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Critics predicted Hawthorne’s failure when it debuted on the small screen. Not even Jada Pinkett-Smith as executive producer of the show, in which she also stars, was enough to sway their opinion. They were partly accurate, though the series did last three seasons. Debashine Thangevelo got Pinkett-Smith to shed light on her strong-willed character…
SOME shows don’t make it past the first season. That Hawthorne was canned after three seasons deserves special acknowledgement.
And kudos to Jada Pinkett-Smith for her stoic indifference to media cynicism – no doubt enhanced by the success of shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and House – about the show, on which she was also the executive producer.
Set at the James River Hospital – after moving from Richmond Trinity Hospital, Virginia – the storyline centres on Chief Nursing Officer Christina Hawthorne (Pinkett-Smith) who is passionate about her job and unrelenting in ensuring her patients get the |best treatment. Amid her high level of professionalism, her fallible side surfaces with her warily embarking on a romantic relationship with Dr Tom Wakefield (Michael Vartan).
In this season, there is an interesting twist, with Detective Nick Renata, played by Grammy winner Marc Anthony, entering the love fray.
Breaking down her character, Pinkett-Smith, the daughter of a nurse, says: “She really reminded me of my mother because Christina is so passionate and brings certain cases home with her. Here’s a woman who, no matter what the odds, is willing to fight for what she believes in. Normally people collapse under pressure, but Christina never takes ‘no’ for an answer.
“Christina is challenged by the difficulty of finding a balance between her personal and private lives. She has experienced some traumas that keep her separated from the people she loves most.
“I’m drawn to characters who’ve had deep traumas. It can lead to explosive epiphanies. As an actor, that’s a wonderful thing to get your teeth into.”
Although her mother was concerned about Pinkett-Smith’s playing a nurse as she “can’t stand the sight of blood”, she eventually warmed to the idea. And she demonstrated her keenness with a five-page “useful tips” e-mail.
The actress laughs: “I ended up getting my head around the medical terms. By the second season, she was very happy and told us: ‘You guys have finally got it right.’”
Interestingly, Pinkett-Smith’s mother also had a walk-on role as a nurse.
So why did the actress, whose grandfather was a doctor, not pursue a career in medicine?
She explains: “I find medicine fascinating – each body is like its own specific universe. But I wasn’t tempted by it. If I was going to be anything apart from an actor, I would have been a lawyer. I went to arts school for seven years and at the end of it, |I said to my mother: ‘You have two choices: send me to LA for the summer, or send me to law school’. She replied: ‘LA it is’. By the end of that summer, I had my first gig.”
This final season, Christina looks forward to being a mother again and walking down the aisle with Tom. Her future, however, |is rocked to the core by a tragic attack and Christina finds herself assailed by questions while her future hangs in the balance. Amid all of this, she has daughter issues with a starry-eyed Camille who is romantically entangled with a married man.
For Christina, it is a pity there are no immediate remedies to such troubling personal issues. But, this is TV, so what ails the characters, appeases the viewers – and that’s the bottom line!
• Hawthorne airs on M-Net Series (DStv channel 110) on Sunday at 5.30pm.