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Jill Scott Talks Balance, 'Highway To Heaven' & Not Burning Herself Out To Produce

In this exclusive, the actress dishes on executive producing the reboot, and balancing business and motherhood.

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Jill Scott has been wowing us with her sent-from-the-depths-of-heaven octave range, tell-it-like-it-really-is songwriting, and addictively intriguing range of Hollywood roles, from the heartbroken abused wife, to the brothel-owning comic-book villain, to the resourceful Motswana detective. So you know we're always here for a powerful on-screen moment from our good sis, whether the screen is big or small.


And in her latest role as angel Angela Stewart on the Lifetime reboot of Highway to Heaven, there's a remix to the '80s classic that makes her that much more intriguing. Who else could take a role about an angel sent to Earth on assignment, popularized by legendary—and white—actor Michael Landon, and give it just the update it needs for today, especially at a time where we could all use a bit of hope and encouragement? None other than the woman who had many of us Googling whether the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency really exists and planning trips to Botswana.

Let's look at receipts, shall we? She hasn't let us down in the life-changing department since her days of defining what it truly means to take up space in music, going platinum and capturing the hearts of millions of Black women who could relate to the powerhouse shutting down her man's ex in those Philly streets, or planning that date to "roll a tree" in the breeze, listening to a symphony. (I hear you humming, sis. Go 'head!)

And she certainly didn't let me down during a recent interview that got cut quite short due to technical difficulties. (Gotta love Zoom. And in whoever's defense, the platform has had its fair share of glitches.)

Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET

In just a few well-spent minutes, sis did what she usually does: unapologetically offered inviting realness that empowered, inspired, and reminded me that authenticity never gets old. (And apparently, neither does Ms. Scott, who looked as youthful as the day she hit the scene more than 20 years ago—rocking box braids with vivid blue highlights, classic gold door-knocker earrings, chic black-rimmed glasses, and a warm, sometimes coy, smile.) It was literally like talking to my favorite sister-girlfriend or rich auntie (in my head) over mimosas at Sunday brunch. And just like in the first few seconds of any song of hers that you'd listen to, it didn't take long for things to get deliciously profound and spirit-lifting.

In this exclusive xoNecole interview, we talked all about the singer-songwriter and executive producer's take on the reboot, how she balances her multiple projects, including her hit podcast, with motherhood, and all the things that make Ms. Scott someone we love to continue to watch:

For those unfamiliar with the classic TV show ​'Highway to Heaven,' what should we expect with you in the roles of star and executive producer?

Jill Scott: Expect an imperfect angel. Expect her edges to be raggedy. Expect, sometimes, for her clothes to be ill-fitting. What I discovered along the path of finding Angela (her character) is that angels typically are flawed. It can be the guy who works at the corner store, or your Uber driver. You don't know when or how someone is going to come into your life and make a difference that changes everything. I wanted Angela to represent that.

You've recently talked about being "all of yourself" in your career. What are three things that allow you to thrive wearing multiple hats?

You know that old Kenny Rogers song that says, "You gotta know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em"? That's a key component: Knowing when you need help. That's a big one. Also, understanding when you need a break. That's very, very important because, for some reason, we get this idea that we have to burn ourselves out to produce.

Sometimes you need to take a walk around the block. Sometimes you need to sit down and shut up, and just be still, because that's where inspiration comes—that's where that new wind comes. It sounds poetic, but that's not my intention. I'm telling you how plain it is to me.

And I learned that, as an executive producer—one of several—you have to be mindful of your crew. That means everybody. They need a kind word. They need a genuine 'Good morning.' They need a 'Thank you.' When you create and foster a healthy environment—a caring environment—people work harder. It ain't rocket science. It's not manipulative. What it is is good makes good. It's really that simple. If you can't do it yourself, you make sure there are people around you that are doing exactly that and reciprocating that kind of positive energy. It makes the boat float real smooth.

Along with executive producing 'Highway to Heaven' and, of course, starring in it as well as other projects, you're also an entrepreneur, a podcast host—and the most important, being a mom. How do you find balance within all of that?

For me, it really means having my village. And they don't just show up. Villages show up over time. I have a wonderful village in my life—friendships that have lasted me 20, some 30, some 40 years. Having a village of solid people is very helpful. As a single parent—single, meaning not married—I have to say this: Because of my village, I've never felt like I'm a single parent. I have people around that love us—not just me or just him—and will follow my directives as a parent. It's super-important that I take time to kick it—quality time for just he and I. We go on dates just to hang out, we play games, we listen to music together, we cook together.

And then I make sure he has strong men around him—men that I respect and admire and feel proud of so that he can see that as well. There's a balance to it, always. Having a group of great mothers or great women around is awesome, but there also needs to be, in my opinion, representatives of both sides—the estrogen and testosterone. I think that makes for a well-balanced and healthy person of character, if you will. So, that's what I have to do as a parent, and I have to prioritize that. You only get but so much time with your kid before they're out in those streets.

The Highway to Heaven film series will premiere November 6 at 8 p.m. EST. For more information, follow Lifetime on IG @lifetimetv.

Featured image by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET

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