Taraji did an interview with PR.com’s Allison Kugel recently. Check out some excerpts below:
PR.com: What was it like having to live there for a while and immerse yourself into the Chinese culture?
Taraji P. Henson: At first when you land, it’s like “Oh my God, I’m so excited!” You’re there for awhile and then you realize it’s a communist country and you ain’t in Kansas City anymore, you know? I kind of take on things sometimes, and I felt myself a little depressed sometimes. I had to snap myself out of it. It’s just a different way of living.
PR.com: When I watched the movie it felt like Beijing was this fun, cosmopolitan city. But you really felt the black cloud of communism over your everyday living when you were there?
Taraji P. Henson: Well I won’t say that, because if you stick to the touristy attractions, no. But I’m always the one to venture off. I like to go to where the people live and to where the pulse of the city is, the people who make the city run. So I was all in the hutongs. I ventured off the beaten path. And that’s when you can feel the weight. And then I started talking to a lot of the locals. They smile, but you know, it’s like when you’ve lived a certain way and then you go to different cultures. It’s like, dag! You realize how lucky you are! It wasn’t all bad. The people are beautiful. They smile, the cater to you, they really want you to have a good time. The plus side I did see is that because they are not driven by material things, that was the beauty. You know here in America we’re so driven by what kind of car you have, and what kind of house and what kind of shoes and bag you’re carrying. There it’s the bare necessities, and that’s refreshing.
PR.com: And our karma is catching up with us here in the states.
Taraji P. Henson: Uh, yeah ya think (laughs)!
PR.com: Obviously you didn’t have to train for any of the movie’s Kung Fu scenes, but did you take any Kung Fu lessons while you were in Beijing?
Taraji P. Henson: No, I left that up to Jaden (laughs). I’m not really into martial arts. I’m a lover, not a fighter.
PR.com: Both you and Jaden were working with so many Chinese actors. How did you find that cultural gap was when you were working? And did Jackie Chan help to bridge that cultural gap for you with the Chinese actors?
Taraji P. Henson: Jackie Chan absolutely helped to bridge that gap. A lot of the time the extras wouldn’t know what in the world the PAs were saying or what to do, and Jackie would just kind of translate. We also had a translator on the set as well. But it was weird at first. It was always a delayed reaction. They’d go, “Action!” and then they’d have to translate in Chinese, and then we’d all start.
PR.com: What inspired Will Smith to re-make The Karate Kid?
Taraji P. Henson: He was trying to search around and find a perfect vehicle for [Jaden] and then he just thought about this movie. And I thought it was a great idea. I wish I was Jaden (laughs).
PR.com: Were you a fan of the original Karate Kid?
Taraji P. Henson: I still have a crush on Ralph Macchio!
PR.com: Ralph Macchio then or middle aged bloated Ralph Macchio?
Taraji P. Henson: (Laughs) Ralph Macchio then.
PR.com: You, yourself, are a single mom. And I remember reading about you moving from DC, where you are from, to Los Angeles with your son to pursue your acting career. I couldn’t help but notice the parallels with this character.
Taraji P. Henson: That is what I noticed when I read [the script]. At the time California was my Beijing. It was the unknown world for me. I had visited California when I was two. I moved 3,000 miles away from everything that I knew and loved, and took a chance; just me and my baby.
PR.com: Is that what attracted you to the role of Sherry Parker in The Karate Kid?
Taraji P. Henson: Absolutely. First, I always have to be attracted to the material. And then I’m a huge fan of The Karate Kid, and just a huge fan of Will and what he has been able to accomplish, and the Smith family in general. And I love Jaden. I just wanted to be a part of it, and why not? Go to another country on someone else’s dime, and you get to work and do what you love to do. That’s what actors dream of.
PR.com: I read that you actually worked at The Pentagon at one point in your life. What was that experience like?
Taraji P. Henson: It was interesting. I guess I really didn’t get where I was working. I knew where it was and all of that, but I really didn’t get it! This might sound really sad, until 9-11. I was like, “Wow. I was working in a place where terrorists target.” It is the Department of Defense, but I couldn’t really fathom the [meaning]. I was a college kid, and I was an art student so I just knew that I had a job and I could go shopping (laughs). You know what I mean? My dad was in the service, but by the time I grew up he was done. He fought in [Viet] ‘nam and things like that, but I didn’t really get it. Yeah, we would have bomb threats and things like that, but again, I was an artist. So when 9-11 happened and they targeted The Pentagon, I was like, “Oh my God! I used to walk down that corridor every day.”
PR.com: How did you go about bonding with Jaden Smith to create that mother/son dynamic that comes across on the screen?
Taraji P. Henson: Before we went away to Beijing, we had rehearsals here in California for like a two week period. That gave us a chance to bond here, and then once we got to Beijing we had more rehearsal time and alone time. Will and Jada, they just created such an easy and free atmosphere and they gave us the space to create that bond. He is like one of my friends for life, that little kid. I love him, and I kind of feel like I’m his mom in a weird way (laughs); a screen mom, if you will.
Wow — we’re surprised Taraji went there about communism in China and the U.S. reaping what it has sowed!
She’s right about Jaden though, it must be nice to have a Daddy BigBucks to go produce a movie as a vehicle for your stardom.