on her role in DEMON KNIGHT, and being an actor
interview by Douglas Eby
"I'm a fan of horror fantasy, scifi, a big fan of Steven King, and I've always wanted to play the bad guy in a horror film," exclaims Jada Pinkett, speaking on the set of DEMON KNIGHT. She has had fun doing this film: "It was quite an event, quite an experience," she says. "I'd never done prosthetics before. Another character imagines seeing me in the beginning stage of transformation into a demon: I was in makeup for six hours.
"And I've never been in a film with so many special effects. It was really interesting, and really difficult to react to something that's not there. My character is someone who's been in a lot of trouble, and was in jail for boosting, stealing clothes and stuff, and the hotel she's working in is a work release for her. She's basically out and wants to get a new life going. She learned her lesson and wants to take on a new route, a better life.
"She's hard on the outside and really soft on the inside. She's one of those types of people who isn't very warm at first, but once you get to know her, she eases up a bit. She's had so many people fail her in her life. But she's a really cool character. I liked Jeryline and enjoyed playing her. She's very strong and very determined to get herself together. She's put in this awful situation and has to take on the burden of the world, basically. She saves the world in one night. She's definitely the heroine by accident, not something she tried to do. She's definitely one of those heroes that becomes a hero because that's their only way to survive.
"At first she's scared to death. That's how it really happens in life: people don't set out to be heroes, it just kind of falls in their lap. That's one thing that was very appealing about this script, it was very realistic in that way. I'm sure we all can relate to having situations that just kind of happen, and you all of a sudden have this responsibility. And being the type of person that you are, you can either decide to take that responsibility or decide to give up on it. That differentiates the heroes from the cowards."
Before DEMON KNIGHT she did an adventure comedy, LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME, and before that, JASON'S LYRIC. "My roles in MENACE II SOCIETY and THE INKWELL were supporting parts," she notes. "I'm going to just really relax for a minute before doing a new film to see how people react to the projects that I've already done, because these are my first three starring roles. So I'm going to have to sit back and chill for a minute, see what's happening. I've been very blessed to be able to play all the sorts of characters. They're all different and I haven't been one of those actresses who get caught in a groove of being able to do only one thing.
"It's getting better for black actresses. A little bit. There are only a handful of us as it is anyway. I imagine it's very difficult for anyone trying to break into this business. But the handful of us that are here: Hollywood is slowly but surely starting to recognize that black women are commodities also, and we can draw them into the boxoffice. And that's what Hollywood is about, economics. It's all about the capital and if they feel you can bring them in, they'll hire you, whether you're Black, White, Hispanic."
Pinkett thinks it is "unfortunate" that the film business is so much "based around money" - but says, "Let's just deal with the reality of it. It's not ever going to change. Deal with this business on its terms."
She definitely wants to do more action work: "In LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME, I did some and in DEMON KNIGHT, and I want to explore that more."
Asked about movies like THELMA AND LOUISE that show women reacting violently to being abused, she says they are "really saying we're not always victims. In this society they're always allowing women to be victimized in one way or another.
"There's a law if you've been abused a certain amount of time and decide to
kill your husband, it's okay. But it's not okay be responsible enough to get up and go find some help. The law is saying it's alright, that you can't help it, because you're just a victim. And these movies kind of prove that you can take a stand.
"By no means can we compare to the physical strength of a man, but there are other ways to deal with certain situations. And I do believe these kinds of films give you a sense of that, and basically give you the feeling that you can take a stand, even if it's being at work and there's a guy there who's always making a smart remark to you or sexist remarks, and it's not harmful to you physically but it gets on your nerves.
"After you go see THELMA AND LOUISE you might come in to work and say, hey look, I'm really sick and tired of all these remarks, you've really got to stop, it makes me uncomfortable or whatever.
"It's the littlest things that inspire people, and that's basically why a lot of us are in this business, because we want to give something to the audience to take with them, some little piece that might help them change their lives or make their lives a little better or more interesting, spark their imaginations, and maybe get them to get out there and live their life a bit more."
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[originally published in Cinefantastique magazine]
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