Jada Pinkett Smith is an actress who doesn’t shy away from a challenging role, be it an uber-villain in Gotham or the head of a male strip brothel in Magic Mike XXL, and we had the chance to talk to the star about the latter when she came to Atlanta last week to promote the sexy film, in theaters today.
In the movie, Pinkett-Smith plays Rome, the owner of an exotic entertainment palace and former flame of Mike’s that helps the guys freshen up their routine by introducing them to some new talent, and moves. Although the relationship between she and Channing Tatum’s character may appear a little complicated, Jada had no problem simplifying it for reporters. “Oh it’s not complicated, it’s simple. It’s a romance gone wrong, alright,” she said. “Her going with Mike to kind of help him with this show is a reconciliation for all that was in the past…You have 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. So it’s just kind of closing that chapter.”
When we first meet Rome, it’s at her house of male entertainment, and audiences will be happy to see some of the stars they heard would be joining the film, will be making their appearances as employees of said house (looking at you Twitch, Donald Glover and Michael Strahan). Although Rome is the cool, calm, collected woman in charge, Jada initially had some reservations about accepting the part. “Well, I had some reservations because of my work in human trafficking,” she admitted. “What I realized in my human trafficking advocacy-I realized that this industry is going to exist, the sex industry is going to exist, right? There’s no eradicating it. The clothing industry is going to exist. There’s as much trafficking in the clothing industry, in the chocolate industry, the coffee bean industry- so instead of focusing on ‘We’ve got to make sure that 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. So I really wanted Rome to encompass an energy…which could show that a woman can have a sense of self-respect, dignity and demand that from whoever she’s dealing with in a sexually charged environment.
“Entertainment in this realm doesn’t have to be about degradation. That it should be about celebration and exaltation. That was really something that I wanted to explore. Because Channing has been a part of this industry, because he was a male entertainer at one time, I thought it was beautiful partnership. There’s certain ins and outs that 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, really radical, but it’s important I feel, to take a shot.”
In getting past her hesitations and opening her mind to the little talked about positive side of the sex entertainment industry, Jada actually came away from the film having learned some insightful lessons about herself. “I think the biggest thing I did learn, because I did go into this very skeptical, I’d have to tell you that the biggest thing I did learn was that- it’s two things. Often times, we look at sexual energy as an energy that should only be used in regard to having sex, right? No one on the set was having sex. It was a sexually charged environment, but nobody was sleeping with nobody,” she laughed. “Yet, to just realize how much sexual energy can bring so much joy it opened up so many gateways to creativity, it opens up so many gateways to the soul, without actually engaging in it, in a way in which we are used to being told how we should be engaging in sexually charged environments, right? And that was surprising. That was really surprising. To just be able to look at all these beautiful people, you know, 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! I mean you come on that set- we were on that set for HOURS and nobody got tired! You just never got tired of being there and working because it was just to much fun! I don’t really know how to explain it except for how maybe some of you felt while watching the movie. It was just a joy!…It’s really a beautiful communication! It’s awesome and that’s what I really realized. I was like ‘Maybe Channing was right!’ Maybe there is a way to be entertained in this adult way responsibly!. I was like ‘this is awesome!’ So that’s what I learned.”
The film also gave Jada a new outlook on the industry in general, looking at it more from an artistic perspective. “It gave me a whole different perspective on the industry as well. A whole new perspective. I was just looking at how beautiful the art of dancing of these guys, and then I started thinking about the women who are in this industry. How pole dancing now- there’s pole dancing competitions, women buy pole dancing classes for exercises, it’s like become the new, new. But yet, women who pole dance, there’s such a stigma and I had to really look at that and I said, you know, 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. I think that we need some time to kind of figure out how to elevate that energy, but I do think that that’s something that we’re going to really have to think about and figure out, because we know that that is going to exist. To me Magic Mike is just the beginning, kind of an opening to that doorway. It’s really a beautiful, beautiful art.”
You can catch Jada as Rome in Magic Mike XXL, in theaters now.
Photo Credit: Mike McKinney