Why We Love ‘Being Mary Jane’s Loretta Devine

Loretta Devine
Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/Gettyimages

SHE PLAYS: Cece, the wily opportunist who had the good fortune to get into a car crash with news anchor Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union). Not only did Cece finagle a $100,000 payoff from Mary Jane’s station—despite no major injuries—she also extorted $25,000 in hush money from the star herself, who was drinking before the accident. Now she’s stalking Mary Jane and giving her career advice. And Mary Jane’s taking it! “Cece is so unusual—a villain but not; extremely intelligent and wise and well spoken but crazy,” Devine says. “And she really believes she’s friends with Mary Jane and that their possibilities together are endless.”

WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HER: The oh-so-divine Devine—an original Dreamgirl on Broadway—won an Emmy as Alzheimer’s patient Adele Webber on Grey’s Anatomy. Other roles include Marla, the bipolar teacher on Boston Public, and Cynthia, the holy-roller matriarch on last summer’s comedy hit The Carmichael Show. “People used to think I was so sweet,” says Devine with a laugh. “They’d see me shopping and come up and say, ‘Will you be my mom?’ Now they’re like, ‘You go away! You need to leave Mary Jane alone!’ And I love it.”

WHY WE LOVE HER: Devine’s take on Cece is riveting, maddening, scary as hell yet laugh-out-loud delightful. “Loretta takes this character to the most unexpected places,” executive producer Mara Brock Akil says. “Her Cece is completely fresh and constantly surprising.” And how. Cece didn’t pocket that $125,000. Instead, she invested it in a bookstore that inspires and empowers African-Americans. “She’s all about the black revolution and is determined to show Mary Jane how she can use her job on TV to save the race,” Devine says. “Cece comes from a good place but her righteousness and wrong choices get her into trouble. She’s like that person who pops into your life at the perfect time with the perfect advice and then moves on—only Cece won’t move on. You can’t get rid of her!”

MANNING UP: Although not much is made of Cece’s sexuality, she’s all man when it comes to fashion, with Devine sporting suits, ties and fedoras by Oscar-nominated costumer Ruth E. Carter. “Cece was originally a male role, but when the actor they wanted wasn’t available, the part fell to me,” reveals Devine. “I watch men, study men, admire men, so when I got a chance to emulate one, I went for it! Cece is every guy I’ve known and loved.”

Being Mary Jane airs Tuesdays, 10/9c, BET