MTV: Tell me about "Just Another Girl," the single from the "Down to Earth" soundtrack, and how that came about?
It was originally planned that I would do the title track for "Down to Earth" after the movie had been finished. I had come in at the last minute. I did one song with She'kspere [producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs] that they decided not to use, then I had to do another one with [producer] Ric Wake. Everybody loved the record, but it was being held for my album. So there were some issues about getting the song, and once we did, we actually worked through the Christmas holidays recording it, then shot the video the day after New Year's.
MTV: Tell me about the video. Where was it shot? What was the most difficult part of it?
Monica: The video was shot in California, which is a long stretch for me, living in Georgia, but I was really excited about being able to look different and come with different imaging, because I think I've grown a lot as a person. I did moves that were comfortable for me.
We had our ups and downs as far as the video shoot was concerned, because coming out of the holidays, people weren't really in work mode. The very first night a water main broke. ... Black smut covered everything, but you'd never know looking at the video.
MTV: You did an MTV film, "Love Song." Do you have any other acting plans?
Monica: I try to be optimistic. I try not to get into the mode where people only look at me as one type of artist or one type of actress, so the things I do I try to be really picky about. "Love Song" was actually written for me and ['NSYNC's] Justin Timberlake, and when he couldn't do it, I didn't see any reason why I couldn't. I'm auditioning for ["The O.Z."], which is the hip-hop version [of "The Wizard of Oz"]. I want to continue being a part of some things that were really unique. I'm definitely looking at everything. The only opportunity I missed that I really wanted to be a part of was "Save the Last Dance," but at that time I was doing the video and preparing for this song, so I had to sacrifice one for the other.
MTV: Do you favor singing over acting?
Monica: No, I don't favor one craft over the other because either way it goes, no matter how much you love it, you get tired of it at some point. Just like if you love being a secretary, at some point you want some days away from that. Acting gives me time away from music, and music gives me time away from acting, even though I love the two.
MTV: You dealt with a tragedy in your life recently [boyfriend Jarvis Knots' suicide]. Did that have anything to do with you being out of sight for a while?
Monica: Oh my gosh, yes. Jarvis' death had everything to do with me not working. I was not able. I still can't carry the workload I used to. I was working all these hours after it happened, [but] I realized in the midst of everything, I couldn't handle it. I'm not ashamed to say that I decided to step back and get the help I needed to really come from within.
I think some of the best therapy for me was his daughter. All the things that surrounded me when he was alive that weren't taken away from me when he was. It's like I found a way to balance it. I'm now able to talk about it, whereas before this I couldn't get the words out of my mouth. I think I have a testimony to other people, because whether it's homicide or suicide, death is death. You know, someone passing is very different than seeing someone take their life, or if you're there when someone else has taken their life. I think those situations make me the person I am today. My music is totally different. My sound is totally different.
"Just Another Girl" doesn't pertain to the stage in my life I'm in, so I'm really waiting and looking for material that will take you to some of the depths in my soul. It was very difficult to juggle all of those things and then try to be a family for his kids at the same time. I don't think there's that many people that could do it. We met when I was 14; he was older than me. He would have been 25 now, and I'm only 20. So, from 14 to 20 years old, I basically played a role a lot of young women take on. I'm hoping to be an inspiration to a lot of young women who have no interest in music. I don't care what their goals are in life.
I just want them to be able to say, 'If she can make it through a situation like that' ... people would never expect some of the things I've experienced and some of the things I'm not shy to talk about. Whether it was talking about the police and his lifestyle or me trying to deal with my lifestyle. Having the #1 record when they were coming in our house looking for him. So you know I talk about those things and hopefully everybody will get a good grasp on it through my album and learn from it, because I think artists are blamed for other people's mistakes. "Well, my daughter heard that Monica was ..." Well, if your daughter heard that, your daughter can look at my situation now and know why it is one you do not want to live your life in, no matter how much you love somebody. Help them get out. That's basically what this album should portray.
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