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Byline: Robin Walker

YOU don't often get a second bite of the cherry in Hollywood and that's why Jada Pinkett Smith is one happy Matrix star.

The 32-year-old African-American actress had wanted the role of Trinity in the first Matrix film in 1999.

The part went to Carrie-Anne Moss but clearly Pinkett Smith made an impression because the role of resistance fighter Niobe was specially written for her for the next two chapters of the trilogy, by co-writer and director brothers, Andy and Larry Wachowski.

Pinkett Smith got the good news when she was nine months pregnant with her second child to superstar actor husband Will Smith.

"I got a call saying the Wachowskis wanted to see me, they had a role for me. I was like, 'you've got to be kidding'," she said.

Pinkett Smith scaled back on her work commitments after she married Will in 1997 and they had a son, Jaden, now five, so there were some hard decisions to be made when the Matrix job came along.

"We really miss being together.

When I got pregnant with our daughter I'd promised Will I'd chill out and put my career on hold," she explained.

"But when the Matrix offer came it's the one thing I couldn't turn down and Will understood that."

To allow her to see through her pregnancy with daughter Willow, now two, Pinkett Smith's more action-packed scenes were pushed to the end of the nine-month shoot in Australia.

They even rearranged shooting so she could be with the children while her husband shot Men in Black II.

Interestingly, Will had initially had talks to play Neo in the first Matrix, a part that eventually went to Keanu Reeves.

But there's no inter-family jealousy about her getting back into the hit project, says Pinkett Smith.

"There's no rubbing faces in anything, you know he's just really happy for me to be able to come back round again.

"I'm just so happy to be even thought about for the second and third movies and that they actually created this Niobe character for me," she enthuses.

"That in itself has been very flattering."

A lot of physical training was required for the film, but unlike Carrie- Anne Moss, who broke her leg, Pinkett Smith instead put on 15 pounds of muscle and could bench press up to 160 pounds.

"There was a lot of physical work, throwing kicks, running, climbing walls and fighting with nobody. You name it, I did it. You're doing scenes that are just in this big empty space."

The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were shot on the same 240-day shoot and everyone involved in the films had to look on it as just one massive project, says Pinkett Smith.

"That was just part of the job because all the stories are so intertwined with each other.

"It was sometimes hard to remember what goes where."

With supporting roles in Ali and The Nutty Professor, Pinkett-Smith made her eye-catching screen debut a decade ago in Menace II Society. Next up she's joining Tom Cruise in the thriller Collateral.

But with her husband's film career in full flight, Pinkett Smith says her priority is still her family.

"When I was single and young I wanted to take on the world, I still do, just in a different way. Kids just put things in perspective.

"I do love acting but you can't have two superstars in the family, and you know we already have one."


FIGHTING FIT: Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe in The Matrix; GETTING PHYSICAL: Laurence Fishburne and Jada Pinkett Smith star in Matrix Revolutions
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Nov 7, 2003
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