Jada Pinkett Smith Talks Magic Mike XXL, Sexuality, and Acceptance

Jada Pinkett Smith Talks Magic Mike XXL, Sexuality, and Acceptance

Shakefire (SF): What drew you to the role?
Jada Pinkett Smith (JPS): The role was originally written for a guy. It was originally written with Jamie Foxx in mind. There were some scheduling difficulties so then Channing called me. One thing that Channing did say, he was like, “When I ever thought about Magic Mike in Vegas, I always imagined a woman as the female MC. So I want to change this role for a female, and I also want to bring a sense of responsibility to this component of adult entertainment.” And I was like, “That’s a radical idea. That’s a wonderful challenge. I’m down for that.”


SF: Did you have any reservations about taking the role?
JPS: I had some reservations because of my work in human trafficking. What I realized in my human trafficking advocacy, I realized this industry is going to exist. The sex industry is going to exist. There’s no eradicating it, right? The clothing industry’s going to exist. There’s as much trafficking in the clothing industry, in the chocolate industry, in the coffee bean industry. So instead of focusing on like, “We gotta make sure we shut these industries down,” I was really into the idea of “Why don’t we just bring some responsibility to it?” The idea that no matter what somebody’s doing, they should be treated as a human being. I really wanted Rome to encompass the energy in which to show a woman can have a sense of self respect and dignity, and demand that from whoever she’s dealing with in a sexual charged environment. Entertainment in this realm doesn’t have to be about degradation. It should be about celebration and exaltation. That was really something I wanted to explore. And because Channing has been a part of this industry, because he was a male entertainer at one time, I thought it was a beautiful partnership because there’s certain ins and outs he understands about the industry as a whole and there was a certain knowledge that I was bringing from my human trafficking advocacy as well. It’s a radical idea, but I felt it was important to take a shot.


SF: Can you talk to us about working with the cast, like tWitch and Channing?
JPS: I mean, tWitch is phenomenal. Donald Glover is fantastic. Working with Channing is really great because for somebody in his position, he flows a lot of power to the artists around him to have an opportunity to shine as well. People in his position usually want to keep that shine for themselves. He really gave Joe a platform. He really gave Matt a platform. He gave Donald, tWitch, everybody. He’s really giving in that way. It was a pleasure working with them all.


SF: Besides being confident and complex, Rome has this very complicated relationship with Mike. Can you touch on their relationship and their dynamic?
JPS: Oh it’s not complicated. It’s just simple. It’s a bromance gone wrong. It’s just her going with Mike to help him with this show is kinda a reconciliation for all that was in the past. It’s kinda like, “just let grudges go.” People come into your life. They show you things. You have a good time. Sometimes it goes right, sometimes it goes wrong. She’s doing great. And Mike was a good friend to her, so she can do this favor for him. It’s just kinda closing that chapter.


SF: Outside of the film you have a passion for music. How much did your role in your band play into you playing the MC in the film?
JPS: You’re right. Being a frontwoman for a metal band definitely all the practice I would ever need in front of any audience, no matter what I’m doing. I did use what I learned from my band in having to learn how to move a metal crowd, haha. Right now, that was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You could put me in front of any crowd and I’ll move a crowd; it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t get any more difficult than that. It kinda got to the point that no matter what they thought about me once I got on stage, they were moving before I got off. So I feel like I can move any crowd whatsoever. You’re right, I got a lot of skill set from my band.


SF: The film appears to have a lot of adlibbing going on, especially in the end when you’re MCing it seems to have a lot of your own voice in the dialogue.
JPS: Definitely. One of the things that I love about this movie and working with Channing is that everybody was really fluid in that way. You had your scene for the day, but that was just basically a blueprint. It’s just telling you where you need to get to by the end of the scene. We did a lot of adlibbing. As far as Rome’s dialogue on stage, yeah, that was me. They gave me a lot of freedom. I love that they were just intelligent to know that I know what needs to be done.


SF: How long did it take to shoot that final sequence at the end? The entire scene felt very seemless, almost like you’re there watching it live.
JPS: It really didn’t take that long. To shoot the whole movie took 28 days. I cannot believe Gregory Jacobs did it in such a quick time. I think it has that feeling because the way Gregory shot it kept that very live feeling. It’s not a lot of closeups. It keeps it wide. You’re there; you’re in the environment. We didn’t have to go in and shoot all those details, because we knew that’s not what it was about. The whole sequence, I think we were at the convention for maybe two days and we had to shoot everything. That means outside, inside, all the dances, all my stuff. We had to get it in.


SF: Rome is a very strong character. How important is it for woman to be confident and take control of their own sexuality.
JPS: I think it is absolutely imperative that women have a strong identity within the sexual erotic world of themselves because if we don’t, that leaves us vulnerable to be taken advantage of, to have someone else tell us how we should identify, what we should be doing with our bodies, and how we should relate to sex. If we don’t have that sense of empowerment in that area, it leaves us vulnerable for someone to have power over us. I’ve seen that often in sex trafficking where women just didn’t have that self identity so they’ve been fooled into believing that being sold for sex is a way that somebody shows they love you or that sex to be used for man’s pleasure only. That’s not true. I really wanted this character to embody the energy that represents a woman that is making her own decision and is in control when she is in this sexually charged environment. There is no taking advantage of, and there’s still self respect and dignity, and most importantly celebration. One of the ideas that’s really important in this movie is that sex and how we interact erotically and sexually should always be a celebration. Never ever should degradation be an aspect of a sexual communication. That was one of the aspects that was deeply importantly to me in making this movie. More importantly it was an aspect that was deeply important to Channing, and I have to give him all the props in the world. That is why I took this role on. It was tricky to do because of the advocacy I had done. But to have a man like himself, who has as much influence as he does in Hollywood and having been a part of this industry and that being an important component to him, I had to take that ride. I really did.


SF: What would you say are some words of wisdom for the younger ladies in regards to self esteem issues?
JPS: Here’s what I know to be true that probably will never change with time, and that is you can’t find self esteem outside of yourself. Trying to be someone else is not the key. I think we as women have to learn how to have acceptance for who we are, and that takes time. As soon as I turned 40 I think that’s when my real self acceptance landed on me like, “Boom!” I’ve been working hard from my twenties, through my thirties, got to 40 and was like, “Dang, I really understand what self acceptance means,” which then brings about that self assurance and that sense of identity. You don’t care what anybody thinks; you’re playing your own game. I think that’s really where that sense of self esteem comes from, just being okay in your own skin. I would just tell young women to stay on that path finding oneself because it doesn’t just happen. It’s a journey. Trying to be someone else might be someone’s entryway into becoming their own self, but to know that trying to be anyone else besides who you are isn’t going to get you there. As women, we just have to say on that path, what I call that path of truth. Just finding what’s true and what’s true for different women. We all have different paths and different ideas of truth, and as long it’s a truth that gets you settled into your own skin, well then that’s the truth for you.


SF: How much influence did you have in shaping Rome. It sounds like you and Channing discussed about what you both wanted the film to be.
JPS: Oh, I did. Channing was basically like, “Please, just do it.” I had a lot of conversations with everybody. They really just gave me all the freedom in the world to create Rome. Once I came on board they were already in production, that’s the thing. That might have been an advantage as well because they had so many things going on. I was like, “I got this. I’ll take care of this.” They really trusted me, and I’m grateful that they did.


SF: In portraying Rome did you learn anything about yourself?
JPS: I think the biggest thing I did learn is two things. Oftentimes we look at sexual energy as an energy that should only be used in regards to having sex. And nobody on the sex was having sex. It was a sexually charged environment, but nobody was sleeping with nobody. But yet, to just realize how much sexual energy can bring so much joy, it opens up so many gateways to creativity, it opens up so many gateways to the soul, without actually engaging in a way in which we are used to being told how we should be engaging in sexually charged environments. That was surprising. That was really surprising, just being able to look at these beautiful people and you’re in this sexually charged environment, but you’re not thinking about sleeping with anybody because you know you can’t. But yet just basking in that energy was just joyous. You come on the set; let me tell you, we were on the set for hours and nobody got tired. You just never got tired of being there and working because it was just so much fun. I don’t really know how to explain it except for how maybe some of you felt for watching the movie. It’s just a joy. It’s a beautiful communication. It’s awesome. Maybe there is a way to be entertained in this adult way responsibly. I was like, “This is awesome!”


It gave me a whole different perspective on the industry as well. Not to say I was just looking at how beautiful the art of dancing with these guys. Then I started thinking about the women who are in this industry. How pole dancing now, there’s pole dancing competitions, we buy pole dancing classes for exercises. It’s become the new new. But yet women who pole dance, there’s such a stigma. I had to really look at that. There’s definitely a way to bring an elevation to that game because there is a beauty to that art of dancing. There really is. We need some time to figure out how to elevate that energy, but I do think that’s something we’re going to have to really think about and figure out, because we know that that is going to exist. To me, Magic Mike is just the beginning and opening to that doorway.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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