LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
In the new film "Girls Trip," four best friends from college head to New Orleans to reconnect and cut loose. And boy, do they. It's rated R for drinking, male nudity and something that happens with a grapefruit that I cannot describe on air - FCC rules, ahem. But there is a lot more to this movie. It's also about sisterhood and self-empowerment and - should you cut your friends cheating husband with a broken bottle? - that age-old question.
Jada Pinkett Smith joins us. She stars in the film. How are you? Good morning.
JADA PINKETT SMITH: Hey, I'm good. How are you?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm great. This is a film about female friendship. And I want to start by asking you about that because, of course, some of the actors you are starring - in this film, you have been friends with for a long time. This is almost like real life. I'm thinking of Queen Latifah, in particular. You've known her since she was 14.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah, I've known Queen for a long time. We've got a lot of love for each other, so working together is always so nice. You know, we really take very good care of each other. We haven't been in front of the camera together in about 20 years. But we've worked a lot together behind the camera. We...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: "Set It Off" was the movie you were in 20 years ago with her.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah, "Set It Off" was the movie that we were in together 20 years ago. And we got to watch this screening together. And I looked over to her afterwards, and I was like, let me find out that we might have made another classic together.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You play, in this film, single mom Lisa Cooper, a nurse who just doesn't know how to cut loose anymore. She's devoted her life to being a mom, and she's forgotten who she is. Why was it important to play this role?
PINKETT SMITH: It was a role that I could relate to. I know a lot of women, including myself, you know, when you really give your all to your kids and to your family, you kind of lose certain aspects of yourself. And so I thought that she was very real. And I felt like her plight was very true.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should also mention that there is a lot of fun stuff in this, a lot...
PINKETT SMITH: Definitely...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Of raunchy stuff...
PINKETT SMITH: ...A lot of raunchy fun.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: There's been a lot of discussion lately about films like this one. Why do you think it's a surprise still that women can be raunchy, too - that we can be enthusiastic about sex? We women know we can all speak and sometimes act like that.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah, but men don't. Men really don't have any idea what woman is about. And (laughter)...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What we get up to...
PINKETT SMITH: Right.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...When we're alone.
PINKETT SMITH: And we're just now coming to an age where we're having more female directors, more female writers and more female producers - and where society is more open to seeing all the different facets of being woman, even for women, because we've been indoctrinated in a certain way in society to believe that being woman is this way - demure and, you know (laughter)...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And polite and yeah, and smiling.
PINKETT SMITH: ...Polite and nice and sweet, you know. And so it's still something, even for us, that we have to get used to and have to embrace.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The producer of the film, Will Packer, said about this project - and I'm quoting here - "black women, historically in media, have been either over-sexualized, hyper-angry or supersaintly. Those aren't real people. Those are caricatures. The opportunity to show real people was important."
Do you think that's part of it? Do you think this idea of just showing, particular women of color, black women, in all their complexity, important?
PINKETT SMITH: I do. I think it's important, not only for women of color but I think for all women, because I think that we're struggling with these boxes that we're often put into. And I think it's super important that we're given the opportunity to, you know, expand the expressions and ideas of what being woman, as a whole, is all about.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, I'm hearing you talking about this, and it is a film that does speak to all women. But how do you walk the line between the idea that this is a special movie that black women will love maybe in a special way and that it also is something that other people can relate to, that it can relate to everyone? Because it is maybe more important to black women to see you all having this experience on film.
PINKETT SMITH: Definitely. I think it is important for black women to see us having this experience. And I also think it's important for black women to see that just because it's a movie starring black women, that we don't have to hold it close - like, this is ours. Nobody else can...
PINKETT SMITH: You know what? No one else can...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, this is just for us.
PINKETT SMITH: This is just for us - because it's really not about that. And I do think, as a community, we have to be willing to share our space. And I know that that is a very sensitive subject (laughter)...
PINKETT SMITH: ...Because I've talked about that a lot in all areas, you know, in regards to diversity. I remember, years ago, I had done this Facebook post where I was like, Essence magazine should put Charlize on the cover because she's African-American.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Charlize, who is South African.
PINKETT SMITH: Yeah, she's South African, right? And I was like, wow, we're asking to be on the cover of magazines like Elle or Marie Claire. Should we offer our space as well? And I remember there was such an uproar...
PINKETT SMITH: ...You know what I mean (laughter)? And it's still a worthy conversation. But we still have - there's a lot of pain there. And we - there's a lot of things that we have to heal through and work through in order to go that far. But, you know, it is a beautiful thing to see four black women in a summer movie and having so many different people from so many backgrounds appreciate it. And I think that's supremely important.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have obviously spoken a lot about the issue of diversity in Hollywood, specifically, of course, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and others. Do you think this film is a sign that things have gotten better?
PINKETT SMITH: I definitely think so. I think things are moving in a good direction. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do - a lot of work to do. Like, I did a movie like "Bad Moms." "Bad Moms" was majority white women. And just the way in which the studio handled that movie, in my opinion, was very different than this movie.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mean, the way it's marketed, the way it's...
PINKETT SMITH: Well, no, no, no, no - Universal's done a brilliant job in marketing. Just in regards, you know - well, is this movie marketable overseas? I still think it's that myth that black doesn't translate - and that's just not true...
PINKETT SMITH: ...In regards to budgets because everybody's afraid - oh, it's starring four black women, so we're not going to get our return. So the purse gets really tight.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love this. Your husband, Will Smith, sometimes sneaks into the theater to see how audiences are reacting to his movies. And you have said that you're thinking of doing the same. What do you get from going in and just being with people watching the movie?
PINKETT SMITH: Having gone to the screenings that I've gone to so far, it just brings me a lot of joy to hear people laugh. There's so much going on in the world today. And when I see people just hysterically laughing that you can't even hear the next joke - and then after the screening, people are just happy. And to be able to give people joy is enough.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jada Pinkett Smith's new movie is "Girls Trip," giving the gift of laughter. Thanks so much.
PINKETT SMITH: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE SOUL REBELS' "LOVELY DAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.