Jill Scott is perhaps best known for her angelic voice. Now, she’s embodying an actual angel from heaven in her newest on-screen project.
Scott stars in and executive produces Highway to Heaven, a film series that’s a modern slant on the classic 80’s primetime series, airing tonight on Lifetime. The source material of the film holds a special significance to Scott, who grew up watching the show in special moments with her grandmother.
“This is a show that we would watch together on her bed, which was a very special place,” she recalls. “Not everyone was allowed in my grandmother’s bed, but I could get in the bed and watch Highway to Heaven with her. Those were good times, sweet times.”
Scott says that when the opportunity came her way and she saw the title Highway to Heaven, she accepted the script instantly without even giving it a read or a second thought. She believes the show’s core message is very necessary in the common climate.
“We could use something a little more kind, and maybe even a little slow. Something that doesn’t have a single negative intention. Something completely positive.”
Scott takes on the starring role of Angela Stewart, an angel sent to Earth to help people in need. In this iteration of her journey, she’s a temporary school counselor who helps a troubled teen and his family.
Scott believes the show’s message of kindness and positivity, paired with her character Angela’s blind faith, applies a necessary message to real life.
“Who understands, really?” Scott says of faith and life. “We are led places and we don’t understand why until maybe the next year, or ten years, or twenty years from then. Maybe not even until 40 years later will we actually understand why we were led to do the things that we were.”
Particularly now, with the tumultuous two years the world has had collectively, Scott things a movie series like Highway to Heaven could be a helpful reprieve.
“It’s just been dark, and there’s a lot of separation,” she says. “We’re still dealing with frivolous separations like darks and lights and 4C and whatever. We’re still dealing with those superficial matters that don’t truly matter to anyone. We’re still dealing with a society that is angry about wearing a mask. We’re still dealing with a society that has a hard time even grasping that Black lives matter.”
“It can feel like there’s no light. So when the script came across my desk I thought…maybe just for an hour or so, we can remind people that they can be angels to somebody else. That we can all help and lift other people. So hopefully it will inspire people to do just that.”
The original program featured legendary actor Michael Landon, a white man, in the role of the show’s angel Jonathan Smith. When Scott considers the thought that she’s filling shoes that were not originally intended for a Black woman, she finds the very idea a foreign concept.
“I can’t imagine that they weren’t meant for a Black woman,” she says. “I’ve heard several times, ‘Oh, it’s Highway to Heaven with a twist.’ But I don’t see the twist.”
Instead of a “twist,” she sees a Black woman playing an angel as an expression of what’s truest about the nature of God.
“The Creator that I believe in, The Creator that I love and cherish so much…I think angels could come in dog form and in insect form, every possible spectrum of color of human being, that they’d come in bird form,” she says. “It’s all divine intervention and I just don’t think it has anything to do with race.”
“Culture is one thing, but it’s the human race and the construct has been created by people for their own purposes. I think The Creator is bigger than skin color.”
Highway to Heaven airs on Lifetime on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. EST.