From a breakout role in the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls” to films such as “Waiting to Exhale,” actress Loretta Devine has built a career of iconic roles audiences have adored for more than three decades.
The 71-year-old Houston native has nearly 200 roles credited to her name from appearances on the stage, the big screen and television. For fans, some of Devine’s most memorable roles include her portraying the matriarch of a family.
“I got here late so they moved me into the mama category right off. I’ve played so many mamas, I’ve been everybody’s mama that has my skin tone,” she said this week during an appearance on the “Tammi Mac Late Show.”
And while audiences are accustomed to seeing Devine portray a mother, such as her role in “This Christmas” or Netflix’s family comedy show “Family Reunion,” the actress doesn’t at all feel that her career has lacked variety or stifled her versatility.
“You know, everybody has to play, has to do different things in the industry whether they like it or not […] everybody has something, their gift, what makes them special,” Devine told interviewer Dr. Wendy Osefo.
While the seasoned actress can easily say “been there, done that” when presented with acting opportunities, she is still finding new roles that she never imagined for herself. One of those roles is Ernestine on the hit Starz show “P-Valley.” The show is about strippers in the Mississippi Delta who work at a struggling gentleman’s club called The Pynk.
“In ‘P-Valley’ I play an 80-year-old cussing stripper that owns a juke joint down in the valley, and it was just an incredible experience,” said Devine of the role. “I was very excited to do it, but I was so scared of some of the language, and some of the stuff I said ’bout Jesus. I said, ‘Oh Lord, it’s a good thang my mom wasn’t here to hear it.'”
Her portrayal of the foul-mouthed grandmother to The Pynk’s owner, Uncle Clifford, won her an NAACP Image Award for the best outstanding guest performance this year.
“There are roles I wouldn’t take, there are roles I haven’t taken. You know, people think I took everything. I’m getting a chance at this age to play things I never dreamed of.”