The independently made film I'm in Love with a Church Girl is a genre-blender, with Ja Rule lending his street cred to a story of born-again conversion. The film is materialistic enough for Not of This World gear shopping sprees, private planes and pricey real estate, but sacred enough that it literally credits God as an executive producer.
Church Girl had its world premiere last week to a packed house at San Jose's California Theatre, an awe-inspiring picture palace where I caught up with Santa Rosa's Marjorie Mann, who plays Ja Rule's mother in the film. Not too long ago, Mann was playing a far bigger palace, the Radio City Music Hall. There, she did flying stunts, 50 feet off the stage, for a live production of The Wizard of Oz.
Of her character, Mann says, "She's warm, nurturing, trying to do right by her son, which is sometimes not easy because he hasn't been on a very good path." She and rapper Ja Rule have an easy chemistry onscreen for several scenes in the film, which was shot in San Jose.
This isn't the first film for the vivacious Mann—she also appeared in 1992's Class Act, and onstage has done everything from Shakespeare to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. From Detroit originally, Mann went to the University of Michigan, where she and a student named Madonna Ciccone took a choreography class together. "I stayed in touch with Madonna after I moved to New York," she tells me. "I used to get into her shows for free at New York's Roxie Theater."
Lately, Mann's been bringing history to life in performances at local schools, portraying Harriet Tubman and Coretta Scott King. But Mann is also working on a one-woman show, playing a series of characters, each under the influence of one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Her favorite? "Pride."
With Church Girl, Mann has a reason to be proud—and not the sinful kind.
'I'm In Love with a Church Girl' opens Friday, Oct. 25, at the Roxy Stadium 14 in Santa Rosa.