Smashing Interviews Magazine

Compelling People — Interesting Lives



May 2011



Loretta Devine Interview: Busy 'Grey's Anatomy' Actress Stars in 'Madea's Big Happy Family'

Written by , Posted in Interviews Actors

Loretta Devine

Enormously talented film, television, and Broadway actress Loretta Devine was born in Houston, Texas on August 21, 1949. The five-time NAACP Image Award winner is known for her television roles on Boston Public and Eli Stone. Playing recurring character Adele Webber, Devine can currently be seen on the ABC medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy.

Devine captured attention in Dreamgirls, a Broadway musical loosely based on the history of The Supremes, in which she originated the role of Lorell Robinson (a fictional character based on Mary Wilson). In 1995, she landed a high-profile role as Gloria Matthews in Waiting to Exhale.

"I think it’s funnier. I mean, Medea is in this movie more than she’s ever been in all of the other ones. It’s very funny but it also has a twist and a very sad ending."

Last year Devine starred on screen in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. Another Perry vehicle, Madea’s Big Happy Family, was recently released and Devine plays Madea’s niece Shirley who receives distressing news about her health.

This multi-talented thespian also stars in Sony’s upcoming film, Jumping the Broom, with Paula Patton and Angela Bassett.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Loretta, you are one busy lady!

Loretta Devine: Yes I am!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Let’s talk first about Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Loretta Devine

Loretta Devine (Anderson Group PR)

Loretta Devine: Well, it did very well the first week and had an even bigger audience the second week. You know, the show is about Tyler’s mom. He plays the funny mom with all the answers. It’s a story about getting the family together because the mom needs us together. It’s a dysfunctional family so that’s what it’s basically about.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is this one as funny as the other “Madea” films?

Loretta Devine: I think it’s funnier. I mean, Madea is in this movie more than she’s ever been in all of the other ones. It’s very funny but it also has a twist and a very sad ending.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You play Shirley who receives some bad news about her health.

Loretta Devine: Yeah that’s it. I’m trying not to give the movie away (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I saw you on The Talk and I believe the next day Tyler Perry appeared on the show.

Loretta Devine: Yes.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tyler said it was interesting to be directing while still in Madea’s character. Did you find that distracting at all?

Loretta Devine: Sometimes he would direct you from an enclosed area (laughs). He wasn’t in character the entire time. But there were a couple of times when he would take the wig off and be Tyler, then put the wig back on and be Madea (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How would you describe Tyler as a director?

Loretta Devine: He’s a very good director in that he knows exactly what he wants. He does everything in a few takes. It’s not a lot of long drawn out processes to do scenes. It’s very clear he goes for the punchline and the humor. It’s a wonderful atmosphere to work in. His studio is beautiful!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your first experience with Tyler was in For Colored Girls.

Loretta Devine: Yes that’s right.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What was it like to work with Whoopie Goldberg?

Loretta Devine: It was my second time working with Whoopie and it was a lot of fun. I was hoping to get a chance to see her again when we went on The View, but she was away working on her show in London that’s going to be on Broadway. But it was just like seeing my sister again (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have a new TV series coming up on ABC Family.

Loretta Devine: Yes, State of Georgia with Raven-Symone and Majandra Delfino. It’s all about a young girl in New York trying to start her acting career. Georgia and her best friend are going through trials and tribulations trying to sort out their new lives in New York.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You play Aunt Honey.

Loretta Devine: I’m a rich woman with an apartment and I let them live in an apartment downstairs. You follow the girls all over the city trying to get jobs and boyfriends and all kinds of things happen.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Does your character have a southern accent?

Loretta Devine: Well, I have a little bit of one (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You can’t tell I have a small accent.

Loretta Devine: Yes you can (laughs)! You’ve got to be kidding! I can tell you have an accent!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, you are from Houston so you have a bit of a drawl.

Loretta Devine: Yes, I am from Houston.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are doing an outstanding job on Grey’s Anatomy.

Loretta Devine: At least I’m making it to next season. I was so afraid I wouldn’t make it, but it looks like next season I’ll be on the show as well.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great. The Chief will continue to struggle with the onset of Adele’s Alzheimer’s.

Loretta Devine: Exactly.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is that a fun part to play?

Loretta Devine: I wouldn’t say it was fun, but you’re always glad to be working. It’s such a sad thing that’s going on. Debbie Allen directed one of the episodes and she’s a very good director so everything gels together to make it a wonderful experience.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Loretta, did you know at an early age you wanted to be a singer and an actor?

Loretta Devine: I wanted primarily to be a singer and I wound up being an actor, but I get to sing a lot (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Would you say that Dreamgirls was a turning point in your career?

Loretta Devine: Absolutely. It was the turning point for a lot of careers at that time. There are so many – Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holiday. Some of them have gone on to be directors and some have gone on to become playwrights. The young people that came out of Dreamgirls have gone on to make huge successes in their careers.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a preference of working on television or doing films?

Loretta Devine: The two are so different. When you do a movie you get a chance to go away from your real life altogether and you drop everything and you’re away for 3-4 months. Television is more like a 9-5. You have your table reads but you get a chance to film in front of an audience for a sitcom which is what is happening in State of Georgia.

If it’s episodic like Grey’s Anatomy, there is no audience. You do the work and there is no reward except when you see it on TV. I love both. I’m so happy to do such a variety of things because if you get tired of one you can jump into the other (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I hated it when Wild Card was cancelled.

Loretta Devine: I know. I was also in love with doing Eli Stone. Boston Public was another one I absolutely loved and was so sorry when it was over. But you have no say in when things end. Sometimes it’s when a new president comes in and he wants a whole new schedule so you just have to not get so attached to things.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You just have to move on.

Loretta Devine: Yes you do, but I’ve been really sad.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that you are also confirmed to do the Waiting to Exhale sequel due out next year.

Loretta Devine: Yes and I heard all the girls are confirmed! I’m really glad about that.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Jumping the Broom came out Mother's Day.

Loretta Devine: Yes and it’s a beautiful film. We filmed that in Nova Scotia. The water and the sky are breathtaking. People are going to love this film so much. I’m the mother of the groom, Pam Taylor, and the groom is marrying a young girl that I don’t know very well. I meet her a couple of days before the wedding and the movie starts there.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Anything else in the works for you … as if all of this wasn’t enough?

Loretta Devine: I think you just about covered everything (laughs). Norm of the North a cartoon, comes out next year.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you ever have time for fun?

Loretta Devine: Barely little. My husband is in the car with me right now waiting for me to get off the phone so we can go shopping at Costco.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I love the chocolate/vanilla swirl yogurt at Costco.

Loretta Devine: Oh, I’ve got to try it!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Loretta, thank you for taking the time today.

Loretta Devine: Oh, my pleasure!

© 2011 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.