I had the good fortune to be involved with the Jada Pinkett Smith press conference for “Magic Mike XXL.” Jada plays Rome, the owner of an exclusive male strip club where Mike, played by Channing Tatum, used to work.
The character you play, Rome is a very confident woman, but she has a very complicated relationship with Mike. Can you touch on their relationship and the dynamic between them?
Jada: It’s not complicated, it is simple. It’s a romance gone wrong. Her going with Mike to help him with the show is kind of reconciliation for all the things in the past. You know, you just have to let grudges go. You have people come into your life and show you things. You have a good time with them, and then sometimes it goes right, sometimes it goes wrong. She is doing great, and Mike was a good friend to her. She can now do this favor for him, so it’s a closing of that chapter with him.
What was your inspiration for the role?
Jada: Well the role was initially written for a guy. It was written for Jamie Foxx in mind. There were some scheduling difficulties with Jamie, so Channing called me. One thing that Channing told me is when he thought about Magic Mike in Vegas, he always thought it would be cool to have a female MC. So he wanted to change the role and make it a female, but he also wanted to bring a sense of responsibility to the complaint of adult entertainment. I thought that was a wonderful idea and an incredible challenge. I was down for that.
The character you play is quite a departure from most of the roles you have taken in the past. Did you have any reservations about taking the role?
Jada: I had some reservations due to my work in trying to stop human trafficking. What I realized in my human trafficking advocacy that this industry is going to exist. The sex industry is going to exist. There is no getting rid of it. The clothing insisting will continue to exist. There is as much human trafficking in the clothing industry as there is in the sex industry. So instead of focusing on shutting these industries down why not focus on what we can change. I wanted to focus on that a woman can have a sense of self-respect and dignity. That she can demand that whoever she is dealing with she can be in charge of her environment. It doesn’t have to be about degradation. It should be about celebration. That was something that I wanted to explore. Because Channing has been a part of this industry having been a male entertainer at one time, I thought it was a beautiful thing that he brought to this film. He understands the certain ins and outs of this industry that he can bring to his role. There was a certain knowledge I was bringing because of my human trafficking advocacy. I thought it was important to take a shot and see what I could bring to the role.
Your character is a little bossy and in control. Can you tell us about working with the rest of the cast?
Jada: I mean, tWitch was phenomenal. Danny Glover was fantastic. And working with Channing was great because, for somebody in his position, he gives a lot of power to the other artists, giving them an opportunity to shine as well. People of his position usually want to keep that power to themselves but when you see the movie you will see that he gave Joe a platform, Matt a platform, just everybody an opportunity. It was a pleasure working with them all.
You used to be in a band “Wicked Wisdom.” Did it help you in your performance portraying an MC?
Jada: Yes, it did. Being a front woman for a Metal band gave me all the practice I would ever need to be in front of an audience, no matter what I am doing. I did use what I learned performing with my Metal band, especially on how to move a Metal crowd. Fronting a band was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, performing live in front of a crowd of people. It doesn’t get any harder than that. I got to the point that no matter what they thought about me, they would be moving by the time I was finished with them. So I can move any crowd, so you are right I got a lot of my skill set from performing with my band.
There’s a lot of diversity in the film, especially in your club, “Rome’s house.” Can you talk about the diversity of the dancers and the diversity of the music in that club setting?
Jada: Well, the diversity of the dancers represents how women want to relate to men. You had Donald Glover, who was like the sweet serenade. Joe was more like the “Nine Inch Nails” groove. Twitch and Channing were doing the R&B thing. And the music represented a certain energy.
Let’s talk about the dialogue. There seems to be a lot of dialogue between you and Channing that might have been ad-libbed. But also it seems that at the end when you were “MC”ing that you had your own voice in those scenes. Also, the intimate scenes seemed to be becoming from your own voice.
Jada: Yeah. One of the things that I love about his movie is that Channing and everyone else was fluid in that way. You had your scene for the day, but that was just basically a blueprint for the day. We did a lot of ad-libbing. And then Rome’s dialogue on stage was mostly me. They gave me a lot of freedom. They gave me a lot of freedom.
You mentioned earlier that your character was originally written for a man. How much influence did you have in making this role your own?
Jada: Oh, I had a lot. Channing said “just do it.” I had a lot of conversations with him about Rome. They gave me a lot of freedom to make Rome my own. When I came on board, they were already in production, so that might have been an advantage for me. There were so many other things going on I said “I got this.” They trusted me, and I am grateful that they did.
As an older woman, how do you like being seen as a sex symbol?
Jada: I love that people can see an older woman as attractive. I feel that as we get older we get more attractive. As a young woman, you think that everything on the outside is important. As you get older as a woman, your wisdom is what makes you attractive. It’s what you have been designing and building on the inside that’s alluring on the outside.
Did you have any input on what you wore in the film?
Jada: I did, I got to talk a lot with the costume designer. I wanted Rome to have some sort of pant suit, but I wanted it to be sexy. I wanted a wardrobe that had a sense of command but where she wasn’t trying to be a man. I wanted something that had a sense of power, showing some masculinity with still being able to relate to the famine side. I wanted women to feel like they had access to me as well. I wanted them to feel like I was a friend. And I wanted men to feel that I wasn’t trying to invade on their masculinity, but to let them know that it was my space.
How long did it take to film the final dance sequences? What I loved about the movie was that you felt like part of the audience seeing it live.
Jada: It didn’t take that long. The whole movie only took 28 days. I think that it has that feeling of being live because of the way we shot it. There aren’t a lot of close-ups. You are there in the environment. I think it only took us two days to shoot every scene in the convention where the final dance sequences take place.
Thanks for talking with us and much success with the film.
Jada: Thank You
“Magic Mike XXL” is in theaters now.
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