Two years ago, singer-actress Jill Scott thought the water in her Tennessee home tasted funny, so she bought a water-quality test kit. “I’m in a rural environment, not in the inner city, and my water was horrific,” recalls Scott, who has since had her pipes filtered. “It scared me.” So when Scott read the script for Flint — a Lifetime film on the Flint, Mich., water crisis, executive-produced by Queen Latifah, that premiered Oct. 28 — she had no hesitations. “Clean water is a right,” says Scott, 45. “It’s hard to believe this is happening in the U.S.”
How did you prepare for the role of Nayyirah Shariff, the real-life activist who exposed the crisis?
If you’re alive and I’m playing you, I’m going to do the best I can to get you right. [Shariff and I] talked a lot on the phone. I listened to her, and I watched her interviews on YouTube — I wanted to make sure that I was her. I got the thumbs-up from her a few days ago, saying that she was blown away. That was so important to me because this is a real woman, someone very active in the community, this hero who has and continues to fight for justice in Flint.
Melissa Mays and LeeAnne Walters worked alongside Shariff to propel change — what was your experience with them?
We met Melissa [on set]. She spoke with us and shared some water, which was insane. The smell of it was just putrid, like vinegar and chemicals, almost like ammonia — that was recent.
What impact do you hope this film will have?
I really feel like the movie has brought [Flint] to the forefront again — when the media lets things go, we forget and move on to the next situation, the next thing. Being an American citizen, we take things for granted. We don’t question, we don’t investigate. This was done to this community intentionally — not telling them what was happening, lying to them. It just might be happening to you and me too.
What future plans do you have for your acting career?
[Acting] is the most terrifying, awesome job I’ve had. To be able to tell a story that hits the hearts and minds of people is fantastic. I won’t be doing much more singing this year. I’m ready to put on another hat for a minute.