Interviews with Jada Pinkett Smith & Michael Vartan from HawthoRNe

I recently got the chance to speak to both Michael Vartan and Jada Pinkett Smith, stars of TNT’s medical drama, HawthoRNe. Jada is actor Will Smith’s wife (& mother to the star of the newest Karate Kid movie!), and a fantastic actress in her own right. And I’ve loved Michael Vartan since episode 1 of Alias, so it was a thrill to speak to both of them. (I will admit, my heart beat faster talking to Michael. 🙂 ) The new season of HawthoRNe promises to be exciting and different, as the group is thrust into a new hospital, where they must work with and get along with the nurses and doctors there. Things definitely aren’t smooth sailing. Relationships heat up, so shippers, try to keep your squeals to a minimum. 😀

Read on to hear more about this season and a few questions about the actors themselves!

Michael, it’s really interesting what the first episode of the season sets up with having to figure out just how to get anything done in this new hospital, so can you talk about how that’s going to develop, especially with your character in Jada’s?

Michael Vartan: Yes absolutely, that was definitely an interesting part of you know what’s coming up for season 2. As you know the old hospital closes for financial reasons, and they’re moved to this new place, (James River) which is one of the last remaining hospitals in the area, so therefore, very important to keep afloat and working, but they find that it’s a complete dump; they don’t have the equipment they had at Richmond Trinity, they’re understaffed, over populated.

So you know, the super nurse, Christina, has definitely her hands full right off the bat at the beginning of this year, and our characters are going to venture down a little romantic path this year which is, as you can imagine, only going to add the conflict and chaos, and all kinds of wonderful intents and crazy situations in the workplace.

So it’s – yes, it’s been a completely different feel this year as opposed to season 1 which was more about establishing the characters and the show itself but now it’s – feels like we’ve really hit the ground running and all hell is breaking loose per se.


Michael, that old regime is so difficult to work with as it is, how does that affect the doctors?

Michael Vartan: Well you know my character which is really cool in the story, he decides – he quits being chief of surgery to get away from the red tape and the bureaucracy and he’s now just a surgeon which is what this guy always wanted to do. And he’s just really enjoying his life as a normal surgeon.

Of course it’s television, and the writers are evil, so they throw a wrench in his plans and he has a life altering accident that is going to cause a lot of problems for him and his potential future as a surgeon and add a whole new level of you know sort of intrigue and commitment, and problems with Christina’s character and the way she deals with it. So, it’s yes, the old regime is definitely out for sure.


Jada, what specific ways will we see Christina’s character evolve on Season 2?

Jada Pinkett Smith: You – that is a – that’s a good question. This year it’s all about Christina surrendering. She is going to have to surrender this year. Last year, she was so in control and, you know, so stern and strong. And, you know, she was always right.

This year’s going to be a little different. She’s going to have very high stakes in her personal life in which she’s going to have to really make some hard core strong decisions.

She this year is going to learn to work with people versus rolling over people and working around people. She cannot do that in this hospital this year. So she has to take a much different attitude as far as how she deals with her staff and the people that she’s working with.

And so I think you’re going to see a Christina who is going to fight like tooth and nail to, you know, keep in her, you know, her control but eventually is going to have to let go.


Michael, what it is about your role that really continues to challenge you and made you want to come back for season 2?

Michael Vartan: The complete honest answer? I’ll give and this will be a two-part answer. Answer number 1, is that I’m under contract and I’m obligated to come back for season 2. Now the fun, emotional answer is that I liked my character last year because you know mostly because I got to work with Jada I mean, that’s the thing I always say when people say what attracted you to the project?

I say, well, Jada, to be honest with you. I mean, the character’s fine but I really – I was really excited by getting a chance to work with her. This year, that has sort of you know just expanded exponentially; our characters have a little bit of a romance, I’m not sure if you know or not, but that whole area is explored in season 2 and it creates just such an incredibly complicated and messy, and just really heart-wrenching situation for both of them in the workplace but also in their personal life.

So, it’s been so much more fun and challenging as an actor to play my character this year because there’s been so much more of that needy, really sort of intense dramatic stuff to draw upon. So, yes, that’s – it’s been very different and very fun.


Michael, [it seems like] there’s a lot more to you in this season. Last year, you were more of the doctor, you were her sidekick in a way, but now it seems like you’re more of a bigger part of the whole show, do you feel that way? Or am I just seeing it in a different way?

Michael Vartan: I definitely feel that way, I think you know that’s mostly due to the storylines themselves, I mean, the fact that our characters are now you know romantically involved. Obviously, just makes me more prominent in the story lines every week. And also, I think you’re right, I think the show itself in general has – you know season 1s are usually about establishing characters and sort of introducing a show to an audience, and we certainly did some of that last year.

So, I think season 2 is more about OK, now the audience knows who these people are, we know kind of what their deal is and let’s now infuse the show with a little more intensity, a little more heightened reality, and make it more you know make everything a little more messy and more better really.

So yes, this year is definitely feels like I’m – I still feel you know that I’m her sidekick because this show is still called HawthoRNe. It’s not called Wakefield. But, it’s definitely – I feel like I have a meatier part to play in what happens on the show, so it’s nice in that respect.


Jada, there is such great chemistry between you and Michael [Vartan] and you and the young lady who plays your daughter. How do you all maintain that?

Jada Pinkett Smith: I think, you know, it’s – you get lucky. I think you get lucky sometimes because chemistry is not something you can really create. It just has to kind of be there.

I think Michael Vartan and I, we’re really good friends. And we’re – what’s crazy is that we’re like sisters and brothers. We really don’t have any real like chemistry off-screen. We’re kind of goofballs together. But it works onscreen which is amazing.

And my daughter and I, I think I just have a lot of affinity for women in general – teenage girls. And so I just raised my goddaughter who is close to Hannah’s age. That’s the young lady who plays Camilla.

And so everything that I’m going through with her on the show I’ve been through already with my goddaughter who I just sent to college year before and worse.

So she just reminded me of that relationship with my goddaughter. So I had instant affinity for her that I just placed, you know, into that daughter relationship that we have and just very much mirroring also my relationship with my mother who we were more like sisters than mother and daughter because she had me at such a young age. And on the show I had Camilla at a young age as well.

So I had a lot to work with and just, you know, loving Hannah herself as just being the individual that she is. She’s a hard girl not to love. So, you know, that’s how we do it.


Jada, one of the aspects of the series that I liked last season was the relationship between you and your mother-in-law. And she was on the board of directors of the hospital. But now that you’ve moved to the new hospital, are we still going to see that relationship continue?

Jada Pinkett Smith: This year not so much. If we come back next year yes, but this year we focus more on Christina and Tom and Camille and Christina.


My question! Will what happened at the end of the third episode – Road Narrows – affect Tom and Christina’s relationship in the negative way?

Jada Pinkett Smith: You got to wait and see. What I will say is it’s going to be a very interesting journey for the two of them. It’s going to be very interesting. You know, Christina’s got a – she’s got a lot to learn and a lot of things she’s got to work through. But I will tell you this that it’s going to be a lot of ups and downs this year when it comes to Tom and Chris.

(Note from Jenny: I’ve seen the 1st & 3rd episodes of the season, and let me tell you… MV fans and shippers for Tom/Christina will have heart attacks – good and bad – throughout those 2 episodes!


Another question from me! I know this season is going to focus more on the Tom and Christina relationship. Will we get to see them away from the hospital more in season two?

Jada Pinkett Smith: Yes, you’ll be able to see them away from the hospital for sure, yes.


O-M-G O-M-G! My 1st question to Michael, and I nearly passed out from it. LOL Jenny Rarden: Hi, thanks for taking our calls, I know we’re calling for HawthoRNe, which I love, but I just have to say I feel like I’m living out one of my dreams. I’m on comms with Vaughn!

Michael Vartan: Yes, you are, yes you are, and let’s make the dead drop from Morocco tomorrow at ((inaudible)).


(We both laughed, and he seemed genuinely amused, which I loved.) Jenny Rarden: Excellent, well, I asked Jada this the other day, but I wanted to get your take on this as well. Will what happened at the end of the third episode (Road Narrows) affect Tom and Christina’s relationship in a negative way?

Michael Vartan: Are you speaking of the accident? Or the …

Jenny Rarden: Well, what happens at the end of that…

Michael Vartan: OK, I see, the incident; not the accident. Well you know I like to say that, that what happens at the end of episode 3 is basically the driving force for this entire season. It opens up, as you can imagine, a whole, a whole box of all kinds of good and bad stuff you know a relationship in the workplace on the best of days can only be complicated, I would imagine.

Given these two, their history, the intense level of sort of passion and sort of feeling they have for one another and it just really – it’s going to create a lot of problems for them, and also give us as actors, gave us to chance this year to really have a lot of fun because you know conflict is always more interesting than flat seas, who cares about – no one wants to see happy people having fun, we want to see (flaws) and people overcoming obstacles and drama.

So, it’s really changed their relationship for sure, and there’s going to be a lot of conflict and a lot of – it’s just very hard and very messy and very complicated. So, it’s been a lot of fun.


Jada, one of the aspects of the series that I liked last season was the relationship between you and your mother-in-law. And she was on the board of directors of the hospital. But now that you’ve moved to the new hospital, are we still going to see that relationship continue?

Jada Pinkett Smith: This year not so much. If we come back next year yes, but this year we focus more on Christina and Tom and Camille and Christina.


Could you talk a little bit about guest stars coming up for the season?

Jada Pinkett Smith: Oh man we had – Mark Anthony came on for two episodes and ripped it. That was a real blessing to have Mark Anthony for those two shows. We did a really interesting episode together.

And Debbie Mazar came on who I love. Debbie and I have worked a lot together. We did – she did all of us the first season. And then we did the women together. And so she came on the show. So those were the two.

We had a couple of other guest stars come as well. We also have a new cast member, British actor who’s really fantastic and quite handsome I must say. He’s one of our new doctors, a new doctor dynamite that we have on the show this year, (Adam).

And so I think people are going to be pretty pleased with some of our new cast members. Also Vanessa Bell Calloway came on and blessed us for eight episodes this year. She’s my nemesis this year. And so I think – I hope people are pretty happy with what we did with casting this year.


Jada, I was wondering how did you originally hear about this role?

Jada Pinkett Smith – I was approached by Jamie Tarses and John Masius who created the show. They gave us – they gave the script to my manager and I read it. And it mirrored a very familiar part of my own life.

My mother was a nurse. She was the head nurse of this inner-city women’s clinic for many years and she raised me as a single parent.

And I was a pretty rebellious teenager at the time. And so I just felt like the show had a lot of heart. And I felt like it was an opportunity for me to pay homage to all the wonderful nurses I had come across and my mother. And so I just had a lot of affinity for the project.


I’m glad someone else mentioned Alias. I was wondering if you have heard the news of talks of a reboot or revisiting that series and if anyone had asked you to be involved?

Michael Vartan: Yes, no, I heard rumors of it and to be honest with you I find it absolutely preposterous. I’m still young enough to run down a hallway, so is Jennifer, what is this nonsense of recasting Alias, wait, give us 20 years at least, how dare they. No, I’ve heard – I have heard more rumors of a possible Alias movie, but really not anything concrete about this new show.

The one little thing I heard is that it would be with a new cast which I find kind of weird, because like I said we’re still all young enough to do that but – yes, no, I don’t know what any of that is about and don’t really think much of it until I hear more, unless you know something I don’t.


Michael, as a follow up, he kind of touched on my question there; I had heard that the movie reboot and that would you be interested in doing it if indeed doing – if you had a chance to do it in between HawthoRNe?

Michael Vartan: To be honest with you, it would have to be the entire returning cast from the original series, and I venture to say that would be impossible to put together. Just you know people are scattered, their careers have changed, some people are not even in the business anymore, some people are movie stars.

So, and yes you know I mean, of course, it’s work and if you get a chance to work with a talented group of people that’s always something I’d be interested in but, I heard that they’re rebooting HawthoRNe; I’d be much more interested in getting on you know. But it just feels a little soon to reboot Alias. But hey you know what, stranger things have happened so we’ll just have to wait and see.


Michael, has being recently engaged and the storyline with the romantic interest with Christina; has that affected your role and your acting in any way?

Michael Vartan: It hasn’t at all and I can see why you would possibly ask that, it’s never fun doing those love scenes. Let alone, I can’t imagine it being fun for your significant other but you know it is television. So, luckily in TV there’s only so much you can do and there’s only so far you can go.

So things – we try to make you know obviously, you try to make the love scene as steamy and as passionate and sensual for the audience as possible, but at the end of the day, you can still only show and do so much. So, it does remain on the tame side and it’s you know I think that we’re all adults here so everyone understands what’s happening and it’s really – it hasn’t been an issue which is great. But, it could be.


Jada, you’re one of the only African-American women to have had a leading role in a Prime Time dramatic series. And I wonder what you thought about that fact in this day and age?

Jada Pinkett Smith: Well it’s definitely interesting. I think that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be in partnership with TNT because they were focusing on creating very strong leading roles for women in television shows.

I think in Hollywood in general right now leading roles for women is a very difficult thing. And so it’s a particular season right now. It’s a particular cycle and it always comes back around.

And I feel as though as far as roles for women and roles for African-American women, you know, there’s always room. We definitely – we still need a lot of work in that area. But I feel very blessed to have this opportunity.


Jada, what drives you to succeed and then as a very literal follow-up, what kind of car do you drive?

Jada Pinkett Smith: What drives me to succeed? I think just the idea of – one of my main goals is to – I always like to create a space where people understand that they’re individuals to be defined by their own rules.

That’s always been my broad statement in everything that I have done and will continue to do in this industry, you know, especially in an industry where people try to put you in your little category. Oh, well you’re African-American female and African-American females do this. You know, throughout my whole career I’ve always tried to step out of the box a bit.

And what car do I drive? I drive – I have a Mercedes that my husband bought me, a Mercedes sports car that he bought me that I drive.


Jada, you have been talking about this for a while. And I had to find out what is the difference between doing television and doing film because there’s got to be a big difference for you as an actress.

Jada Pinkett Smith: Yes. It’s definitely. It’s a huge, huge, huge difference – lot more responsibility on television for me with this show being an executive producer and a lead actress.

For this particularly show it is a strongly – it’s a producer’s – I look at television as a producer’s realm more than a director’s realm where in film everything – the director leads the ship. In television you have to have very strong producers to keep in the vision of the show.

And so this year Will and I really with Glen Mazarra and Miguel Melendez really had to come together, put our heads together and get – become very solid on the vision of the show and really push forward to make this – make the vision happen whereas like I said before, usually that is the director’s job to do.

But it was a very interesting season. We worked very hard. I really think we were successful in solidifying the vision for the show.


Jada, it seems like it’s going to be a very exciting summer for the Smith family with HawthoRNe coming back and with the Karate Kid coming out. How is – what is the summer going to be like for the Smith family?

Jada Pinkett Smith: Well we’re hoping that it’ll be a very successful summer with the Karate Kid and with HawthoRNe. We’ll be doing a lot of traveling for Karate Kid because we’ll have to take it internationally. I’ll also be doing some stuff internationally for HawthoRNe while I’m traveling with Jaden. And then we’ll go on vacation after that. I’m going to take my little boy somewhere he wants to go to surf and relax. And then that’ll be that.


Jada, you’ve played in a lot of ensemble casts in your career. And now you’re in a very central role on HawthoRNe. I was wondering how you felt about that?

Jada Pinkett Smith: It’s interesting because I never – that’s always – I feel more comfortable of – and then it is more central but it’s still quite an ensemble. I’m just one that believes that, you know, ensemble is the way to go, you know? I just feel like to me that’s just a very strong position.

And but I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. I’m also enjoying having the opportunity to be able to come back and play the same character again.

It’s you learn more and more about your character when you have the opportunity live with it for as long as I’ve been able to live with Christina for two years. I never really understood that when other actors would explain that to me.

But I’m actually enjoying that process of being able to sit in this skin of this character for two years. And if I’m blessed enough to be able to do it for a third season as well. So I’m actually enjoying that process.


Jada, will there ever be any of your family members making any cameo appearances?

Jada Pinkett Smith: It’s interesting, my kids really wanted to do HawthoRNe the second season, Jaden and Willow. They were begging me. And I just – I wasn’t really – I was just focused in another area. And I don’t think I’ll actually be able to get them next year because I’m almost sure (they) and they’ll be doing some movie somewhere and Willow and everything that’s about to happen with her, she probably will not be available. So probably not but I am blessed enough to have my husband. My husband was a very, very, very, very intricate part of HawthoRNe this year. He’s what we call our ghost producer.

He came on this year and really, really with my team and I, Glen Mazarra and Miguel Melendez really put his head down on HawthoRNe and really helped us solidify the vision of HawthoRNe.

So in that way, my family is a part of HawthoRNe. And luckily enough my kids enjoy the shows because my kids have no problems telling me what they do and don’t like. So luckily they love HawthoRNe.


My other question for Michael. It would be scary to me, that’s for sure! Michael, the show has been off the air for almost 10 months, is that a little scary coming back after so long? Are you worried that it will seem almost like a brand new show instead of a returning series?

Michael Vartan: Yes, that’s a good question because you know on cable, we only have ten episodes, so the hiatus, if you will, is much longer than a network show. And to be honest with you, I think that season 2 is – almost feels like a different show. There is so much more going on, there is so many new elements that have been added, both just simply adding new characters and the relationships between old and existing characters, so it feels very new.

I think it will be like any show really, we probably have our core audience already and they’ll stay with us and stick by us till the bitter end. If we can pick up a few new ones along the way this year, that’d be awesome, but I think the people who really do enjoy the show and watch the show will be glad it’s coming back, and God, I didn’t even realize it was 10 months; that is a long time. So hopefully, they won’t have forgotten about us, but yes, it’s funny you say that because Jada and I, we were doing a scene the other day, and we had to jog our memories because we were talking about the last shot of season 1, and I’d forgotten that it was us walking on the – I thought the season ended with her throwing the ashes.

I’d forgotten that there was a – that whole little part where I walk up and we you know we take, we hook arms and walk off into the sunset if you will. So, I’m sure some of the fans of the show have forgotten exactly what happened, but, hopefully they’ll come back for season 2.



HawthoRNe premieres on Thursday, 6/22/10, on TNT at 9/8c. For my review of the first & third episodes of the new season, check it out HERE, and don’t forget to watch the premiere on Thursday!

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3 Responses to Interviews with Jada Pinkett Smith & Michael Vartan from HawthoRNe

  1. […] the season premiere of HawthoRNe tonight on TNT at 9/8c, and be sure and read my Interview with Stars Jada Pinkett Smith and Michael Vartan! Tags: HawthoRNe, Hell's Kitchen, TVPosted in Just My Opinion | No Comments » var a2a_config […]

  2. Denise Phelps says:

    The new format of HAWTHORNE is terrible! Last season was so great, why on earth would they want to change that! Richmond Trinity closing – really! Christina’s role was already established and should not be changed or diminished after only one season! All of the other cast members were great as well.
    If it ain’t broke, don’ try to fix it!

  3. Jenny says:

    All I can say is to give it a chance. I think they had a reason for the change up, and I trust the writers. From everything I’ve seen so far (episode 3 is A-MAZ-ING), it’s worth a shot. All our favorites are back, and it’s interesting to see Christina trying to make this new hospital and the workers better.