Jada Pinkett Smith pitches 'Woo,' but it's only an act She's got a new movie and a high-profile marriage, but the Baltimore-born actress seems to have her feet on the ground.

May 10, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

When actress Jada Pinkett and man-in-black Will Smith tied the knot at the Cloisters estate in Baltimore County last New Year's Eve, the high-profile couple successfully avoided a paparazzi carnival by keeping the location and every other detail, from caterers to corsages, under wraps.

"Why would we want to have the media there?" Jada Pinkett Smith, 26, snaps matter-of-factly during a phone interview from her Los Angeles home. "That was a very sacred moment for both of us, and we wanted it to be private."

Unlike her attention-starved character, Darlene "Woo" Bates, whom she portrays in the new hip-hop-heavy date movie "Woo," the Baltimore native's focus is on her family life and her seven-month pregnancy.

"When the baby gets here, that's the priority," says Smith, whose pre-"Woo" flicks include "Scream 2," "The Nutty Professor" and "Menace II Society." "I just have to play it from there and see."

It would be hard to imagine the hyperactive Woo taking such a domestic turn. Smith, who grew up in the Reisterstown area, says she looked to the personalities and friends around her to morph into this saucy and psychotic heroine, who gives little thought to the consequences of her skewed behavior.

"The only goal I have is to play interesting, versatile, colorful characters," Smith says. "She's [Woo] a character, that's all she is."

On a first date with Tim, played by comedian Tommy Davidson, Woo wears a revealing outfit that goes through more transitions than the characters. It starts out as hot pants and a halter top and gradually devolves into a sequined bra and underwear ensemble. As it changes, Mademoiselle Mood-Swing wreaks indulgent havoc at various New York hot spots.

Smith is wary that people will pigeonhole "Woo," which features a nearly all-black cast, as a niche movie solely for black audiences.

"I wouldn't say it's a genre movie," says Smith. "People will categorize it that way because they always have to categorize things."

Not-so-subtle references to stock "blaxploitation" film characters - such as Lenny (Dave Chappelle), who is obsessed with fried chicken, cheap wine and sex - show up in "Woo." But blaxploitation isn't something Smith wants to discuss.

"I've never liked that word," she says. "I've never used it as a description."

Smith, who attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and the North Carolina School for the Arts for a year, admits that cinematic segregation is a problem. But it's not what she sees as Hollywood's main flaw.

"There aren't that many roles for women in general, whether they're white or black," she says. Smith admires "every working and non-working actress dealing with what we have to deal with on a daily basis."

So how does being married to Will Smith, one of the hottest male box-office properties in Hollywood, affect her?

"Our professional lives are so outside our home, I never really think about that," she says.

She and Smith are currently working on a movie together called "Love For Hire." Her role: producer. His role: actor. Other than that, she has "Return to Paradise" (formerly titled "Force Majeure"), with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn, coming out this summer.

Still, in very un-Woo-like fashion, the pregnant Smith doesn't seem particularly hungry for lights, camera and action at the moment.

"Hollywood," she says, "isn't that important at the end of the day."

Pub Date: 5/10/98

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