You may recognize Jill Marie Jones as Toni Childs on Mara Brock Akil’s Girlfriends on the UPN network, alongside Golden Brooks and Tracee Ellis Ross, but she’s been up to new things as a lead in OWN’s brand-new drama Delilah, executive-produced by Oprah Winfrey herself. Jones plays Tamara, a dynamic, self-assured woman and lawyer who works at the largest law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I start every project like a blank sheet of paper. I try not to compare it to other characters that I’ve played, and it’s very important not to judge the character that you play, even if you were playing a serial killer. That serial killer is somebody’s child,” she said passionately. “I leave judgment outside of the door because you have to get to the humanity of that character, and that’s when the good stuff starts to like, peel. I’m not here just to show up and stand on marks and say words in a way that’s believable. I really want to explore.”
As an actress who loves complex characters, Jones appreciates the art of acting and digging deep into her characters, but she has to make time for her mental health in order to show up for her full self, right?
“You know what, like if I’m being completely honest, I think when people see or follow me on social media because I am pretty girly in a certain way,” admitted the Dallas, Texas, native. “I’m really someone who could just sit on the floor with you and watch TV and eat tacos. I mean, it’s truly me. I’m a Southern girl. I’m a proud Texan.”
See below for more thoughts from Jones on how she likes to come back to center between shoots, set life, and the glamorous entertainment lifestyle.
Photo: Courtesy of Jill Marie Jones
What activities and/or products do you love to lift your spirits and alleviate your stress?
“Wow, that would be meditation. I tried meditation some years back. I love L.A. for many reasons, and I know sometimes it gets a bad rap, but it really introduced me to a lot of things that were outside of me, and meditation is one of those things. Before 2020, I had someone really close to me that became sick. That’s when I really dug in deep, and it’s working for me. That’s how I start my day, and it puts me in a very zen space.
“I also like to dance. I know I do these crazy, silly TikTok videos or whatever, but it’s really self-serving because dancing just brings me so much joy and it connects me to my inner child. I come from a dance background and [it] just reminds me of when things are just joyful and free.”
What activities or products do you love to use to take care of your body?
“I’ll be honest. I think I’m an old-school girl because my mother is an old-school woman. I wash my face with Dove soap because that’s what my mother washes her face with. I get a lot of compliments on skin care, which I really do think it’s purely genetic. Sometimes when I do fancier things, I don’t get the best results.
“I’m a girl who drinks over a gallon of water a day, and I really do feel like that is one of the reasons why my skin is pretty nice. I’ve been missing vitamin D just because I’ve just been quarantining in the proper COVID-compliant way. I’ll go outside, though, in the backyard closed in and…really just soak in the sun.”
Photo: Courtesy of Jill Marie Jones
Hypothetically speaking, if we’re in a COVID-free society and you had an entire day to yourself without working, responsibilities, and you’re free to do whatever you want, where would you be and what would you be doing?
“I miss a lot of things. I would be in Italy on a good year. I was in Italy like, two to three times a year on a good year. I love food. I love to travel, but I’m good with binge-watching a whole day of something that I really want to watch. I’m not a loner, but I love me, too. I’m comfortable with just being with me some days, locking the door and closing the blinds—just exhaling and inhaling. A good food cheat day would be great if we’re doing the binge-watching day, too. That’d be great.”
Are there any special or unusual types of self-care or beauty practices that you swear by, that you absolutely cannot live without?
“Even though it’s COVID times, I typically believe massages are very important, and not to sound bourgeois, but I would get, sometimes, two a week. As good as it feels, it’s stress relieving as well, especially when you’ve had a hard week. I love to do a wet and dry sauna. I love to get out all those impurities just to sweat it out. I’ve been doing my own nails for a little bit now since the pandemic, and I think they look OK. I am proud of them. It’s been really interesting how therapeutic going through the process is for me.
“It’s reminding me that I used to do all this stuff on my own before I started to have people do those things for me, like waxing and stuff. It sounds crazy, but just doing the things on my own has been very therapeutic for me and a reminder that I can do this, and it kind of takes you back to basics. I remember back in the day I used to do my own weaves, and there’s no way on god’s green earth I would even attempt that today. I really did think my weave was looking really good, and I would do some of my girlfriends’ hair, too. They didn’t complain. I think that they liked it.”
As a Black woman in the industry, things are always changing and the way that we’re perceived is always changing. How do you believe that standards of beauty have changed over the years since you first started in the industry?
“What I love to see as an African-American woman is more natural hairstyles than I’ve ever seen before. That definitely was not what I saw when I started in this industry. Whether you want to wear a weave or your natural hair, it’s your prerogative. That’s definitely not what I was seeing when I first started, which is beautiful and I love to see that.
“There’s more of an African influence in a fashion that I see on red carpets, which, again, I wasn’t seeing that when I first started. I look back, and it’s weird because when I was younger, some of the makeup choices I was making I feel made me look older than I look today. Maybe I was just doing too much. With social media, there are so many tutorials on how to do this and how to do that. That’s an elevation. We’re definitely not at the same place where I started. When I first entered into this industry, I was winging it. My mother loves color, and I would watch my mother put on cheeks and lips, and it would be a really colorful, beautiful moment for her. Of course, as I’ve grown and watched some other things, she’s not like that now.”
Photo: Courtesy of Jill Marie Jones
How did your self-care routine look back when you first started, and how has your prioritization for self-care evolved since then?
“Back in the day, I was sleeping in makeup, but I would never get pimples. No harm, no foul. It has nothing to do with me; it just has to do with genetics. I drink a lot of water, and I think that’s beneficial. Sundays are typically just for me, and I deep-condition my hair. Because of the COVID pandemic, I have this wrap that you can lay in since I can’t get to the sauna. One of those lay-in wraps that wrap your body up and you just sweat.
“I take out Sundays for myself. Sunday is a whole meditation in itself for me. I don’t typically talk on the phone that much unless I need to do it or have to get some business done. It’s my kind of shutting-out-the-world day if I can do it, and [it] definitely makes my heart beat stronger. It gets me prepared for the week ahead. I definitely didn’t do that when I was younger. I would just go and not understand why I was so exhausted or why my eyes looked like I hadn’t slept in 12 days because I wasn’t getting the proper rest and everything. I take out time for that as an adult.”
How do you make sure that you manage your mental health and make sure that you can put yourself first?
“I’m an actor. I’m a human that always knew that acting is what I do, but what I do is not fully who I am. There’s a lot of different parts of me, so it is my job. I’m living inside my dream, and I love it so much, but it’s just one part of me. I try to remember that when I hear a lot of ‘nos,’ it doesn’t define me. That could be difficult for an actor, to blur lines between who I am and what I do.
“I’m pretty clear on that. I just finished shooting Monogamy, another project that I’m in, and my character goes through a lot this coming season. I’m the type of actor that can’t joke and laugh at craft service and five minutes later just be boohoo and crying. I’m just not that kind of an actor. I have to stay in it. You’re talking like, 12-, 13-, possibly 14-hour days where this is on you and sometimes it’s hard to shake. Sometimes I go home and it’s still on me. That’s when you have to just breathe and really connect.”