In HawthoRNe, Pinkett Smith stars as a hospital head nurse who's as compassionate as she is commanding. Those adjectives apply equally well to the actress; so do "sane" and "connected." A desire to stay that way inspired Pinkett Smith's return to television 16 years after she glided from the hit show A Different World into movies (more than 20, including Ali and the Matrix franchise). Having a regular, if grueling, schedule at least part of the year lets her focus on family — her husband of nearly 12 years, the Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith; their kids Jaden, 11, and Willow, 8; and Trey, 16, her "bonus son" from Will's first marriage. That doesn't mean she's giving up acting in movies, or being a producer (of HawthoRNe and The Secret Life of Bees), writer-director (The Human Contract, out on DVD), or philanthropist (the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation has given more than $1 million to educational and religious charities). But she has back-burnered her heavy metal band, Wicked Wisdom; touring's too hard now that Jaden and Willow have film careers of their own (most notably in The Pursuit of Happyness and KitKittredge: An American Girl, respectively). "I'm a woman who does a lot of things, but I'll put it all aside to be present with my family," she says. "Once you know what your priorities are, it's all so much easier. Everything falls into place."


The best thing about being in my 30s: Really being able to embrace my womanliness, and understanding that compassion is where the power lies. Because of my background, I had to be tough and take on a lot of masculine energy for protection. When I got into my 30s, I started to become more receptive. I think it had a lot to do with becoming a wife and mother. I realized, Whoa, wait a minute, I'm a girl — I don't have to fight like that!

I have more comfort in my skin and in the world than I did in my 20s. At that age, you're looking for the dude to take care of you, or your mom. In your 30s, you start to connect with your own internal power. Once I decided to take care of myself, then everything else that was supposed to fall in place did.

I've surprised myself by.... becoming a lot more mellow. I'm still a firecracker; I don't think that will ever change. But I have a lot more inner peace, and I'm a lot more patient. I've learned to shut up — to know when something is worth a debate and when it's not. Lack of confidence is what makes you want to change somebody else's mind. When you know you're OK, you don't need to convince anyone else in order to empower yourself.

I've stopped obsessing about... my body. I was gym-crazy! My stomach had to be hard, my arms had to be cut. I still work out, but now I tell Will, "I like that my body's getting softer." It goes with the internal changes.

How my faith has changed: I've always been connected; I'm just focused on that connection more. I don't think I did any prayer in my 20s, to be honest, whereas now it's part of my daily routine. It's an absolute must.

My top priority 10 years ago: Me! In my 20s I couldn't see anything besides what I wanted.