Gotham's Jada Pinkett Smith Talks That Scene and Her Own Comic Book Past
Fish "gives me an opportunity to really explore and express my shadow side – my dark side," says Pinkett Smith
If there’s anything that Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) covets – more than reclaiming her nightclub and more than taking Gotham for herself – it’s control.
Despite being locked in a prison that harvests the organs of its prisoners, however, Fish was able to reclaim at least a tiny bit of control on Monday’s episode of Gotham, though it was pretty hard-won.
In an exclusive chat with PEOPLE, Pinkett Smith, 43, talked all about Fish’s need for control, the superhero comic book she wrote in her twenties (in which she’d want her daughter, Willow Smith, 14, to play the title role in a movie) and how she draws from “Dark Jada” to play Gotham‘s most resilient character.
Spoilers for “Red Hood” are below! You’ve been warned.
So Fish stabbed her own eye out. What was it like filming such an intense scene?
That was an interesting day because I was not feeling very well. It was really challenging just keeping my concentration and keeping my energy levels up, but it was a lot of fun, too. It’s very rare that you get to do something so extreme. The crew was so good to me, and everybody was chipping in. It was definitely challenging. But I loved having the opportunity to do some outrageous stuff.
When we first met Fish, she was pretty much entirely in control of her situation. Then, thanks to events set in motion by Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), her machinations kind of backfired. Now, in this prison – of all places – it seems like she’s regained a sense of control over her life. Would you say that’s accurate?
I would say that she’s trying to. Fish really does a great job at making everyone believe that she has it all together even if she’s terrified. Her motto is, “Never let ’em see you sweat. Never.” I think what she’s trying to do. I think she’s figured out a way within the prison to have a certain amount of control, which is one of the reasons why she takes her eye out.
Fish is all about control, but at the end of the day, she’s still very vulnerable and she’s still trying to figure out how to have absolutely everything that she needs and wants, which is basically to get out of there and to get back to Gotham and get her club back – if that’s even possible. She is desperately trying to gain control, and you see the desperation within that act of taking her eye out.
Will she get closer to getting back on top by the end of this season?
You know, we’ll have to see if she makes it out alive! We’ll have to see if Fish even makes it, you know. She may make it and she may not.
She is an original character, after all, so we don’t really know her fate, as opposed to knowing that, say, Selina (Camren Bicondova) and Bruce (David Mazouz) will eventually be at odds. What is it like to have the freedom to shape your character, to be outside of the DC comic-book canon?
I think it’s kind of cool, you know? It gives me an opportunity – like you said – to participate in creating a character that may become part of the canon. We have yet to see whether that will occur, but it definitely has been a real creative joy to have this opportunity to help create this character. I mean, who ever gets that opportunity?
On The Walking Dead, Daryl (Norman Reedus), who is one of my favorite characters, wasn’t an original character in the comic books – which I was a fan of, as well. I bet you he’ll be in the canon now! ‘Cause he’s, like, one of the most gangster characters on that show!
So, you’re a comic book fan! Are you a fan of the DC Comics as well?
I am! I have been. I would say there are some comic books that I’ve loved that are a bit more obscure. I played my hand at creating a comic book before – called Menace – when I was in my twenties. I was trying to create a black female comic-book character that was from the ‘hood.
You wrote it?
Yeah, I wrote it, and it was with a company at the time that went under, unfortunately. She was called Menace, and she was this character who was doing a lot of bad stuff. She died in a drug deal gone bad, and, as she’s about to die, an angel comes to her, and he basically says, “Listen, I will return your life to you if you take this opportunity to redeem your soul. I’m going to give you the opportunity to save the souls of those who are like you” – basically, young kids who are out in the streets doing bad things.
So she takes the deal, and each soul that she saves brings her closer to eternal life and brings her from the dark to the light. She just has this struggle between dark and light. That was pretty much what that comic book was about. She was pretty hot, and her name was Menace ’cause she was a menace! [Laughs]
Have you ever thought about making that into a movie?
I have! You know, I really have, but I always struggle with the idea of like, “Oh man, it’s a black female character,” and just dealing with the politics of, like, “Will a studio make a black character like that?” And it might not be a role for me. It could be something I’ll hold for Willow. Maybe it’s something I’ll hold for another young actress. But I think there’s an opportunity to make it, for sure. I don’t know if it will be made for me, necessarily, and that will be fine. I would just love to get it made! But I still have it, and it’s a property that I feel still has value.
Totally – and things are changing slowly but surely …
Surely! Absolutely! They are! But you know, in the comic-book world, the fanboys and fangirls can get a little tight! I don’t know, we’ll see! Now that I’m submerged back into this comic world, we’ll see how it goes.
Is there anybody in the DC universe that you’re hoping will join the fray in Gotham, or has your favorite character already joined?
I mean, we all love the Joker. That’s coming. There’s a really obscure character, that I used to like called Jane Doe. She could switch identities. I always thought that she was cool. It would be cool if she came – she’s pretty, pretty awesome.
What’s the best part about playing a “bad guy”?
One of the things that I love about this particular character is that I get to be so outside of myself. It’s really a character. Of course there are certain aspects of Fish that I can pull from Jada, but, you know, I just love that Fish doesn’t care about being politically correct. She can just be as vicious as they come, and I think I love that.
It gives me an opportunity to really explore and express my shadow side – my dark side – in a healthy way. Like, Fish really gives Jada an opportunity to get into some stuff that Jada wouldn’t and express herself in a way that Jada wouldn’t. Fish goes for it, and I love that about her.
It’s a running joke with my girlfriends – they’re like, “I need Jada to take a seat, and I need Fish Mooney to come to the table. I need Fish Mooney right now! We need to get this situation handled!” Be careful what you ask for! [Laughs] And sometimes I do call upon a little Fish Mooney energy sometimes, believe it or not. Not her vicious side but just her strength. Fish will just not back down, no matter what. And sometimes I do call upon that energy, that fierceness. She’s been a great discovery. You do have to keep her in check, though!
Gotham airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on FOX.