Tina Lifford Previews the ‘Queen Sugar’ Finale & Hallmark’s ‘A Holiday in Harlem’

A Holiday In Harlem - Tina Lifford and Olivia Washington

Looks like Queen Sugar‘s Aunt Vi has been doing some moonlighting. That’s because fan favorite Tina Lifford, who plays the passionate and fiery Violet Bordelon on OWN’s hit drama series, is also one of the stars of the holiday film, A Holiday In Harlem, airing Sunday on Hallmark.

The roles share some similarities as both Aunt Vi and Mama Belle, her character in Harlem, believe in the “blood is thicker” axiom, and aren’t afraid to steer family members in the direction they feel is best. “Mama Belle is old school in that she knows that family is the glue and it’s what’s important,” Lifford recently told TV Insider. If that sounds a lot like Aunt Vi, Lifford agrees and said of her Queen Sugar alter ego, “she leads with love and yes, she has opinions, and yes, she can dig her heels in, and yes, she can sometimes overstep, but the bottom line is she is leading with love.”

Here, Lifford talks about both Sunday’s Hallmark film, where she costars with Olivia Washington and Will Adams, and Tuesday’s season finale of Queen Sugar.

Tell me about shooting a holiday movie when, I’m guessing, the weather outside is not really winter-like.

Tina Lifford: It certainly was not winter-like, but I think that production did a really good job of selling the idea of winter in Harlem — and we were actually shooting in Connecticut. And I’m told that there was the history that that row of brownstones was actually transplanted to Connecticut back in the 1800s, if I got the story. Because the city does not have brownstones, but that entire block that we were shooting on is brownstones. It’s the most interesting thing.

But it made it perfect to double as Harlem.

It was really beautiful. And I’ll tell you that it is always a pleasure to land in a project and go to work and then discover that the people that you’re working with are stellar human beings. And Olivia and Will are stellar human beings. And working with [director] Keith Powell and the writer, Monique Matthews — you take all of us and the producer and all the energy that we were holding in our hearts for the vision of this movie to not just take shape, but to truly deliver the message that is there. Deliver black Christmas and the very important sense of hope and possibility that is the Hallmark brand, to deliver that through people of color, for kind of like the first time, is important stuff.

Mama Belle got to do a little matchmaking between Olivia and Will’s characters, Jazmin and Caleb. What’s her relationship like with Jazmin at the start of the film?

Mama Belle is unimpressed by Jazmin’s success and her big business, her big job. And she is sending the message that all the big jobs in the world do not comfort the heart. What comforts the heart is taking care of the heart and that means doing what you have to do to have your heart be available. And this Christmas movie is about Jazmin coming home reluctantly and being met with a number of opportunities for her heart to become more available.

Jazmin is more intent on a beach vacation for the holidays but Mama Belle finds out she’s close by and draws her back into the family fold. What does Mama Belle see in her granddaughter?

She’s running. Jazmin is running because her heart is closed and because of the assumptions that she made about the events that helped her close her heart. So no matter how many promotions she might get or how much money she might make, because she’s on the run, she will never be truly happy. And Mama Belle knows that. And because that’s her baby girl, Mama Belle wants Jazmin to have the experience of just stopping and letting life be with you.

Moving onto Queen Sugar‘s finale, we saw in last week’s episode that Aunt Vi offers up her home to Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe) and Darla (Bianca Lawson), who are about to have their baby. That’s a huge gesture, especially with Vi’s history with both Ralph Angel and Darla, right?

It speaks to the core of who Aunt Vi is. She is ‘love first.’ It doesn’t matter that she and Ralph Angel have had tiffs, because in her mind, people go through stuff, but the fact that they may not be speaking has absolutely nothing to do with her love. Love is never in question, which is why it is so easy to toss the impasse out the window in episode 607 when it’s time for the family to rally where Ralph Angel is concerned and this crap that he got himself involved in, with stealing from the Landrys. Forgiveness is an important thing.

Queen Sugar, Kofi Siriboe, Tina Lifford

Also in the finale, Hollywood (Omar Dorsey) is on a mission, trying to find this person that could actually help the family in this mess with the Landrys, taking the family’s land. How dangerous is this mission of his and is Vi supportive of it?

It’s dangerous. It’s dangerous and what’s so interesting about that, again, talking about leading with love. is both Hollywood and Vi are on the same page about the need for Hollywood, essentially [to help]. But to step into that potential danger, that’s called leading with love.

Should we be worried for the Bordelons, as far as the Landrys go, as things come to a boiling point in the finale? Or should the Landrys be a little worried as everybody’s rallying together?

When it comes to Queen Sugar, there’s a lot of tit for tat when it comes to the Bordelons and the Landrys. So I think that it would be unwise to count either side out. I think it would be in alignment with the last six seasons to know that the Bordelons are in it to win it. Whatever that takes.

And you’re working on a new book, right? How’s that going?

My passion work is in the realm of wellness, inner fitness. My first book was listed on Forbes’ 21 Books That Are A Must Read To Make Your 2021 The Best Year Yet. And The Little Book of Big Lies [Lifford’s 2019 release] has done well and the next book which I’m writing is due to my editors in June; it just really helps to take concepts, transformational concepts, spiritual ideas, and put them into actual practice. And so I’m over here, writing away.

You’re so busy, so do you keep a writing schedule or is it more, I’ve got 10 minutes here, 15 minutes here?

Jim, I wish that I were a writer who could sit down and say, “I’m going to give it four hours no matter what.” I’m not. I came to this through the back door and that discipline and that trust is not there, but the passion and knowing that I have to show up in front of the computer, that much I know, I have to show up in front of the computer. But that’s the struggle, showing up in front of the computer.

Queen Sugar, Tuesdays, 8/7c, OWN. A Holiday in Harlem airs November 14 at 8/7c on Hallmark. Follow Lifford on Instagram.