Della Reese Della Reese

For Della Reese, tonight's Detroit 1-8-7 (10/9c, ABC) is a dual homecoming: The episode marks her return to both series TV and to her native Detroit. The 79-year-old actress, who resides in Los Angeles, hasn't appeared in network prime time since Touched by an Angel left the air in 2003, nor, she admits, has she visited Motown in 20 years.

"I wanted to go home and see where I was born," says Reese, who guest stars as the mother of a young man missing since 1967. When his body turns up — along with the remains of a missing white woman — the detectives reopen the case. "The civil rights things that had been going on then, and the destruction of Detroit at that time, all play into the episode," she says.

But while Motor City's engine may be sputtering now, Reese insists it isn't dead. "[The city] gave me the impression that everyone is trying to get it back to where it was," she says, displaying some of the trademark hope of her Angel character, Tess. She feels she was blessed to have been part of that inspirational series. "People stop me in the supermarket to say how Touched by an Angel gave them courage," she recalls. "It's so satisfying to know that work you've done has helped somebody's life."

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