Also Credited As:Jada Pinkett, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jada Smith, Jada Koren Pinkett
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Other|
|Jada Koren Pinkett on September 18, 1971 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA|
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Jada Koren Pinkett was born on Sept. 18, 1971, in Baltimore, MD. Her mother, Adrienne, was a high school student when she had her daughter, and when her teenaged marriage only lasted a few months, Adrienne and her mother shared child-rearing duties, with grandma stepping up the effort when Adrienne went through a period of heroin addiction. Pinkett Smith managed to rise above the expectations of the rough neighborhoods where she grew up, including being accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where she studied dance and choreography and formed a close friendship with fellow student Tupac Shakur. After graduating from high school she spent a year at the North Carolina School for the Arts before the 19-year-old decided she was ready to strike out on her own and go pro in Hollywood. After having already navigated a difficult life, the ambitious dancer and actress was positive that breaking into show business could not possibly be any more difficult than what she had already been through. She was right.
The feisty, five-foot newcomer immediately began landing sitcom guest appearances. A year after her arrival, she had a regular role in the fifth season cast of the hit sitcom "A Different World." As Lena James, Pinkett Smith effectively embodied a street-smart college student hailing from the Baltimore projects and added welcome spice to the generally bourgeois proceedings of the popular Bill Cosby creation. She made her big screen debut in the Hughes Brothers' "Menace II Society" (1993), drawing upon her experience being brought up by a single mother to play a strong, single parent trying to teach her son to avoid falling prey to the 'hood. She continued to work with young black filmmakers including Matty Rich on "The Inkwell" (1994), a 1970s-set coming-of-age drama where Pinkett Smith unveiled a new facet by playing a snobby upper-class teenager.
From that small supporting role, Pinkett Smith went on to co-starring status in the drama "Jason's Lyric" (1994) as the love interest of an ambitious ad salesman (Allen Payne) in conflict with his criminal brother (Bokeem Woodbine). In her first big screen comedy, Pinkett Smith energetically sparred with actor and filmmaker Keenen Ivory Wayans, offering a hilarious performance as Wayans' fast-talking, loud-mouthed detective sidekick in "A Low Down Dirty Shame" (1994). After a detour into horror territory with "Tales From the Crypt Presents Demon Knight" (1995), Pinkett Smith hit household name status with "The Nutty Professor" (1996), a remake of the 1963 Disney classic that cast her as the romantic lead opposite Eddie Murphy in a summer blockbuster that raked in over $250 million worldwide.
Firmly established as one of Hollywood's heat-seeking young actresses, Pinkett Smith joined the ranks of Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise in "Set It Off" (1996) as a desperate woman who leads a crew of female bank robbers to escape inner city poverty. She earned an Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture nomination from the Image Awards and another nomination for her appearance that year in HBO's highly acclaimed "If These Walls Could Talk." Pinkett Smith lent her voice to the English language version of the international animated hit "Princess Mononoke" in 1997 and spent New Year's Eve in Baltimore getting married to popular rapper and actor Will Smith, after the pair met years earlier at an audition for Smith's breakout sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (NBC, 1990-96). Their longtime friendship eventually blossomed into romance. The new bride took most of the following year off to start a family, with she and Smith's first child Jaden Christopher arriving in July, but fortunately the actress already had several film projects in the can so audiences were not in danger of forgetting about the rising star.
As the titular party girl of "Woo" (1998), Pinkett Smith earned positive reviews for her crackling comedic flair, but the film flopped at the box office. She had some fun with a cameo as a movie-going murder victim in "Scream 2" (1998), the second outing in Wes Craven's horror film series, but turned around to give a dramatic supporting turn as an enterprising reporter who views the death sentence of a suspected drug smuggler (Joaquin Phoenix) imprisoned in Borneo as a story of international importance in "Return to Paradise" (1998). The multi-tasking mom took another period of time off to give birth to a second child, daughter Willow, and returned to the screen in an Image Award and Black Reel Award nominated performance as an assistant to a television producer (Damon Wayans) who grows angry with her boss after he creates a blackface minstrel show that becomes a runaway hit in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" (2000).
Displaying strong onscreen romantic chemistry with her off-screen husband, Pinkett Smith portrayed Sonji, the first of three influential loves in boxer Muhammad Ali's life, in director Michael Mann's admirable but ultimately flawed biopic "Ali" (2001). Her performance was honored with another nomination from the Image Awards. After a co-starring role opposite L.L. Cool J in the little-seen dark comedy "Kingdom Come" (2001), Pinkett Smith diversified her acting resume with a shift to the action genre in the high-profile sequels from 20-03, "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions." As Niobe, a human captain and former lover of Morpheus, Pinkett Smith's role and backstory expanded as the successful sequels unfolded, and she reprised her role for a one-hour film included in the video game "Enter the Matrix" (2003).
The acclaimed actress and busy mother of two showed no signs of slowing down. That same year, she and her husband created and produced the sitcom "All of Us" (UPN/The CW, 2003-07), about a divorced entertainment reporter (Duane Martin) trying to raise his son (Khamani Griffen) with his ex-wife (LisaRaye McCoy) and his new girlfriend (Elisa Neal). As if three added hats were not enough, Pinkett Smith took a sharp left turn and helped form the alternative metal band, Wicked Wisdom, singing lead vocals under the name Jada Koren. Blending neo-soul, metal and rock layered with the actress' R&B styled vocals, the band hit the L.A. club circuit and went on to open for Britney Spears and tour with Ozzfest in 2005. She returned to the screen to play a federal prosecutor caught in the crosshairs of a cold-blooded hit man (Tom Cruise) in director Michael Mann's excellent crime thriller "Collateral" (2004), for which she was again recognized with Supporting Actress nominations from the Image and Black Reel Awards.
Pinkett Smith voiced Gloria the Hippo in "Madagascar" (2005), Disney's animated adventure about four escaped zoo animals, and the actress was underutilized in "Reign Over Me" (2007), where she played the overly sensible wife of a discontented but successful dentist (Don Cheadle) in post-9/11 New York. Pinkett Smith made a bold move in a remarkably staid update of George Cukor's 1939 classic "The Women" (2008), playing a lesbian author with a crush on a friend's husband's "other woman" (Eva Mendes), but "The Secret Life of Bees" (2008), an adaptation of The New York Times' bestseller which Pinkett Smith executive produced, fared better with critics. In a continuing effort to pursue more creative options behind the camera, Pinkett Smith made her feature writing and directing debut with 2008's "The Human Contract," a drama about a staid businessman whose world is shaken up by an affair with a reckless, free spirit.
Amidst her busy schedule, Pinkett Smith also came back to voice Gloria in the animated sequel, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008), in which Gloria, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) all get in touch with their roots after crash-landing on the wild continent. After a 15-year break from regular series TV, the actress returned to the small screen in the dual roles of producer and star of the medical drama, "Hawthorne" (TNT, 2009-2011). As the eponymous head nurse at a Virginia area hospital, Pinkett Smith tirelessly put the patient first, despite stifling bureaucratic red tape and volatile personality conflicts. Never a hit with critics, the show increasingly suffered early in the ratings until it was eventually canceled near the end of its third season. Together with her husband, Pinkett Smith co-produced the successful remake of the 1984 feature "The Karate Kid" (2010), starring their son, Jaden, in the title role, alongside Jackie Chan as his friend and mentor, Mr. Han. In one of her easier and more dependable gigs, Pinkett Smith also took part in the third entry in the animated franchise, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (2012), this time dropping the crew of critters into a struggling animal circus on its way to a London performance.