In the middle of my interview with Jada Pinkett Smith, I noticed my son's high-top as I looked at the door to my room. When I looked over, I had just finished asking Pinkett Smith, "How does it feel to be back on Gotham as Fish Mooney?" At that point, my son gasped. But it was expected, since Gotham has been one of his favorite shows since it premiered. And he's been obsessed with the actress's character from day one.
Most of us have grown up watching Pinkett Smith transform right in front of our eyes. From the feisty and street-tough Lena James on A Different World to setting it off with Queen Latifah and Vivica A. Fox in Set It Off, Pinkett Smith's star power isn't fading anytime soon.
What drew Pinkett Smith to the city of Gotham? In an interview with The Root, the actress explains how her character came to be and how she's literally been resurrected.
The Root: What drew you to the character of Fish Mooney?
Jada Pinkett Smith: She was created for [the] television show, and the creator [Bruno Heller] drew me. He was so open to my input in regards to helping create the character. When people give me that kind of freedom, nothing more excites me. Bruno was so open and collaborative, which made it that much easier to get excited about the role. Plus, the fact that I love comic books and being able to have the opportunity to participate in creating a character that’s a part of the Gotham world was an amazing opportunity that I couldn't pass up.
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TR: Fish Mooney seems to be indispensable. How has the character evolved over the last seasons?
JPS: She was resurrected and she has new powers. She has this power of being able to change people’s thoughts and control their thoughts. So this season, when she comes back, she has this strength. She's a little more raw and supernatural.
TR: At one point, everyone thought we saw the last of Fish Mooney. Were you shocked that the character was brought back?
JPS: I was shocked; I wasn’t expecting it. The plan was that Fish would only be there for a year. It was really sad when it was time for her, but when they told me they wanted to resurrect her, it was such a blessing. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy playing her.
TR: What’s going to be her biggest obstacle in the third season?
JPS: I think, once again, one of them will be Penguin. And so many others who want their hand in Gotham and want a piece of the city.
TR: Have you learned anything about yourself with this character?
JPS [laughing]: I’ve learned I’m really nice compared to Fish Mooney. Some of the places I have the freedom to go with the character, Jada will never go. My value systems are totally different. Fish Mooney has absolutely no regard for any of that. She only values what she desires, and what she desires is not a great thing to have.
TR: What’s the hardest thing about playing Fish Mooney?
JPS: That corset! Getting in isn't bad, but getting out? And then having to schedule bathroom breaks and trying to breathe? My god!
TR: What’s the biggest takeaway you want people to have from Fish Mooney this season?
JPS: She’s just fun, and she’s someone you love to hate. Or someone you just love that wreaks havoc. People get to dance with their shadows. And be the baddest that they want to be when they're Fish Mooney.
In addition to filming Gotham this summer, Pinkett Smith also had her hands full filming the upcoming movie Girl Trip. The movie, which features an all-star cast of #BlackGirlMagic, reunites Pinkett Smith with her Set It Off co-star Queen Latifah, as well as Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish.
Girl Trip is a story about four lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, where sisterhoods are rekindled and wild sides are rediscovered.
TR: Your new movie Girl Trip comes out next year. Can you give us a brief synopsis about it?
JPS: The movie is about four women who went to college together and over the years how they’ve grown apart. Every year they would go to the Essence Fest together, and it’s about them rekindling their friendship and supporting each other through difficult times in their lives.
TR: How many times have you been to Essence Festival?
JPS: I’ve been three or four times. But mostly for work. This go-round I got to sit and watch the shows.
TR: What was the experience like filming during the Essence Festival and in New Orleans?
JPS: It was great filming during the festival. It was nice to be around so many black women in one place. That felt really good. That’s the beauty of the festival. You are immersed in an environment of black women, where we understand each other.
TR: How was it being on set again with Queen Latifah? Of course we haven’t seen the two of you in a film together since Set It Off.
JPS: It was a real joy; it made me realize how much I missed working with her on set and being with her in scenes. We have such a beautiful chemistry. We got to kick it with each other. And we spent a lot of downtime on the set just sitting in our trailers hanging out.
Editor's note: Gotham returns Monday, Sept. 19, on Fox, and Girl Trip will hit theaters July 21, 2017.