Jada Pinkett: Angels On Her Shoulders

Hot off The Nutty Professor, Jada Pinkett is ready for leading-lady status. Here she talks about finally getting to shoot guns in her new film Set It Off, about not wanting to marry her boyfriend, Will Smith, just now, and about her sense that "where is a higher power that's been looking over me for whatever reason."


I'm well aware that Jade Pinkett is brand-new megamovie star Will Smith's girlfriend. I've also heard that she grew up knowing the late Tupac Shakur. But when she tells me about accompanying The Artist Formerly known as Prince to see Boyz II Men in concert. I begin to think there's no end to the pop culture icons she's in with. Apparently, Ms. Pinkett's tight enough with the Purple One that they'd be on a first-name basis, if only he had one.

"What do you call him?" I ask.

"Nothing, don't call him anything, just look at him when you acknowledge him."

"What would happen if you slipped and said, 'Hey Prince, you want some gum?"

"I don't know. I never did. You don't have to say his name. You're right there with him."

"What if you call him on the phone..."

"He calls me."

"...and he says, '"Hi, Jade, this is...'"

"They say, 'The boss wants to speak to you.'"

"But wouldn't that be Bruce Springsteen?"

"Bruce is not calling me."

"Well, Bruce Springsteen is about the only one who's not. Hot off last summer's big hit The Nutty Professor, Jada Pinkett's got a dance card that's filled for months in advance. Right now she's in Set It Off, a 'hood pic she shares with Queen Latifah and Vivica Fox. Next comes Woo, a romantic comedy for Party Girl director Daisy von Scherler Mayer. And she costars in Cher's directorial debut, the third segment of the HBO movie If These Walls Could Talk, playing a young woman who tries to convince her roommate (Anne Heche) not to have an abortion.

"You know," I tell Pinkett, "a few months ago I was doing an interview at a sidewalk table on Beverly, and this girl walked by wearing a T-shirt that said 'Cher Rocks!' I thought it was so cool I asked her where she got it. She said she'd worked on a movie Cher directed, and everyone on the project got one. Was that project Walls?" I'm bringing this up because I'm hoping Pinkett can get me one of those T-shirts.

"Wait a second," Pinkett says, "Were you at Red that day?"


"That was me!"

"That was you?" I gasp. "I thought the woman was, like, a gaffer or something. No offense."

"Well, I was looking all raggedy, but that was me," says the 25-year-old actress, who's looking anything but raggedy today in her pleated black miniskirt and matching low-cut lop. "How strange is that? I wear that shirt all the time. Cher's my girl. I love me some Cher, She's so real. You know, she just comes with the realness. She's like, 'Look, I don't have time for no bullshit. I'm trying to be down, are you?' She is the shit."

So, Jada Pinkett and I--and her personable Rottweiler, Indo--have obviously been brought together on the patio of a restaurant in the heart of Hollywood by Fate--the sort of Fate that demands I ask at least one question about Cher before getting to Pinkett's stuff.

"So," I ask, "did Cher ever trot out any old Bob Mackie numbers on the set?"

"She wore lots of things to the set," Pinkett laughs, gesturing wildly, her lavender fingernails leaving streaks of color in the air (she'd be great to have on your team in a game of charades). "Cher's like me, we hate bras. Hate bras."

"So do I," says our waiter, whose contribution to the conversation thus far has consisted solely of reciting the day's specials. "I'm glad to see you're not wearing one today."

Normally, I'm not one to encourage repartee from the help, but since he's just managed to get us firmly on the subject of breasts without my having to say anything, I'll forgive the guy. Hell, I might even tip him extra.

"Has your dislike of bras ever gotten you in trouble?" I ask.

"The only time was when I did Rosie O'Donnell's show," Pinkett recalls. "I had on this really tight white T-shirt and my nipples were showing and I was like, 'Weil, it's so white it's going to look flat on TV. You're not going to see any nipples.' Oh my God, they had a fit. 'No, we gotta find you a bra.'"

The Rosie show notwithstanding, Jada Pinkett and all her assorted parts are enjoying more visibility than ever before. Though she'd done a solid string of films before last summer-- The Inkwell, Jason's Lyric, A Low Down Dirty Shame, Tales From the Crypt Presents Demon Knight, Menace II Society--her turn as "the girl" in Eddie Murphy's comeback comedy The Nutty Professor pushed her into the Big Time.

"That was a fun movie," she says. "Even though my character didn't do much--she basically smiled and looked pretty--that was very different for Jada. I think people are really starting to see me in a different light and I need to start seeing myself in that same light. Leading Lady. Whoa, OK."

''I just saw the movie last night," I say. "In the outtakes in the closing credits, what are you cracking up at?"

"Eddie was being nasty." she says. "He said, 'I bet you got a hot ass. I would love to have a hot-ass sandwich.' I was laughing because he was being crude."

"Your new one, Set It Off, is obviously not another mainstream comedy follow-up to Professor."

"It's about four L.A. women who are dealing with oppression in one form or another. They make a bad decision to get out of the squeezes that they're in--which is to rob banks. It's basically Thelma and Louise Wait to Exhale. I was happy to be part of a movie that was about us as women. They're always talking about what the black man has to go through and his struggles and you never see our side of the story."

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