LOS ANGELES – Jill Scott is in the home stretch of one life-changing journey and just starting out on another.
The singer, poet and actress is expecting her first child April 25 and Sunday made her debut in HBO’s “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (8 p.m. ET/PT), an adaptation of the novels by Alexander McCall Smith.
Scott overcame personal obstacles to get the “Agency” job, in which she plays Precious Ramotswe, owner of a Botswanan detective agency. After auditioning for the late Anthony Minghella, Scott nailed the part but learned that same week that her mother had cervical cancer. Her mother ultimately got a clean bill of health, and as Scott was ready to get on a plane and begin shooting in Africa, she found out that she was seven weeks pregnant.
Now, as she and her fiance, band member Lil’ John Roberts, await the birth of their son, Scott is putting the finishing touches on their new home in Studio City, Calif. The performer, 36, is happy for the miracle she thought could never happen. At age 24, Scott was told by doctors that she would never have children, and they recommended a hysterectomy.
Scott says filming in Africa was life-changing, spiritually enlightening and therapeutic.
“I met hard-working people, happy people. Not that they don’t have problems, but the most you’ll get out of a Botswana person is ‘shame.’ And then they keep moving, ” Scott says. “They have this appreciation and respect for life, whether they’re driving around in a Mercedes or whether they’re walking barefoot with a tree on their head, pregnant. There’s a strength there that I now understand.”
Though Scott says she had a few initial doubts about the role, she now believes the role was made for her.
“I think I worried in the beginning that I was a little too fair-skinned. I worried that I wasn’t going to represent the role,” she says. “I just wanted her to be as normal to this country and as natural as rain, and when I got there, I kept seeing myself over and over. Same complexion. Same nose. Same big old legs. I said ‘OK. I’m right in the pocket here.’ That excited me.”
Ramotswe also shares the same spiritual side that Scott conveys via her Grammy-winning music: Ramotswe isn’t a conventional detective, but more a protector of the community she loves.
“It’s not black-and-white justice. It’s heart-and-soul justice. That’s the difference between her and a lot of the crime shows out there. These crimes are not huge. But they are offensive,” Scott says. “And they’re disrespectful. Some of them, she has to go to the law. But some of them are small, like ‘Somebody took my dog!’ Or ‘I think my husband is with another woman.’ And she pours out justice the way she sees fit.”