After giving us one of TV's most iconic characters in Toni Childs on the hit series Girlfriends, Jill Marie Jones is back on our screens in OWN's newest hit show Delilah. Seeing her weekly again feels like a visit with an old friend. Ever beautiful and ever the scene-stealer, Jones brings a grounded fire layered with stunning vulnerability to her portrayal of high-powered attorney Tamara Grayson in a way that only she can. 

New audiences were introduced to her this past year with the arrival of Girlfriends to streaming networks, but those of us who got to fall in love with her in real-time can track the commitment to her craft, her unique talent, and her uncanny ability to, so perfectly, portray us by the path she's taken since the aforementioned show's end. While most people would have clamored to remain in the spotlight, Jill Marie Jones chose herself, her joy, and authenticity. 

We chatted about what fans can expect from Delilah and what it was like to revisit Girlfriends 20 years after its premiere.

Iman Milner: It goes without saying that we've been watching you and loving you since Girlfriends, but who is Jill Marie Jones now?

Jill Marie Jones: Mmm, that's a good question. When I think of myself, I always think of my mother. She was a federal investigator for 40 years and a single mother of two children. I gained strength from her. She showed me, as a young girl, how to be a strong Black woman. I was prepared for this life in many ways, but I am definitely a wiser woman today at 46 years old. I wear 46 very proudly because I had to work to get here. But I feel like I was prepared for the world. 

IM: What attracted you to Delilah

JMJ: Clearly, I love playing dynamic, complex characters. As an actor, I like to jump into dark, murky waters and try to navigate through them. But I love Tamara. She's strong. She's dynamic. She's a lawyer at the largest law firm in Charlotte, NC. She is a woman who's not just strong, but she has vulnerability as well. I won't speak on every female character but, often, with Black female characters—if she's strong at work, she's strong with her kids, she's strong with her love. She only has that one note: strong. However, with Tamara, she has softness. And to me, that was really fun to play. I wanted to deep dive into that. 

IM: What can people expect from the show and your character this season?

JMJ: First of all, it's hot. Can we talk about the men on this show? They are good-looking and oh so talented. So, you're welcome, America. Really though, the show is dramatic. Every episode ends on a cliffhanger. The case we're following is heavy—there's a lot of stuff going on. The drama of it all. The sexiness of it all. As a Black woman, I just hope that people feel like they're being seen onscreen. Representation is important, and I hope that comes across. I hope that there's another generation that will watch Delilah and see themselves in me. Or sees Maarah (who plays Delilah) or sees Susan or Ozi in them. Hopefully, that happens. 

IM: Representation is so imperative, and you were part of a show that really did that before.

JMJ: Right. When I was on Girlfriends, we didn't really know what we had. We didn't know how we affected the culture because we were in a bubble making it. But it's really beautiful to have people come up to you and say, "Oh, I'm a realtor because of you" or "I'm an actress because of you." Or even something like, "I wear red lipstick because I didn't think with my skin color that I could wear that color until I saw you." And that was crazy to me because I feel like Black women can do anything.

IM: What was it like returning to the time of Girfriends with it being on streaming?

JMJ: First of all, it's amazing! I feel like I gave birth to Toni Childs even though I didn't. Mara Brock Akil gave birth to her, and I am so grateful that it landed in my lap. I love Toni. I love the show. Me and the girls, we have a text thread that is really funny. Those are my sisters. I loved it because I have younger people experiencing it for the first time, and that's really interesting to hear the feedback. And let's be very clear, that fashion still holds up. I was watching, and I'm like, 'I would rock that today.' 

IM: Toni was so fly!

JMJ: Right? That was 20 years ago. But it's been so lovely to get all the love. We knew we wanted to do good work, but we didn't realize the effect it would truly have. The fact that we are on Netflix is because of the fans. They've been asking for it for years. I'm so grateful for that.

IM: And what would you tell the Jill Marie Jones of that time?

JMJ: Just keep doing what you're doing, girl. I am very proud of my journey in this business. I don't have regrets. I stuck true to who I am, and maybe if I didn't, my career would be in a different place, you know? But I stuck to my guns, and I am very proud of the roads I've walked. Proud of the hills I've climbed with no shoes in the rain and in the mud over the rocks—I'm proud of my journey. I would just tell Jill from then, 'you're doing good, girl.' 

IM: What has been the most valuable lesson you've learned on this journey?

JMJ: I'm an actor; that's what I do. But it's not who I am. There are so many things outside of this job that are important to me. I am not this business. It's a part of me, but it's not all of me. I protect my joy at all costs. So when you see me do TikTok videos or videos anywhere, that's my joy. That's part of my joy. I can compartmentalize many things, and I always say there's a lot of clothes that make us who we are. Acting is my love. I am living inside of my dream, but it's just one part of me.  

IM: Ok, I have to ask, how are you maintaining this beauty? I mean, it's like you haven't aged at all. 

JMJ: I drink over a gallon of water a day. Water is diva juice. I also meditate. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I pray, meditate, and read my daily affirmations. My day may not end as well as it started, but I make sure it starts on the good foot. And I protect my peace at all costs. I see beauty in everything. You, me, the cup of tea that I am drinking right now that outlook keeps me beautiful on the inside and, I hope, that radiates out.