To borrow the classic Hollywood line, Maahra Hill is ready for her close up. And that’s exactly what the actress gets as the title character in the new OWN series “Delilah,” created by Craig Wright (“Greenleaf”) and produced by Wright, Oprah Winfrey and Charles Randolph-Wright.
Hill, whose journey to leading lady has been a bit circuitous—and definitely on her own terms—is now coming to terms with her turn in the spotlight. How does it feel? “It’s great,” she laughs. The actress, who has been a hopeful in previous pilot seasons says, “I’ve never been a series regular before. It’s like a dream come true.”
In the freshman legal drama, Hill’s Delilah is head of her own legal practice after exiting a monolith firm in order to dispense a more personal brand of justice. The case she takes on not only pits her against the type of firm she stepped away from, but also against her best friend Tamara (Jill Marie Jones), who is the opposing counsel.
Fuse this conflict, along with minor skirmishes on the home front, to the mounting intrigue of the David vs. Goliath case and Delilah’s stress level is on a par with that of the actress. Not only does Hill appear in nearly every scene as the lead character, she also acknowledges the added strain of filming in a pandemic. “It’s been trying shooting during Covid times.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina based set was just the latest stop for Hill, who lived in several U.S. cities growing up—Cleveland, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago—and even for a time in India. Bitten by the acting bug in high school, Hill participated in theater as a student at Northern Illinois University, but says, “By the time I graduated college I was [thinking that acting as a career wasn’t so] realistic.” So she decided that she would just “go and do all the other things.” Then, she says, “I became a mom and immersed myself in that pretty whole-heartedly and completely.”
So, much like Delilah, Hill chose to go her own way. She put the acting dream on hold in deference to other life experiences. Eventually, though, she found her way back to acting and moved with her 3-year-old daughter to Los Angeles. “I was working for an IT firm in Chicago that laid me off [during the recession] but they were very generous… they gave me a big severance package and a relocation fee.
“I felt like L.A. was where I needed to go. My heart was more open and all the things I loved were more revealed to me and it was like, ‘I love acting and I feel like I’ve got to get back over there. I’ve done all these other things but I’ve just got to get back over there.’”
But building her reputation as an actress was a years-long undertaking. “I was still very much immersed in motherhood… I was going to school with my daughter and I wanted to be present for her, so my career started much later than when I arrived [in L.A.]. I just [didn’t] want to be on set for 12 hours, I wanted to be there with her. And then I started doing commercials because I could do that for a day or two and then [we were] good for months.”
By the time her daughter was in high school Hill realized she could start to work more hours, so she got a manager and began booking television gigs. That was five years and numerous guest appearances—on such shows as “Black-ish,” “Jane the Virgin” and “How to Get Away With Murder”—ago.
Now her daughter Asia’s grown up and Hill has grown into the leading role with “Delilah.”
“Delilah” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on the OWN cable network. Catch an encore presentation on demand.