When it comes to finding the exciting films with feminist values, you can trust that Jada Pinkett Smith's finger is squarely on the pulse. The actress recently spoke to Bustle about playing Stacy in Bad Moms and the discussion was incredibly illuminating, especially when the conversation rolled around to her delight at being a part of an all-female ensemble cast. Pinkett Smith was drawn to Bad Moms, and the role of Stacy, specifically because of the very pervasive and empowering female energy on set. "I’ve been lucky in my career to be able to work in female ensembles. I always find it to be a joy. The triad [Pinkett Smith, Christina Applegate, and Annie Mumolo] was a lot of fun," she says. "We would be talking about our lives, families, all kinds of things, all day long. It would be like kickin’ it with your girlfriends while working. That’s always refreshing, being around smart women that actually have something to say."
Pinkett Smith is no stranger to ensemble films. In the last two years, she's been a part of two of the most outwardly feminist box office hits on offer: Magic Mike XXL, and, yes, you guessed it, Bad Moms. While her role in Magic Mike XXL was nothing short of delightful, it's her turn in Bad Moms that is far more interesting. As Stacy, a pearl-clutching sidekick to the film's villain, PTA powerhouse Gwendolyn, Pinkett Smith is unique study. Stacy is quick to judge and act at the request of Gwendolyn, but, by the end of the film, we learn that she has been yearning for the kind of freedom from her maternal duties that the film's heroines enjoy.
It's precisely this kind of collective female energy on and off-screen that not only made Bad Moms a much more exciting workplace, in Pinkett Smith's opinion, but it helped to facilitate as exciting an environment for female viewers.
"I think there’s a wild woman in every woman. Moments that we have, when we can have the freedom to cut loose, or even watching women cut loose, is why I think a lot of women responded so well to [Bad Moms]. It really allows women to feel as if they have the right to do so, and I think that’s important," she says of the reaction from female viewers. "That’s a lot of fun to give [back to the audience]... To be able to do it creatively and give women that, I get a lot of joy out of that. I got that joy out of doing Magic Mike [XXL] as well. I always love creating space for women to be more free. So, that was a lot of fun."
The ability of women to say "screw that" to traditional models of motherhood, rejecting the status quo (like protagonist Amy does) and reinforced patriarchy (as the ever-dutiful housewife Kiki does) of it all, is such an uplifting expression in Bad Moms. As a working mother herself, Pinkett Smith understands the regular pressures of women who wear many hats. The instilled virtue to please all people at all times is, in her eyes, untenable. That's why she chose to be a part of Bad Moms: to undercut these ridiculous values. Better still, she was able to give sage advice to women who, like Pinkett Smith, are juggling major duties daily.
"I think you always have to know what your priority is. You know the old saying, 'You can’t serve two gods?' I think that a lot of times, a lot women believe that we can serve many things at once," she says. "One thing that has always been helpful for me is knowing what my priorities are. You must always know what you are prioritizing at that time, because people make themselves crazy trying to prioritize to much at one time... Once you can do [know that], I feel like it streamlines what you’re doing and why you’re doing it... It decreases the pressure, because you may try to be everything to everyone, and you can’t."
What comes through when speaking to Pinkett Smith is that Bad Moms was a special project. For her, this is a film that so fundamentally unites women that it's tough to write it off as a simple comedy. That observation can easily be applied to Pinkett Smith, too, who is a unique and invigorating force, both on and offscreen.
Bad Moms is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital release
Images: STX Entertainment (2)