Kat Graham on portraying Jada Pinkett-Smith
Q: I read a lot of his poetry, and you did a lot of research. You actually talked to Outlawz and a lot of close people so we saw the real side. Even just the mannerisms of you guys as actors, you guys nailed it! (To Demetrius) I got chills when I saw you. I thought I was looking at Pac. (To Kat Graham) and you looked just like Jada. So you guys as actors, what did you take away from your individual characters in the movie?
A: Well, I think for me… I think it’ great to embrace being an empowered black woman in this industry. For me, those roles just– as Kat talking– are few and far between, and I think we have to fight for those and fight to see more of those in Hollywood and in scripts and directors and projects. So, to know that not only do they exist, but you can be celebrated for that. And I’m hoping that through this film there will be more empowered roles for black women and a lot of young girls we see. Because maybe a lot of young people didn’t grow up watching Jada or even watching Janet in “Poetic Justice” with Pac, and they didn’t grow up watching these strong– like I feel like now we have amazing artists like Janelle Monae, we have Taraji, we have all these other women now that they’re growing up with, but me. When I was growing up I had Jada, you know what I’m saying? So, it’s really great to not just pay homage to this woman, because she’s still very much relevant, but it’s also amazing for people to get educated on– kind of, the beginning of the successful black actress movement that really flourished in the 90’s with the Jada’s and the Janet’s and the Queen Latifah’s and the list goes on and on.
Q: Since your character is still living, what was the process to become Jada Pinkett and Tupac’s muse?
A: Well, I worked with this coach Ivana Chubbuck. She’s been my partner in crime. We’ve done a lot of work. She worked with Halle [Berry] in [Monster’s Ball]. She’s someone who understands the complexity and wonders of this woman and this time in her life. And it’s also important to show who she was, even as a young girl, you don’t just become Jada Pinkett. And how does this relationship– how do we capture the dynamics? So it was important that we– me and Demetrius, we didn’t just want to be like imitating, you know, these very prolific, ahead-of-their-time friends. We wanted to embody their energy, and we wanted to capture their dynamic to see why they inspired each other. Lucky for us, we have a really great friendship and we’re super close so it came easy for us and we had each other’s back. But there’s definitely a lot of work that was done in finding the parallels between he and this woman. The losses I’ve had in my own life and finding ways to connect my soul to the energy of this character, and doing the work and having LT on set for every single scene. I’ve worked on a lot of different shows and films and, you know, sometimes the producer just ain’t around! (laughs) It’s like, “Um, I have a question!” but he was like with us and he held our hand through this entire process, and if I had a question he was there and Benny [Boom] was so trusting and so giving. To have that kind of support, and to be supporting each other– like, there were no nerves, because we have each other’s back. I mean, whatever you need, I’ve got you. And that kind of camaraderie, you felt that when you walked on set and you feel it now.
Q: Now, you actually talked on the phone to Jada. At what stage was that? During filming?
A: Yeah. Well, I had texted– I know Willow and Caleb, her brother– the second I found out that this was happening I was like, I wanted her to know and if there was anything that she wanted. Out of respect, anything she wanted me to know, anything she wanted me to stay away from, anything like that. I wanted to protect her. This is her life. This isn’t a movie, for her. This is a portrayal of her life. Specific instances of someone she deeply cared about. She wasn’t aware of our shooting schedule so by the time she text back we had literally just wrapped the final scene. But I believe in God and destiny and believe that this is the way that it was meant to be. She was incredibly supportive and she was like, “Yeah, you got this.”