Evan Ross

Evan Ross

UPDATED 04/03/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/03/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

She may have been a superstar, but actor Evan Ross says his mother, Diana, was a hands-on parent. Evan, 17—who grew up in Greenwich, Conn., in a blended family that included shipping magnate dad Arne Naess, sisters Rhonda, 34, Chudney, 30, and Tracee, 33, and brother Ross, 18—says that although Diana often left for concert dates, she made it a point to "fly back in the morning to make us breakfast." And when he got lonely during a vacation? "She came from London on a helicopter to pick me up," says the actor, who plays an orphaned teen in ATL, which opens March 31. "She always promised she'd be there for me."

"Growing up, I'd act up at the table, dancing and singing," says Ross. "But I took a lot of acting classes to learn my craft. If there's something I want, I don't do it a little."

In 2004 Ross's father, whose marriage to Diana ended in '99, died in a South African climbing accident. The actor recently visited the spot where his father perished. "The place was beautiful," he says. "You can't be mad—he was doing something he loved."

"Evan's performance was real—I was on the edge of my seat with tears in my eyes," says Diana, who visited the set. One thing he made sure she didn't see: his first sex scene. Says Ross: "I didn't want my mom there while I'm lying on top of a girl in the back of a car."

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