett Smith has mastered the art of being eternal. When she exits a room, the soon to be 45-year-old’s presence is still felt. As a woman, she’s tapped into her many powers: role model, activist, spokesperson and one of Hollywood’s most stunning beauties. She even has managed to keep fans of FOX’s Batman prequel Gotham so worked up that when she was limited to only a few episodes in Season 2 — they wondered aloud if she would return.
As still shots and teasers from Gotham’s upcoming third season began rolling out, there was Smith’s “Fish Mooney” character front and center. After having escaped Indian Hills with a bunch of other baddies, the best villain from Season 1 is bent on reclaiming what she feels is rightfully hers.
But there’s more than just Gotham on her plate. The Set It Off and A Different World actress is once more partnering with Queen Latifah for a buddy comedy (Girls Trip) co-starring Regina Hall — and helmed by director Malcolm D. Lee. So what do you ask the mother of two of the world’s more expressive kids? Easy, you ask what pushes her to continue to grow.
VIBE: Well, welcome back to doing television. I know a lot of fans were upset that you weren’t a big part of Season 2 of Gotham. Thankfully you’re part of season 3.
Jada-Pinkett Smith: Yeah, thank you!
What was it like returning to the set and handling the new arc that the show runners are going with?
It was really great. The set was as if I never left and I think, everyone is super excited about the possibilities of season 3 and where it’s looking like where it’s going. I love the whole arc of “Fish Mooney”; the death, the resurrection and you’ll see in the first two episodes that she/s got plenty in store for Gotham. I can’t spoil too much [Laughs]!
What’s it like slipping back into the skin of that particular character?
I love playing Fish. I think one of the things I love about her is that she wasn’t part of the original series but she’s been able to collect a lot of fans and people who appreciate her and the series. I’ve always loved the comic book world and I’ve always wanted to participate in it in some way. So this has been a big dream come true for me.
Just from the design of the costume of Fish now, it’s blowing my mind. Is Fish a mermaid now? Cause it’s adding to the idea of a “Mad City now!
I think the first two episodes will have a lot of people saying, “Oh snap!” We’ll definitely be exceeding people’s expectations and you’ll see … Fish’s in it to win it.
She’s never been one to take a loss well, has she? Exactly! [Laughs]
Given her nature, that’s kind of been your nature for the last … twenty years or so of your career.
What’s it been like reuniting with Queen Latifah knowing it’s been 20 years since Set It Off?
Twenty years, I know! It was really beautiful to be honest with you. Queen & I have worked behind the scenes where I’ll be behind the camera and she’s in front and vice versa. And we asked ourselves, why has it been so long since we acted in a movie together? I think in our minds we thought we were working together a lot.
Being on screen together and being on set together, creating with her at that capacity? That’s such a joy for me, you know? She’s one of my dearest friends and I forgot how much I loved being around her like that. It was beautiful and I said, “We have to do this more often.” Cause I missed our friendship in that capacity. Because having that creative play in regards to a comedy, it’s a lot different than Set It Off. You’ve got Regina Hall there who is ridiculously talented! [Laughs] And Tiffany Haddish who is ridiculous as well. I think people are gonna enjoy this movie.
It’s a fun contrast from playing Fish Mooney.
Right, because I did Bad Moms this summer and comedy … is a very vulnerable space. It’s a muscle I haven’t exercised in a long time and after I did Bad Moms with those talented women, and then I did Girl’s Trip, I said, I think I can stay on this comedy trail for a little while.
But it’s so crazy to think that you’ve delivered so much for the culture at large. Do you ever look back and say, I’ve had a hell of a ride doing this?
Y’know, lately I’ve been thinking about my life. I’m about to turn 45. I’m looking at what I’ve done and not just creatively but my life! What I’ve been able to experience, not just the great things but also the not so great things in my life. What I’ve survived … that’s what I really look at and see the failures that I’ve had, and the loss, and the trauma and how I’ve been able to rise from the ashes a million times [Laughs]. You know? That to me, when I look at myself in that way, it’s what reminds me of who I am. More than the so-called success I’ve had to be honest with you.
It’s been twenty years now since Pac’s been gone too and just looking at the incredible people I’ve had in my life. Those who’ve loved me and I’ve had the opportunity to love. And if I were to go today? I’ve lived a full life. And there’s even more to come between my family, my marriage … everything I’ve been so blessed to experience. I feel that I’ve lived a very full life.
In your dark times though, those moments of doubt – what keeps you going? What keeps you pushing?
Here’s the thing I’ve learned about pain and dark times. That is just the highest opportunity you’ve got to find the greatest parts of ourselves. It’s not a punishment, it’s not a curse, it’s the Highest saying, “There’s more in you that I need you to find. There’s more in you that I need you to become”. So, that’s the thing that has always given me faith. That, that which is higher than me is trying to show me something about myself in this moment. If I stay connected to that, to my God and to that light and I just listen and walk that path … then I know, I’m going to find what I’ve been asked to become.
To make it more simple than that … all things pass! Storms come and you know that the sun is right there. So it’s just having that patience that it will come. That light, that sun. And I’ve had the most faith in that and it’s never, ever failed me. And I’ve had some dark days, ones where I didn’t know if I was going to make it through. That light shines far brighter far more than it did before that storm came.
You may need to put that on a pillow. Like on Etsy and make it and then lay on it. Then when you wake up, you read it and call it the “Jada Pinkett Pillow”.
[Laughs] That’s actually a beautiful image, I may have to do that for myself. Get some pillows with some great, inspirational quotes to wake up to every day. That’s a beautiful idea! Thank you for that.