Best known for her soft-spoken speaking voice, veteran actress Loretta Devine has created a mosaic of unforgettable characters for over three decades. These days, the woman best known for Waiting to Exhale, Jumping the Broom and Grey’s Anatomy has another starring role on television.
She appears in the sexy Lifetime drama The Client List (check your local listings) as Georgia, a madam whose day spa business employs massage therapists (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Naturi Naughton) who work in the world’s oldest profession.
Devine spoke with BET.com about portraying such a “shady” character and tells us what’s happening with the Waiting to Exhale sequel.
Like Meryl Streep, you’re one of the hardest working actresses over 50. What’s your secret? Especially since roles for Black women at any age tend to be scarce.
Part of it is that I love acting; another part of it is that I studied it before I did it. I have a master of fine arts and an honorary doctorate in theater arts. It’s just a part of what I do. I don’t have a special formula, so I don’t even know if I have an answer to that question. Another part of me thinks it’s a blessing, but being able to do a lot of different things — like film, TV and voicing animation — really helps.
In The Client List you play a madam. What did you think when you were approached to play Georgia?
It was interesting to me, that’s why I was so excited to do the role. It was a change for me. For some reason in films I always end up playing mothers — I’ve played a million mothers. I also usually play office workers and secretaries. But this role had a different flavor to it. This was sort of risqué and a little shady.
As an actress, have you figured out Georgia’s moral center?
I can’t say that I’ve found it. [Laughs] I don’t know if people know this about actors working in television, but you never know what you’re going to do until the week before. It’s really up to what the writers create and how true it can be to your storyline. This season of The Client List is so different from last season. I was even shocked by some of the things happening with my character. There are several choices that Georgia is making that I wouldn’t have made, but she’s doing it. It’s going to be interesting to see how people respond to it.
Is the Waiting to Exhale sequel still happening? And will you, Lela Rochon and Angela Bassett be back?
From my contact with Terri McMillian, they are still working on it. They are still in the writing stages. If they stay within the time frame of the original movie, these divas should be right around the 40 to 50 plus age range now. So it depends on what kind of demographic they want for the movie. I think they should do it quickly, but I think they are trying to figure everything out and get the script ready. But we [the original cast] want to be back.
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(Photo: Mark Davis/Getty Images for BET)