“Will and Jada have been there my entire career,” Latifah, 47, tells PEOPLE of her Girls Trip costar and her superstar husband. While Latifah first met Pinkett Smith, 45, when they were both teens and she was an up-and-coming female rapper, “Will gave me my first job on TV,” she says of landing a guest starring role on his hit ’90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“I was like, ‘What the f— do I do?'” the star recalls of her first time on camera. “Director Ellen Falcone pretty much taught me how to act.”
The sitcom had a major impact in Pinkett Smith’s life as well. After auditioning in 1994, she didn’t get the part, but it’s how she first met the man she’d marry.
For more on Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith’s 30-year friendship, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
After Latifah and Pinkett Smith starred in 1996’s Set It Off together, “I got married and had two kids. My life went in a whole other direction.”
“She loves words,” says Pinkett Smith of Latifah, who plays a struggling journalist in Girls Trip. “Will has the same thing. They have a fascination with words.” Says Latifah, “I hit Jada with new words every week.”
But after all of these years, the two are so close, words aren’t even necessary. Says Latifah, “Jada and I can have whole conversations where we haven’t really said anything, but we’ve said a lot.”
Girls Trip opens in theaters nationwide on July 21.