Interview with Tia Mowry, Smokey Robinson, and Mark Taylor of “Miracle in Motor City” on Lifetime by Suzanne 11/8/21
This is a fun movie, set in Detroit. In most ways, it’s your usual holiday TV movie, but the Motown music makes it a little extra-special, as does using Smokey Robinson as a major plot point. The acting also elevates it above the usual films we see this time of year. Tia Mowry-Hardrict (Sister, Sister; Family Reunion) is effervescent as busy social worker and foster mom Amber (who’s volunteered to take over the church Christmas pageant), and Canadian Mark Taylor (Coroner, Frankie Drake Mysteries) is great as her ex-boyfriend, Eddie. Smokey doesn’t appear right away, and he has a relatively small part, but the real star that outshines them all is Markeda McKay, the adorable actress who plays Lily, Amber’s foster daughter.
Lifetime had a press day for some of their upcoming Christmas movies, so it was great to be invited to be there and ask questions. I had a fun time chatting with them. Make sure you watch the movie Sunday, November 28 on Lifetime.
MODERATOR: Hi, all. Thank you for joining us for our last panel. Please welcome our panelists, executive producer and star, Tia Mowry, Smokey Robinson, and Mark Taylor.
TIA MOWRY: Hi, guys!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: (Makes kissing face.) Back atcha!
TIA MOWRY: Oh my gosh, I miss you guys!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I miss you, too. Yeah.
TIA MOWRY: Aw, you guys look so great!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: You’re the one.
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: How you doing, Mark?
MARK TAYLOR: I’m good, man. Good to see you again.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Good to see you, man. Yeah.
MARK TAYLOR: How you doing?
MODERATOR: Thank you all for being here. Our first question is from Suzanne.
TIA MOWRY: Oh. We’re — right off the gate.
TIA MOWRY: Hi, Suzanne!
QUESTION: Hi, guys. Happy holidays.
MARK TAYLOR: Happy holidays.
TIA MOWRY: Happy holidays to you.
QUESTION: I just finished watching your movie this morning. I really enjoyed it.
TIA MOWRY: Yay! (Claps.)
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Wonderful. Yeah.
QUESTION: I like that it was set in the city because so many of the Christmas movies are set out in the country somewhere, and they imply that the city is bad and the small town or country is good. So… I’m a city girl, I like that yours was different.
TIA MOWRY: Yay!
QUESTION: Mark, I love your character in “Coroner,” and I really love that show.
MARK TAYLOR: Oh, thank you. Wow, thank you.
QUESTION: The singing and guitar playing that you did in the film, was that something that you’ve done a lot of before?
MARK TAYLOR: I sing in the shower and…
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I know that tune.
MARK TAYLOR: And guitar, I used to play guitar when I was about 12. I did that for maybe a couple of years and, you know, real minute stuff, so…I had to take lessons and kind of relearn it.
TIA MOWRY: But you guys, here’s a little kind of behind-the-scenes situation. I thought what was really cool about Mark is he’d always walk around with the guitar. Like, when you weren’t on camera, behind the scenes, he was always walking around with it. I guess was that an actor’s choice to just feel really comfortable with the guitar?
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah, I just wanted to get it as good as I could and make it as realistic as possible.
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
MARK TAYLOR: And it was fun. It was also fun, you know? So it was good to learn some songs and connect.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: You know, I’ve tried to learn to play the guitar about three or four times. I cannot do it.
MARK TAYLOR: Really?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: It just would not — and the tricky part was my favorite instrument.
TIA MOWRY: Wow.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: The guitar is my favorite —
TIA MOWRY: Oh.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: And I wanna play it so badly, but I just can’t get it. My right hand and my left hand do not coordinate on the guitar, you know. But my guitarist told me, he says, “Man, if you wanna learn how to play the guitar, keep it in your hands at all times.”
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah, yeah.
TIA MOWRY: See?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I understand what you were talking about, man. But I did that and that didn’t work, either. So…
TIA MOWRY: I don’t — you guys, I don’t know how to play any instruments. Like, I…I’m terrible.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: What?
TIA MOWRY: That is one thing — no. Like, that’s — sports and music is I just — I can’t. So kudos to you guys.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Not sports, don’t say sports.
TIA MOWRY: Oh God, no, I can’t even — when I was a kid —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: No sports?
TIA MOWRY: No, no, no sports. Like, when I was a kid, my dad, he tried to put me in what is it t-ball? You know, where the ball is like teed up for you?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Yeah.
TIA MOWRY: I would strike out on that. So I’d like —
MARK TAYLOR: Wow.
TIA MOWRY: What is it, hand and eye coordination? No. Not good. Thank God, you know, I have other things that I can do.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Well, t-ball is over, honey, by the time you’re six or seven.
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: You don’t even play t-ball anymore, so that was way back when.
TIA MOWRY: (Laughs.) Okay?
QUESTION: Tia, can you sing at least?
TIA MOWRY: Yeah, you know, I can sing.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: She’s got a good voice.
TIA MOWRY: I mean, I grew up with singers in my family. My mother, she actually sang in the choir at church. So I can sing but what’s so funny about this character, Amber Dupont, she doesn’t know how to sing. And actually, Eddie, he picks on me throughout the movie about how I can’t carry a tune. So I thought that was pretty funny. But yeah, I mean, I can carry a tune.
QUESTION: Well, the voice is an instrument, so it counts.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Yeah, she can. She’s got a good voice.
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, all.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Suzanne.
TIA MOWRY: Thank you! Thank you!
MARK TAYLOR: Welcome.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Jamie Ruby.
QUESTION: Hi, guys.
TIA MOWRY: Hi, Jeannie.
TIA MOWRY: Or Jamie, is it Jamie?
QUESTION: Jamie. Jamie, yes.
TIA MOWRY: Hi Jamie!
QUESTION: Hi. This is for all three of you. I was wondering, is there anything filming this that surprised you that you found out? Like, what was the most surprising thing?
TIA MOWRY: How hot it was in Canada.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: My most surprising thing was that I could do it at all.
TIA MOWRY: Aw. I mean —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: That was my most surprising.
MARK TAYLOR: You were great. You were great.
TIA MOWRY: Look, y’all, Smokey —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I love you, too, Mark.
MARK TAYLOR: You were great.
TIA MOWRY: You were fantastic. I mean, you’re a legend, you know what I mean? Come on, Smokey.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: (inaudible @ 01:26:29)
TIA MOWRY: You’re awesome. You’re wonderful. Go ahead, Mark. You wanna answer?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I had a wonderful time.
TIA MOWRY: Oh.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I had a great time. And everybody was so beautiful, you know? Before it even happened, I was looking forward to seeing Tia because Tia is like my daughter. I mean, you know, I just —
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: …I love her so much and so happy to see —
TIA MOWRY: Aw, I love you, Smokey!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: …that she was gonna be there. That was great. And then, meeting everybody and getting the chance to — everybody. I mean, the crew, everybody was just fantastic. So I had a wonderful time.
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah.
TIA MOWRY: Aw. What about you, Mark? Was there anything that you were surprised about?
MARK TAYLOR: What was I surprised about? Um…you know what? I don’t know if I was surprised, but it was just an amazing experience.
TIA MOWRY: Aw, I like that.
MARK TAYLOR: Everyone’s so cool and everyone had a good time. And it was just — I guess maybe the experience I didn’t know was going to be so amazing you know?
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
MARK TAYLOR: But I’m definitely happy that I was a part of it, and I feel like it was meant to be.
TIA MOWRY: Aw, that’s awesome.
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah.
TIA MOWRY: I think, yeah, for me I think the most surprising part — I mean, I don’t know why it’s always surprising but I think a lot of people, they expect for — you know, these Christmas movies they’re — it’s supposed to be snow on the ground, it’s supposed to be wintertime. But in reality, we film a lot of these movies during the summertime. So we’re wearing jackets, and coats, and scarfs, and it’s so incredibly hot. So you have to —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Except for at night.
TIA MOWRY: Except for nights. Yeah, except for night.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: It was like the instant drop, like it’s 75 until six o’clock and at 6:01 it’s 30. (Laughs.)
TIA MOWRY: (Laughs.) No. Wait, I will say this though, too, you guys. I think we film these movies in such a short period of time, right? So when I first started doing these Christmas movies, I think the thing that I was most surprised about is how many scenes you shoot in a day. Just for perspective on some movies, most movies, you’ll shoot maybe two-to-three scenes a day. But with these movies, you’re shooting, like, eight or nine scenes a day. So it’s a lot of dialogue to memorize and you’re working long hours. So that can be kind of surprising I think for viewers to know about.
MARK TAYLOR: It’s a grind.
TIA MOWRY: It’s a lot of work.
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s a grind.
TIA MOWRY: We shoot these movies in such — I think it’s what, 15, 16 days? When a lot of movies go for 21 maybe even 30 days. So it’s a grind. But it’s a good grind.
MARK TAYLOR: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: I was gonna say, too, coats in the summer may be better than wearing a bathing suit when it’s freezing out or something. I don’t know.
TIA MOWRY: Yeah.
QUESTION: I guess it depends.
MARK TAYLOR: They’re both bad. They’re both bad.
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s true.
TIA MOWRY: You know what? I’m with you, Mark. I think they’re both just ew. But I mean, hey, you know, you do what you love.
MARK TAYLOR: Right.
TIA MOWRY: And I love what I do, so…it’s all worth.
QUESTION: Alright, thank you so much.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
TIA MOWRY: Thank you, Jamie.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Jamie. Our next question is from Mike from TV America.
QUESTION: Yeah, for Smokey. One of the good things about this movie is it reminds us of how important those church Christmas pageants are. So could you recall, back when you were a kid and so forth, what was important to you about it? Did you do church Christmas pageants? What did they mean to you?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Well, you know what, Mike? I was involved in a few of them but my mom was one of those people that went to church three, four times a week, you know? She was a real lady, though. She would cuss you out in a minute but she would go to church three, four times a week.
TIA MOWRY: (Laughs.)
SMOKEY ROBINSON: And actually, to be truthful with you, when I was a child, man, church used to scare me because of the fact —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I’m serious about that, man. I was scared to death at church because the church that I went to was a Baptist church, Baptist preacher. And he’s preaching and hollering and hooping and just falling out. And the women are coming up there and they’re putting smelling salts and they’re passing out. I was afraid to death of church, man, until I got to be grown. I really was. I wasn’t really, like, a church-going person as a kid. I went if my mom made me, if she made me. So when she made me go, I went. And she would send me to Sunday school in the morning and then I’d have to go back to church with her in the afternoon. That was really a grind for me, man. But like I said, after I got to be grown and I understood a lot more spiritual things, I understood it more. And so I got to be more relaxed with it. But as far as growing up, man, I was…it was a trip for me.
TIA MOWRY: (Laughs.)
QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to ask you one other thing, Smokey. Even though you shot it in Canada, this gives Detroit a really good look because it used a lot of stills, second unit shots. It makes life in Detroit look very attractive. Do we kind of underestimate how good Detroit is right now?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: I hope so, Mike. I really do because Detroit has been devastated for a while. But it’s because of the economy, because of no jobs and all that. See, Detroit is a job city. And when I was growing up, the auto industry was what kept Detroit going. Detroit was the auto industry, really. So after all the auto plants moved out and the manufacturers and stuff and then we had Motown and…I’m so proud of the fact that right now, they even call Detroit Motown. So we created a lot of jobs and things like that in Detroit, also. And we left and the auto industry left, so Detroit suffered for a long time. And I’m very, very happy to see that it is kind of on the rebound.
QUESTION: Oh, thanks.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mike. Our next question is for —
TIA MOWRY: Thank you, Mike!
MODERATOR: Thank you. Noah, you’re up next.
QUESTION: Hello, everyone. It is so great to be here with you guys. By the way, Tia, I feel your holiday energy. I have the holiday energy, too. I feel like you’re just gonna bust out into a Christmas tune. Yes, yes, oh yes!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Go, Tia. Bust it out, Tia.
QUESTION: Come on, Tia.
TIA MOWRY: Aw, thank you.
QUESTION: Give us a little “Jingle Bells”.
TIA MOWRY: No! Oh my God! Jingle bells, jingle bells. I’m, like, nervous to sing in front of Smokey.
MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Noah.
TIA MOWRY: You know, Christmas happens to be one of my favorite holidays. I really look forward to it every single year and that’s one of the main reasons why I love doing these movies. It’s something that my family — especially my mom, like, she’s a huge fan of every Christmas movie I do. And we sit down and we have hot cocoa, glasses of wine, and just really enjoy ourselves. So…
QUESTION: Now, Tia, I want to ask you first off, what attracted you to wanna be part of this? Because we have seen you and your sister, Tamera, be part of a lot of Christmas movies. And I just must say I love watching you two on screen.
MARK TAYLOR: Aw, thank you!
QUESTION: I’ve been a longtime fan since “Sister, Sister”. I just recently binged that, by the way, just aside.
TIA MOWRY: Really? With — yes. Okay, yeah, because it’s in syndication right now.
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
TIA MOWRY: Thank you! You know, what really attracted me with this script in particular is Mr. Smokey Robinson. You know, they had told me that he was going to be a part of it and I was like no way. I didn’t believe them at first. I was like I have to see it to believe it. I’ve known Smokey ever since I was a young, little girl and I’ve been a huge fan. And I just feel like Motown, it’s been very influential, especially within the African American culture and the community. So to be able to have that Motown flair and to have, like, Smokey be a part of the story, I was on-board from the beginning. And then when they told me that Mark was gonna be a part of it, Mark and I, we had done a movie over 20-something years ago, like aging ourselves but —
SMOKEY ROBINSON: When you guys were babies? You did a movie when you were babies?
TIA MOWRY: A baby! A baby! We were, like, in our 20s.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Twenty years ago.
TIA MOWRY: Yeah, basically. So I just — when I found out who the cast was and all of that and then just the story. I’m a huge believer in just giving women an opportunity. And Rhonda Baraka who is the writer of this movie, she wrote such an incredible script. And she’s also an African American woman which I just think is so phenomenal. So yeah, I was really excited about this project and I hope people enjoy this movie as much as all of us did making it.
QUESTION: Now, Mark, you have worked with Tia and Tamera on a movie in the past titled “17 Again”. I don’t know if that’s what you were just talking about, Tia, but that’s the movie that I’m talking about.
MARK TAYLOR: Yeah, it is.
TIA MOWRY: Yes, it was. “17 Again”, that was what I was talking about.
QUESTION: So now, we see you and Tia, you have feelings for each other in this holiday movie that we’ll see on Lifetime. What was it like to personally work with her once again for this project?
TIA MOWRY: Aw.
MARK TAYLOR: I mean, Tia, you know, she got the big, bright energy, you know? Her spirit is so giving and bright and caring. She’s always checking in with you, making sure that you’re alright.
TIA MOWRY: Yep.
MARK TAYLOR: And she just makes everyone feel involved, like everyone’s on the same level. So it was great. Like I said, it was a great experience.
TIA MOWRY: Yay.
QUESTION: Thank you, guys. I appreciate it. You have a good day.
TIA MOWRY: Thank you, Noah!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: You, too.
TIA MOWRY: Bye!
QUESTION: Bye. Happy holidays.
TIA MOWRY: Happy holidays.
MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time for one final one. Jay, you’re up.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you very much. Hi. Smokey, my question is for you. You’ve got such a catalogue of songs, obviously, and quite a few of them actually are Christmas songs. What kind of conversation went into exactly what you would perform in the movie?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: You know, Jay, not too much because I was gonna be on board — see, first of all, they sent me the script. And it’s a beautiful, warm, wonderful, warm story. And it was like Tia said, about Black people and about how they celebrate Christmas and what they do and all that. So that got me right there. And then, they told me Tia was gonna be involved. I hadn’t met Mark before filming this, but Tia like I said is my baby. I love her. And they told me she was gonna be involved and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. And then, it’s about Detroit and all that. So I was on board from getting the script and finding out all that information about what was going on. And like I said, the script is beautiful. It’s a warm, wonderful, Christmas story and I was very flattered to be a part of that.
TIA MOWRY: Aw.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, when it came to the songs, did they ask for your input about what you might like to perform, maybe from your own catalogue?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: No, no, no, no, no, man. They had some songs in mind that they wanted me to do and I did those. Because whatever they wanted me to do, like I said, I was gonna be on board for. And so I didn’t really pick any songs to sing or anything like that. I just wanted to be a part of it because it seemed so wonderful.
QUESTION: Thanks very much, Smokey.
TIA MOWRY: You know, wait, Smokey, I have to say one of my favorite moments in the movie is when you walk through the church doors. And you have this — I mean, you have this, like, swagger to you, the way you’re just walking. (Laughs.) Down the aisle. And then you start singing. It is just — I just cannot wait for people to see that moment. I mean, I just started bawling and I just started crying because it’s just — it’s such a beautiful moment. And I know that you’re saying that you’re very grateful to be a part of this movie, but I just want to say thank you for being a part of this movie. I mean, you’re such a legend. And Mark and I, we talk about you all the time. You’re just — you’re so — I mean, you’re a legend, you know what I mean?
SMOKEY ROBINSON: (Over-talking @ 01:38:44) And so I really, really want to take this time — I’ve already told you so many times before, but thank you for lending just your energy and your talent to this story because you did an incredible job. So thank you.
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Well, thank you, sweetheart. I appreciate that. And I got your vitamins, too. I got the vitamins.
TIA MOWRY: Yay!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Yeah.
TIA MOWRY: Yay! I love that!
SMOKEY ROBINSON: Me too.
MODERATOR: That’s awesome. Thank you so much to the cast of “Miracle in Motor City”. Make sure to tune in November 28th at 8/7 Central only on Lifetime.
Lifetime Reveals Full Holiday Movie Slate for Annual IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFETIME Programming Event Beginning November 12th, Including 30 New Premieres In 30 Days Kicking Off After Thanksgiving to Count Down to Christmas
Los Angeles, CA – September 28, 2021 – Get ready for the most cheerful holiday season yet! Lifetime announces its largest holiday movie slate ever for the network’s annual It’s a Wonderful Lifetime programming event, kicking off November 12th with five new movies Fridays and Saturdays, and a premiere on Sunday, November 21st. Then, once the Thanksgiving feast is over and for the first time ever, Lifetime will premiere 30 new movies, in 30 days, with a new movie EVERY DAY from November 26 through December 25. As the #1 holiday movie destination, Lifetime’s 2021 It’s a Wonderful Lifetime slate will feature 35 new movies and over 1000 hours of holiday programming.
In case that’s not enough excitement for you – get ready for It’s a Wonderful Lifetime Holiday Movie Preview hosted by Tia Mowry (star of this year’s Miracle in Motor City)! This special will preview Lifetime’s upcoming 2021 Christmas Movies and will be available on VOD beginning October 24 and will premiere on Lifetime November 7 at 10am ET/PT. In addition to sneak peeks and cast interviews, Tia will share a special holiday treat or cocktail recipe to go with each movie previewed!
At Lifetime it’s never too early to get in the spirit! Beginning October 15, Lifetime VOD will have 10 of your favorite holiday titles available to screen. And if you just can’t get enough – starting November 12, LMC will have 50 of Lifetime’s best holiday movies available to stream!
Proofread and Edited by Brenda