Before Jill Scott became a famous soul singer and poet, she managed the French Connection – a hip and cool store – in downtown Philadelphia. One day, a tall gentleman comes in looking for a shirt, the two make an immediate connection laughing and talking and he ends up inviting her to a play that night. Before he leaves the store (he didn't buy the shirt), he gives her one ticket to the show. As fate would have it that man was Tyler Perry. The ticket was to his play, Woman Thou Are Loosed, which was in town for a short run. Jill Scott never knew he was the writer and director until she started thumbing through the playbill on the bus on her way home that night.
“I've never forgotten that,” says the down-to-earth Scott who says she reminded writer/director Tyler Perry of their fateful meeting more than 12 years ago when he hired her to co-star in his new movie, 'Why Did I Get Married.” “When she told me the story, it took me back and I remembered it too,” said Perry. The two never made any other contact with each other during that time, “I was my way to the next city and she went back to the French Connection,” Perry jokes.
Well, call it chance encounter or divine intervention, either way you'll be grateful the stars aligned for these talents to come together again.
“Married” is the big screen film adaptation of Tyler Perry's stage play about the trials of marriage. It follows four successful black couples through the ups and down of their relationships and what happens when infidelity enters the equation. The film features a talented ensemble cast which includes Jill Scott, Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Sharon Leal, Michael Jai White, Lamann Rucker, Denise Boutte, Tasha Smith, Lamann Rucker, Richard T. Jones and of course Tyler Perry who writes and directs the movie he calls his “best feature yet.” And I strongly have to agree.
Jill Scott plays “Sheila” the overweight “leaning on Jesus to save my world” churchy sister who's unaware her husband has found a slimmer and sexier thing to occupy his time – 'Married”, she says, could not have come at a better time. You see the film seemed to mirror part of what was happening in her real life.
“I was going through a divorce at the time. The divorce influenced everything,” says the 35-year old Scott who was recording her just released CD, “The Real Thing – Words and Sounds Vol. 3” in Atlanta at the same time as the movie was shooting. “They were all over each other. The album and the movie were all over each other.”
And as Scott is known to do: if she feels it, she writes it and sings it and since “Married” acts it out too.
“Sometimes when you're acting, you fall into the character and when they say cut you walk away – this wasn't that way for me,” recalls Scott. “I felt it later, I felt it at night and before I got to work.”
Richard T. Jones who plays her no-good husband Mike didn't cut her any slack during the shooting. His blistering words to his plus-sized wife cut so deep it bothered many of us sitting in the audience. “It wasn't Jill he was trying to hurt, but to get to Sheila, he had to go through me and he definitely hurt me,” explains Scott.
“Everything that I was lacking, I wrote down and I sang,” remembers the neo-soul singer. “All the emotions that “Sheila” was going through I tapped into my experiences to reach these places to cry unabashed, to feel so low, and when we finished shooting, I still felt it – it was hard to let go of these things,” says Scott who spent years studying Shakespeare and acting long before her recording career made her a household name.
And it's clear from her new CD, the divorce was painful too and Scott interestingly details the hurt and healing in her lyrics with such tracks as “Crown Royal on Ice,” “Celibacy Blues,” “Just Wanna Be Loved,” “Whenever You're Around” and the title track “The Right Thing”. Like her first musical outing, Scott is burning up the charts and it's clear her words and sounds resonate with so many.
“Interestingly, the unmarried, but dating Perry had written the play after another failed relationship. “I had come out of relationship that was really one of the most difficult ones I had been in and I learned so much from it and I'm always asking questions – God, what was this about. Show me the lesson in this. After I was asking and finding the lessons, I started writing these characters.”
Why do relationships go so wrong? Sounding more like Dr. Phil, Perry emphatically responds, “People are looking for other people to validate or fix them rather than doing the work themselves – to make themselves whole and get themselves ready for the other person.”
Unlike so many other celebs that have ruled out marriage or are re-defining marriage, Scott says she hasn't given up finding love and potentially tying the knot again. “I want to share all of this with someone meaning who I am and the blessings I have. I want to share it and that's why I would get married again,” says Scott.
When another one of her co-stars (Tasha Smith) jokingly chimed in she'd get married to have sex, Scott quickly responds, “That's not a joke.” (buy her album and listen to the track Celibacy Blues)
You'll enjoy Jill Scott in “Married” and you'll also like seeing upwardly mobile black couples on the big screen. Tyler Perry has really tapped into our worlds with “Married” — the worlds of so many African Americans that we usually don't see at the movies. I'm sure people will go see this film again and again. Producer Rueben Cannon puts it another way, “I think this movie will become a classic.”
After you see “Married” – you'll be glad the stars aligned bringing Jill Scott and Tyler Perry back together and you'll hope they'll come back real soon for a return engagement.