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Jill Scott, Barry Watson: 'Highway to Heaven' is for any faith

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Jill Scott, Barry Watson: 'Highway to Heaven' is for any faith
Barry Watson and Jill Scott star in "Highway to Heaven." Photo courtesy of Lifetime

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Jill Scott, who stars in the movie remake Highway to Heaven, premiering Saturday on Lifetime, said the show is not specific to any one faith.

Scott plays an angel helping people in need, in a remake of Michael Landon's series from the '80s.

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"It's for everybody who is looking for light in the dark," Scott said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "[It's a] reminder that faith still exists, and that the creator, my boss, your boss, our boss, still is very much present."

Scott, 49, plays Angela Ross, an angel who serves as a school guidance counselor. Barry Watson plays Bruce, the school principal.

Watson, 47, who grew up Catholic, said he hopes Highway to Heaven brings different faiths together.

"My whole idea of faith is just respecting everybody else's god or boss," Watson said. "I just feel strongly that we should all respect each other's god more."

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Lifetime announced Highway to Heaven as the first in a potential series of movies. Scott would return as Angela to help different people in each installment.

"Regardless of where Angela is, she's always going to be what she is, and that's an angel," Scott said. "She's about listening, patience, kindness, being gentle in a world that can feel very hectic, fast-paced and very often angry."

In the first movie, Angela helps a student who is coping with the death of his mother, and the father, who is coping with the death of his wife.

Watson said Angela helps principal Bruce, as well.

"I don't even think he really realizes it until he comes into contact with Angela, and discovers he's got some stuff in the past that he hasn't quite moved on from yet," Watson said. "He plays everything almost as a joke, and I think that's his way of deflecting what his issues might be."

Watson's acting career began on Days of Our Lives in 1990. One of his breakthrough roles was playing a reverend's son on 7th Heaven.

"It just feels like the world needs something like this," Watson said. "Everybody needs something that I think can maybe lift them up and help them move beyond where they're stuck in the past."

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As a recording artist, Scott released her first album in 2000. She began to act in 2004 with a role on the series, Girlfriends, after appearing as herself on an episode of Sesame Street in 2002.

Scott said she used to watch Landon's Highway to Heaven and Little House on the Prairie with her grandmother.

"My grandmother thought Michael Landon was fine," Scott said. "She would always say the same thing, 'Look at him, just look at him.'"

Watson said he watched all of Landon's shows dating to Bonanza, adding that each of Landon's shows imparted positive lessons on viewers, especially Highway.

"Maybe some of those messages got through to me and helped me get past certain things," Watson said. "It's always been a show that has stuck with me throughout the years, always."

Scott said she was nervous to carry on Landon's legacy in Highway to Heaven. The Landon estate is executive producing the Lifetime movies.

Lifetime's relationship with Scott began with 2010's Sins of the Mother. Scott also appeared in the network's Steel Magnolias, With This Ring and Flint.

Scott said Lifetime offers viewers heart-felt shows and movies that depict a sense of justice or forgiveness, and that Highway to Heaven should do the same.

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"Angela meets people who are in the middle of a crisis, typically," Scott said. "They're people who really, really need help, so it makes all the sense in the world to me that this is on Lifetime."

In her own life, Scott was raised in the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination. She no longer practices, but says she believes in angels, even if they don't literally show up in a physical body like on Highway to Heaven.

"What I know is that people in my life personally have shown up, and strangers that do kind things," Scott said. "I've missed gunshots, I've missed fights, I've missed being robbed by seconds, minutes, moments."

Watson said he believes in real-life angels, too.

"I believe there are souls out there who watch over us," he said. "That's probably what's gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life."

Highway to Heaven airs Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT on Lifetime.

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