Interview with Kam Williams
Jill Scott was born on April 4, 1972 in The City of Brotherly Love where she was raised by her mother, Joyce, and her maternal grandmother. A naturally-gifted child, Jill was speaking at 8 months and learned to read by the age of 4. She credits her mother for broadening her horizons by taking her to see plays and to museums during her childhood.
After graduating from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, Jill attended Temple University, working two jobs to put herself through college. She majored in English and planned to become a teacher, but dropped out of school after becoming disillusioned with the profession while spending time in the classroom as an assistant.
She started out in showbiz doing poetry readings, which is how she was discovered by drummer QuestLove of The Roots in 1999. He invited Jill to join the band in the studio where she collaborated with the group on writing their Grammy-winning hit, “You Got Me.” This led to her being signed by the Hidden Beach label to record her debut album, “Who Is Jill Scott?” This launched Jill’s phenomenally-successful musical career which has netted the sultry singer three Grammys thus far.
The talented triple threat has also published a book of poetry and made a phenomenal foray into acting via both the big and small screens. On TV, she’s handled the lead role of Mma. Precious Ramotswe on the Emmy-nominated, Botswana-based, HBO series “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.” Meanwhile, she’s received additional critical acclaim for her work in such movies as “Hounddog” and “Why Did I Get Married?”
Here, she talks about returning to reprise the role of Sheila in the sequel to the latter, the latest modern morality play from Tyler Perry.
Kam Williams: Hi Jill, thanks so much for the time.
Jill Scott: My pleasure, thank you.
KW: Congrats on doing a great job in this sequel which I felt improved on the original.
JS: Thank you, I’m really excited abut it.
KW: How was it being reunited with everybody?
JS: It was so nice. It really was. It’s just a pleasure to be around people that you like, and that you have a good understanding of. We clicked in the first film, and never really separated after we walked away from each other. We still called each other. “How’re you doing?” “How ya’ been?” “How’s the kids?” “How’s the wife?” And then, here it is a couple of years later, we’re doing another film, and everybody just sank right back into character.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says she just loves your acting, and was wondering whether there are any plans to resume shooting “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”
JS: I certainly hope so. We’ve been talking to HBO about resuming. The reason why we didn’t continue shooting was because I was pregnant and Mma. Ramotswe was not pregnant! [Chuckles] So, I had to wait until I had my child, and then once I did, I felt he was too young to travel on a plane for 16 hours. So, that was one of the reasons why we went on hiatus. At this point, we’re looking at scripts, and trying to see how to continue the show because the feedback and excitement has been exceptional.
KW: Bernadette also says she thought your accent on the show was incredible, and almost did not believe it was you speaking. She wants to know how you perfected it.
JS: What’s funny is that I spent about a month and a half learning the wrong accent. I didn’t know it was wrong until after I arrived in Botswana. The Motswana people said, “What are you talking about? That is not a Botswana accent. You sound like you’re from Zimbabwe.” And they are very particular, if you are going to represent their culture. Their dialect is specific, so I had to unlearn everything I had learned, and then learn again.
KW: Why do you refer to the people of Botswana as the Motswana?
JS: You live in Botswana, you speak Setswana, and you are Motswana.
KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls would like to know, how has motherhood changed your views on life and career?
JS: Well, I am making an effort to truly live. I don’t mean to imply by that that I haven’t been alive before but, with my son being here and such a powerful force in my life, he’s given me a freedom to be more. I think that sometimes we can get stuck, and just the fact that he’s here says so much to me about my own existence. I didn’t think I’d be able to have children, and this level of blessing is something I can’t even put my finger on. I don’t even know where to begin to describe the emotion. I feel like I have a lava stick in my spine that’s propelling me forward to do larger things like going on tour with Maxwell, doing stadiums, and leaving my old record label to look for a new one that can support my new effort 100%. I appreciate my old label very much, but it’s time to move forward. So, my son has given me the courage to get out of any box that I’ve been in.
KW: Larry Greenberg thinks your music is beautiful and as smooth as silk. He says, “Philly has produced more than its share of stunningly-talented artists. Do you think that growing up in Philadelphia has tempered your work?”
JS: Yes, this might sound terrible, but there has been segregation in Philadelphia for many years. The Italians live around Italians. The Greeks live around Greeks. Spanish people live around Spanish people, particularly Puerto Rican. And black people live around black people. That makes us culturally thick, because if you want to hear real Puerto Rican music, you go to Little Puerto Rico. If you want to eat real Italian food, you go to Little Italy. Everybody’s welcome in any neighborhood in Philadelphia.
KW: It isn’t like Boston where a black person couldn’t even walk through an Irish or Italian neighborhood when I lived there.
JS: Well, in Philadelphia, you are welcome, and that’s The City of Brotherly Love. I think that makes us culturally thick and sound, so you can experience all kinds of cultural authenticity.
KW: Laz Lyles says she hopes you plan to put out more poetry books. She has the first one and loves it. She wants to know, what’s the way you’ve most changed, creatively since your first album?
JS: I think I’ve changed more as a person and, as I change as a person, there is new added creativity. I’ve seen more… I’ve met more people, done more things with dogs, and walked on more beaches since the beginning. The more I see, the more I wanna do; and the more I do, the more I wanna see.
KW: Laz also wanted to wish a happy birthday to you and your son, Jett. I know yours was April 4th. Happy Birthday! When’s his?
JS: Thank you. His is the 20th.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
JS: Is there any question no one ever asks, that I wish someone would? Wow! If there is, I don’t know what it is.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
JS: All the time.
KW: The Zane question: Do you have any regrets?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
JS: All the time.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JS: A woman.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
JS: I read three at a time. One of the one’s I’m reading right now is an autobiography, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.”
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?
JS: It was something really cool by an artist from DC. I can’t remember his name.
KW: Was it Wale?
JS: Not Wale, his counterpart. A friend of mine played me his album in the car, and I found it really interesting.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JS: Wow, that’s another good one. Let me think… It was playing with my dog, Benji. He was my best friend.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
JS: You ask good questions! I like that. I would want a clean planet.
KW: Thanks again, Jill, for this opportunity to talk with you, and best of luck with everything.
JS: Thank you so much for the cool interview. Be well.