Before Jada Pinkett Smith took the role of producer and star of TNT’s "HawthoRNe," she made sure her family was fine with her being away from her mother and wife duties during filming.
Pinkett Smith plays a single mom and a hospital’s chief nurse on the medical show, which debuts Tuesday night on cable’s TNT Network. “I sat down with kids and my husband and I really asked their permission,” she said. “I said ‘Listen, there was this show I’d love to do and it will be three months that you might not see Mommy a lot.’ And they’re looking at me like ‘Really What does that mean'” It meant that on weekdays Will would get Willow, 8, and Jaden, 11, out of bed each morning, tuck them in at night and take care of them in-between. “So they get to eat chocolate for breakfast and go to bed whenever they feel like it for those three months while I’m working,” Pinkett Smith said. “So, it works out, and they know that the rest of the year, I’m off.” While the show is based on a Richmond, Virginia, hospital, it’s produced in a recently closed Inglewood, California, hospital just a few miles from the Smiths’ home. “The great thing is that my kids do know I’m in town,” she said. It’s close enough for Will to spend time on the set with Jada while still taking care of the kids. “He’s an extra in one of the episodes, so just see if you can catch him,” she said. “He’s walking by, doing a drive-by, and we could hardly afford that. It was a very costly walk-by.” Smith also works as a “ghost producer” helping structure her episodes, she said. “He’s quite a fantastic story structuralist,” she said. “So right now, I’m learning from him just how to structure a story in a way that speaks to the universal voice and to understand how to hit those human emotional cords that resonate universally, no matter what country you’re from, your economic status.” Will Smith was also on the set at Paramount Studios last month when daughter Willow taped her TV sitcom debut on Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP.” His role then was stage dad. Hollywood’s highest paid actor, as ranked by Forbes magazine, sat with the other parents through the day-long rehearsals and taping “like a regular dad,” according to the parent of a cast member. By the way, Jada reports her daughter came home saying she wanted to do more television acting. When “HawthoRNe” production ends later this summer, Jada may have to return the “supportive spouse” favor to her husband when he travels to Beijing, China, to work on a “Karate Kid” remake. Will Smith will produce, with son Jaden playing the lead role, opposite Jackie Chan. It’s not clear if Jada will seek work as a background extra.