When Vivica A. Fox burst onto the scene with 1996’s Independence Day, she wasn’t just jumpstarting her decades-long career in entertainment. She was also forming a lifelong connection to co-star Will Smith and his future wife Jada Pinkett Smith, with whom she starred in heist classic Set It Off the same year. Fox has been proud to build her career around working with African-American co-stars and creating content for African-American audiences, especially as a frequent face of Lifetime’s movies and TV shows. But her connection to Will and Jada goes deeper than professional rapport. In a new exclusive interview with SheKnows, Fox explains why it took so long (4.5 years, exactly) for Jada’s entanglement with August Alsina to come out — and why she never would have seen that Red Table Talk coming from Will.
Fox was reminiscing about the friendships she made on Set It Off, a time when Jada was first dating Will. While she was impressed with their honesty on Red Table Talk, she admitted that this wasn’t what she expected from the couple, since Will’s star status had always forced them to uphold a certain image.
“I think they’ve always had a very guarded image, to be very honest,” she said of the couple. “You know, Will Smith is a megastar…I think that they’ve always put on the face of like, we’re happy, we’re good, that ‘Will and Jada love’. Well, guess what? That ‘Will and Jada love’ also ran into a little stumbling block.”
If anything, Fox thinks their conversation was evidence of growth, and could act as a healthy model for how to resolve conflict in relationships — something she notes is often lacking for African-Americans in particular.
“That’s grown folks right there. Relationships are tough,” she commented. “The fact that they were very transparent with their relationship and, I guess you could say, a bad time in their relationship, that they shared that with us…it worked.”
“I think others can learn,” she added, “that if you have problems in your relationships to not be afraid to talk about it. And if you really love each other, you’ll work through it.”
While Will and Jada hold a special place in Fox’s heart, she’s careful to note that their friendship is part of a larger pattern: the generous, inviting nature of African-American actors in Hollywood.
“I’m so grateful that, the majority of everyone that I’ve had an opportunity to work with, that I’m still friends with and we’re still all employing each other, doing projects together,” she shared. “I can honestly say the African-American community of actors is very, very close.”
One of Fox’s priorities is uplifting African-American stories, and she’s just taken the reins in a major way by producing and starring in two new Lifetime movies from the Wrong series: The Wrong Wedding Planner and The Wrong Stepfather. Starring in Lifetime roles is nothing new for Fox, of course — she’s done countless TV series and movies for the network.
— Lifetime Movie Network (@LMN) July 14, 2020
But producing lets Fox have a bigger say than ever before, and she’s always been sure that Lifetime was where she wanted to launch her brand.
“Lifetime is a supporter of females and African-American females, which makes me so proud,” Fox told SheKnows. “The majority of the lifetime audience is African-Americans, African-American females…They connected that brand with Vivica Fox. They were the first network to give me my first starring role in a series with Missing…We made a brand with [TV series] Vivica’s Black Magic.”
“We are in more powerful positions with writing, directing, producing, telling our own stories,” Fox says of African-American creators today. “And so that is why now you can even see them told even more beautifully and more accurately. Because African-Americans will make sure to tell black stories accurately.”
The Wrong Wedding Planner premieres on LMN on July 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Click here to see 12 of the most iconic roles played by Black women in Hollywood.