After nearly two years, Jill Marie Jones (aka Toni Childs) is finally clearing up some of the rumors regarding her sudden departure from the hit show, Girlfriends. Jones spoke candidly to Essence.com and revealed the real reason she decided to leave the show, whether or not she still speaks to the cast members, and more.
Essence.com: And let me tell you, Toni Childs is sorely missed.
Jill Marie Jones: It was so much fun playing Toni Childs. I don’t walk that walk in my daily life. I like to think that I’m a pretty nice person, but to be able to play the diva and say some of the things those types of characters say was a lot of fun.
Essence.com: Do you miss being a part of Girlfriends?
J.M.J: I do miss Girlfriends. I don’t know if people know this, but Girlfriends was only my third audition. I booked my first audition for City Guys, a Saturday morning show. My second audition I didn’t book and then Girlfriends was my third, so you have to understand that I still very green to this industry and there was the whole film world that I didn’t know. So when I left Girlfriends after six years, there was just so much I wanted to know and do. I’ve just been having a ball having opportunities to do movies. It’s just been great.
Jill out and about last year. (Photo: Splash Images)
Essence.com: Nothing wrong with spreading your wings, which brings me to your departure from Girlfriends. Tracee Ellis Ross said in an interview that the reason you didn’t return was because the cast did not receive the huge raise they were expecting. Is that true.
J.M.J: First of all, let me tell you why I left. I left because I wanted to do movies. My contract was up after my sixth season and people forget that just like the network can choose whether or not to renew your contract, I can also choose and evaluate whether or not I want to come back. My actor’s chair that has Girlfriends and my name on it, you know the director’s chair? Well, on the very last day of my sixth season, I told them to grab my chair and put it in my car for me. Then we had to negotiate a contract that doesn’t happen until they decide that your show is going to be picked up. You end the show in like February and then they don’t decide if they are going to pick you up because the upfronts until May. So why would I take my chair if I thought I was coming back? Believe you me, I would tell you. I’ve never made a decision based on money. I was on the show for six years and I think that’s a good run. There’s so much more I want to do in my career and so much more I want to know and learn, but my departure definitely had nothing to do with money.
Essence.com: Do you still keep in touch with the cast?
J.M.J: I’ve talked to them individually at different times. I have so much love for all of them. But are we hanging out and having some wine and cheese on a Saturday night? No. Do I think of them as friends? Absolutely. In a way, I think of them as extended family, like cousins. I’ve talked to them individually throughout this, but I don’t talk to them on a regular basis. I wish them all well and I still watch the show.
ON HER NEW ROLE
Essence.com: So tell me about the film you’re shooting in Louisiana, The Comeback?
J.M.J: It’s a lighthearted drama about a working class town that loses all its hopes, dreams and ambitions when the factory closes because it puts a lot of people out of work. So they have a lot of heart in this town, but not a lot of money. And then this little girl, Jasmine (Keke Palmer), ends up playing the quarterback of this local football team. The town rallies around this team and it brings the spirit back to the town. I play Jasmine’s schoolteacher and her uncle’s (Ice Cube) love interest, and Tasha Smith plays her mom. It’s so cute; I was crying reading it because it just tugs at your heart.