Actress Robin Givens, 51, returns to the big screen to star in the faith-based film God’s Not Dead 2. She spoke with ESSENCE about her faith, spirituality and greatest accomplishments in life.

Do you consider yourself religious or spiritual?
I grew up Catholic. For me it was almost like ritual. You didn’t get to decide where you went on Sundays. I’d say Hail Mary’s before exams or before auditions, later. It was just built into the system of who I was. My family is quite religious. During the most difficult time in my life, the relationship became more personal as opposed to this ritual that you do.

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Has there been a time recently when you felt that your faith was tested?
I’ve had so many, I can’t even tell you. Sometimes I get mad at myself because I can feel like I have a nice relationship with God. Then I move away a little bit, and then I come back again. I really try to keep God first and foremost on my mind. I recently lost my younger sister and I think if I didn’t have my faith I really wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning. I know I sound like a 12-year-old, but it all seems so unfair to me.

Share an affirmation or scripture that always gets you through the tough times.
I always go back to Psalm 30:5 ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ You have to hang in there. It’s all a journey. I believe that you get up and go to the school of life every day to try to build your character.

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What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?
Being a mom to my sons Buddy, 22, and TK, 16. I also think I’m a survivor. I think maintaining my belief and light and hope in the midst of a lot is a nice accomplishment. Not having gotten bitter I think is probably an accomplishment too. I always wanted any difficulty I went through to make me a better person and not bitter. Especially in the business we’re in, you go, ‘That’s not true!’ ‘That’s not right!’ It’s not easy, because you do go back to, ‘That’s not fair,’ but ultimately losing my sister has probably been the most unfair thing that has happened to me.

What do you still hope to accomplish spiritually?
I want to have a smart heart and be spiritually mature. When I first started in this business, if it wasn’t in a book I didn’t know anything about it. When I got to Hollywood, I finally went to the school of life and unfortunately it was in front of the world. I didn’t have such a smart heart, you know?

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What do you think are some of the greatest misconceptions about you?
Most people think I’m really tall. [Laughs] They’re always like, ‘I thought you were like 5′ 10”!’ I also think having gone through such a public marriage… I remember Phil Donahue said something like ‘If you throw enough mud something’s bound to stick.’ I think I had a lot of mud thrown at me. To be so different from the person that people might think you are or the names you’re being called, was like, ‘Whoa!’ I think that was really, really, really difficult for me.

What have your children taught you about yourself?
I always say your parents start raising you, your children finish raising you. Nothing will grow you up like having children. They teach you selflessness.

Do you still like living in Hollywood?
I’m just coming back. My kids play tennis so we moved to Florida. But now we’re back living between Los Angeles and San Diego. I like to go in and out. I had to take a little break for myself. A friend of mine, Chris Rock, said to me, ‘Didn’t anybody tell you you’re a Black girl? You can’t take a birth break!’ And I was like, ‘Wait a minute! I don’t have my same place in line? What do you mean?’

Who are your closest friend in Hollywood?
Toni Braxton and I are friends. Kim Whitley and I are dear friends. Chris Rock and I are friends.

Catch Robin Givens in God’s Not Dead 2 in theaters now.

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