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Loretta Devine



The Devine, Ms. Devine
by
Laurence Washington

 

     I've seen Loretta Devine a million times on the silver screen. She was in The Preacher's Wife, Only in America: The Don King Story, Bill Duke's Hoodlums, and won NAACP Image Award for best Supporting Actress for her role as Gloria in the celebrated Waiting to Exhale. So you would think that when we met in an elevator last month, I would have recognized Ms. Devine.
     I didn't.
     But I knew that she was somebody I knew, and that she was a kind person. Like the people she plays on the screen.
     "I get that from everybody," Loretta told me. "It's the roles I play, and I have that kind of face."
     At the moment, Loretta is co-starring in Maya Angelo's Down In The Delta  which opened Christmas day to great critical acclaim. Loretta convincingly plays Zenia, the housekeeper who befriends Loretta (Alfre Woodard), an aimless woman from the Chicago whose mother sends her to Mississippi to get her life together.
     After our elevator ride, Loretta talked out Maya Angelo, her BET movie and being a bit type casted.

 

Q:
What was it like to work with Maya Angelo?

Devine:
It was an awesome experience. She's very powerful, poetic and has a satirical wit. Some times it was a hoot and sometimes it was scary. But primarily we got the work done very easily I think.

Q:
Did it every go through your mind that, despite all the great things you've heard about her...well she's never directed a movie before?

Devine:
For me, no; because she's done so much other stuff. She's a teacher, writer and has done some incredible poetry. And the picture fell in line with what she usually does. I mean this movie could have been named, "I Will Rise." So I didn't think that at all, and also she did all the casting, which is formidable. All the people in the cast have been acting forever, so I think it was just a matter of discussing what needed to be done.

Q:
Did you have to read for your role?

Devine:
Yes.

Q:
Do you know women who are like the woman you play who are devoted to the family?

Devine:
I can't say that I know women who are exactly like her. But I can understand what the character requires and how to read a particular piece of characterization to make the character work. And we must remember that I only had to do it for one day. [Laughs]

Q:
What is the next project that you and Alfre Woodard are working on?

Devine:
We're doing a thing called Funny Valentine  where we're playing sisters. It's a BET original movie that's coming out in February.

Q:
You play a lot of supporting roles, like the woman who landed Gregory Hines in Waiting To Exhale. Do you like those kinds of roles?

Devine:
That wasn't a supporting role. [Laughs] What do you mean? No, I know what you're talking about. I think a lot of times you are cast because of a certain thing or a certain quality.

Q:
What kind of scripts do you receive?

Devine:
I still have to audition for most things. I can't say that things have gotten easier. I get a lot of independent films from people who are starting out. And I'm in the process of trying to find
something that I could do on my own.

Q:
We see stories that it's hard for women to get roles, because everything is action oriented.

Devine:
I agree that it's hard. You just keep going.