Jada Pinkett Smith Is Slowly Changing Hollywood — & Her Own Career
We’ve all heard the excuses. “There aren’t more movies about women and for women because no one would watch them.” “Female-driven movies don’t do well at the box office.” “Women aren’t funny.” (We’re still wincing over that last one to be honest.) But then, every so often, a movie like Girls Trip comes along to smash those excuses. And, you know, the patriarchy.
There are many things to love about this movie, the primary one being that it puts four empowered women front and center. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish star as lifelong friends who head to New Orleans to attend the annual Essence Festival. Suffice it to say things get wild enough in the Big Easy to earn the movie every bit of its R rating.
With the film being released this week on Blu-Ray and DVD, Pinkett Smith hopped on a call with us to chat about the roles women play in Hollywood… both in front of and behind the camera.
Coincidentally, Pinkett Smith and Latifah (or “La” as Pinkett Smith has affectionately dubbed her) starred together in another movie about four strong women. That film, ‘96’s Set It Off, featured the female leads as inner-city women driven by their own desperation to bank robbery.
In Girls Trip, the four female leads are each successful in their own way, among them an Oprah-like media maven and a Perez Hilton-style gossip guru.
When asked to discuss how Hollywood has changed in terms of diversity in the 21 years between the two films, Pinkett Smith said with a slight laugh, “We’re making strides, you know? One day at a time, we’re making strides.”
In order to secure more roles of substance for women in general, Pinkett Smith says the key is “just getting more people — more women — in the position to greenlight movies, to recognize these stories as important.”
Part of the rusty Hollywood cog that could use oiling is that of putting men in charge of telling women’s stories.
“If Girls Trip is not your experience, you’re not going to look at it as a movie that’s important to make. In a male-dominated culture that Hollywood can be at times, you would look at this and go, ‘I don’t know if there will be enough women to see this.’ Because that’s your experience,” Pinkett Smith said of the typical Hollywood thought process.
“So that’s why it’s important that we have people in Hollywood that are making these important decisions who come from various backgrounds that look at storytelling through many different kinds of lenses,” she continued, adding, “Because everybody has a story to tell, and all of them are important — all of them! It’s just about building Hollywood in a way that has a broad lens. That’s it. And we’re on the road to do that. We’re doing it, slowly but surely.”
Until the time when women, people of color and other marginalized groups of society are represented behind the camera, Pinkett Smith stresses that women in Hollywood can make a difference just by participating.
“I think even as women, when we take on projects like this as actresses, we have to be courageous enough — and most of us do — to speak about helping to craft the story and craft our characters to more authentic spaces,” Pinkett Smith said.
“Even when we’re just hired as actresses, we have a voice,” she continued, “and it’s really just creating those relationships with our partners to give us that room. I have to give Malcolm [Lee, director] and Will [Packer, producer] a lot of credit, because they really got out of the way in regards to allowing us to come in and craft these characters, craft moments, craft aspects of the story that were just more authentic to our experiences.”
It wasn’t a huge ordeal or contentious back-and-forth, either. In Pinkett Smith’s own words, “There was no debating it. I really give them a lot of credit for that.” They gave these smart, talented, funny women license to be themselves. Are you listening Hollywood?
Although Pinkett Smith is happy to cultivate the conversation through roles, the actor also has plans to spend more time behind the lens too. “Right now, my life is really just about having fun,” she shared with us. “You know, creating beautiful experiences through art.”
Currently, that means teaming up with one young woman in particular: her 17-year-old daughter, Willow.
“My daughter and I are going to do a musical collaboration together, which I’m really excited about,” Pinkett Smith revealed. “We did our first little taster last night at Afropunk [Fest] […] I’m excited to be in one lane with my daughter sharing some creative life with her through music.”
If you aren’t already stoked about the chance to see the mother-daughter duo perform, Pinkett Smith left us with one more teaser about what the future could hold — for her, yes, but also for other women in Hollywood.
When asked whether she would ever consider giving a voice to women by hosting a talk show, the actor lingered strategically before responding. And while we can’t tell you precisely what she said, we can tell you this: Smith is “in discussions.”
Girls Trip is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.