Loretta Devine

Loretta Devine Headshot

Actress • Singer • Voice Actor

Birth Date: August 21, 1949

Age: 74 years old

Birth Place: Houston, Texas

A classically trained actress-singer with soulful eyes and a lilting voice, Loretta Devine was a professional actor for nearly 20 years before rising to prominence through her co-starring turn in the hit film "Waiting to Exhale" (1995). After years of theater study and a period working as a stage director at Houston's Black Arts Center, Devine began acting professionally on and off-Broadway in productions such as "Hair" and "Dreamgirls" in the late 1970s. Early TV and film appearances included a year-long stint on the sitcom "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993) and small role in the River Phoenix thriller "Little Nikita" (1988). Working steadily in minor roles in both mediums, Devine broke out with her warm and relatable performance as a single mother in "Waiting to Exhale." She went on to appear in a string of prominent supporting turns in projects like "The Preacher's Wife" (1996), "Down in the Delta" (1998), and "What Women Want" (2000). Regular or recurring roles on television included such shows as "Boston Public" (Fox, 2000-04) and "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). Other work in film boasted such diverse projects as the screen adaptation of "Dreamgirls" (2006) and director Werner Herzog's psychodrama "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" (2009). Exceptionally talented, professional and prolific, Devine had become one of Hollywood's most dependable ensemble cast members.

Devine was born in Houston, TX on Aug. 21, 1949 to parents Eunice, a beautician, and James, a laborer. Raised in the Acres Homes neighborhood of Houston, she enjoyed performing in a variety of settings while attending George Washington Carver High School. After earning twin degrees in Language and Performing Arts from the University of Houston in 1971, Devine began her career as a stage director in 1972 at the Black Arts Center, where she worked on such productions as "Who's Got His Own" and "Black Cycle." Later, she moved eastward to secure an MFA in Theater from Massachusetts's Brandeis University in 1976. Soon after, Devine made her professional stage debut in a production of the musical "Godsong" at the famed La MaMa Etc. Company in New York City. Her Broadway debut came with a revival of "Hair" (1977), though she scored her first big success in 1981 as Lorrell, one of the "Dreamgirls" in Michael Bennett's award-winning production of the Motown-inspired musical. Bob Fosse next cast the much sought after Devine in his musical "Big Deal" (1986), and later that year she earned praise for multiple roles in George C. Wolfe's bitingly satirical "The Colored Museum."
After her success on stage, Devine began working on the small screen with a supporting role on Lisa Bonet's collegiate sitcom spin-off "A Different World" (NBC, 1987-1993) for its first season before being dropped alongside future Oscar-winner, Marisa Tomei, from the series. Despite the attention her musical career had received, it was several years before steady film roles found their way onto Devine's résumé. Her first film jobs were bit parts in the Sidney Poitier-River Phoenix thriller "Little Nikita" (1988) and the stoner-comedy "Sticky Fingers" (1988). Picking up momentum, she made her TV-movie debut on "The Murder of Mary Phagan" (NBC, 1988), a fact-based miniseries about the notorious case of a Jewish factory worker (Peter Gallagher) accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl. Two years later, Devine was given her own extremely short-lived series, "Sugar and Spice" (CBS, 1990), in which she played a free-spirit attempting to raise her orphaned niece (Dana Hill) alongside her more conservative sister (Vickilyn Reynolds). Despite the failure of that venture, she was working steadily, with notable supporting roles in such feature films as "Stanley and Iris" (1990) and "Livin' Large" (1991).

That same year, Devine was given the rare opportunity to reprise a role she had originated on stage in the televised adaptation of "The Colored Museum" (PBS, 1990). Beginning in the early 1990s, she maintained a constant television presence with dozens of appearances on shows ranging from "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998) to "Cop Rock" (ABC, 1990) to "Roc" (FOX, 1991-94). In theaters, Devine picked a matronly role in the Kid 'n Play comedy "Class Act" (1992), an urban updating of the Prince and the Pauper tale. But it was her turn in the hit "Waiting to Exhale" (1995), a romantic drama based on the best-selling novel by Terry McMillan, that brought Devine mainstream attention. Co-starring Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston, the film was notable for proving that an almost exclusively African-American cast could carry a film to first place at the box-office. Her work in "Exhale" won Devine a 1996 NAACP Image Award, as well as a strong supporting role alongside her co-star from the earlier film, Whitney Houston, in the fantasy-romance, "The Preacher's Wife" (1996), which also starred Denzel Washington.

By now, the in-demand Devine was taking on as much work as she could handle, including parts in the little-seen features "The Price of Kissing" (1997) and "Lover Girl" (1997). More memorable that year was her brief appearance in the period gangster biopic "Hoodlum" (1997) as Pigfoot Mary, girlfriend to the cousin (Chi McBride) of a released con (Laurence Fishburne) vying for control of Harlem's numbers racket against the brutal mobster 'Dutch' Schultz (Tim Roth). Continuing a streak of grittier fare, she next played a university rent-a-cop with attitude in the moderately inventive slasher flick, "Urban Legends" (1998), then moved on to a more dramatic turn when she appeared as the loving caregiver to an Alzheimer's patient (Esther Rolle) in Maya Angelou's heartwarming drama, "Down in the Delta" (1998). The following year she appeared as Ruby Dandridge, the mother of the eponymous doomed singer-actress (Halle Berry) in the critically-acclaimed cable biopic "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (HBO, 1999).

On network television, Devine landed a regular spot on the claymation-animated sitcom, "The PJs" (WB, 1998-2001), voicing matriarch Muriel Stubbs to creator Eddie Murphy's patriarchal Thurgood Stubbs. As prolific as ever, she turned up in the Mel Gibson romantic comedy hit, "What Women Want" (2000), before reviving her tough campus cop, Reese, in the less-imaginative sequel, "Urban Legends: Final Cut" (2000). Simultaneously, she began her run on the acclaimed high school drama, "Boston Public" (FOX, 2000-04), in which she played a special coed teacher dependent on medication just to get her through the day. Following a supporting turn as an overbearing mom prone to quoting the 'Good Book' to her nephew (Darius McCrary) in the feature "Kingdom Come" (2001), Devine essayed a social worker who attempts to separate a mentally disabled man (Sean Penn) from his seven year-old daughter (Dakota Fanning) in the mawkish drama, "I Am Sam" (2001).

When "Boston Public" closed its books in 2004, Devine made the move over to another series for the second season of "Wild Card" (Lifetime, 2003-05), a drama about a former blackjack dealer (Joely Fisher) embarking on a new career as an insurance fraud investigator after the death of her sister. At the same time, Devine could be seen in movie theaters as a part of an impressive ensemble cast in writer-director Paul Haggis' emotionally-taxing Los Angeles drama "Crash" (2004). In a sort of part-time job, she picked up a sporadically recurring role on the hit medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) as Adele Webber, the loyal wife of Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.). Although not able to reprise the role that she had performed so wonderfully on stage decades earlier, Devine was given a small cameo as a jazz singer in the Academy Award-winning feature film adaptation of "Dreamgirls" (2006), which featured Broadway performer Anika Noni Rose as 'Dreamgirl' Lorrell Robinson. Also in theaters, although far less critically hailed, she played a sympathetic nun in the Ice Cube-Tracy Morgan comedy, "First Sunday" (2008).

In addition to her periodic on-going appearances in "Grey's Anatomy," Devine signed on as a regular cast member on the quirky fantasy-comedy-drama "Eli Stone" (ABC, 2008-09), as the titular lawyer's (Jonny Lee Miller) brassy and brutally honest office assistant. Sadly, the show proved a bit too quirky for mass audiences and was canceled after its second season. Steady work with supporting roles in feature films continued to be Devine's bread and butter, however. While recognized largely for her participation in urban comedies, she was occasionally seen in unexpected projects like idiosyncratic director Werner Herzog's grim, fact-based crime drama "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?" (2009), in which she played an eyewitness to a grizzly case of matricide. Other more typical film work included the comedy "Lottery Ticket" (2010), writer-director Tyler Perry's interpretation of the play "For Colored Girls" (2010), and the wedding comedy-drama "Jumping the Broom" (2011). Devine teamed with Perry once again with a leading role as the dying matriarch of a large, dysfunctional brood in "Madea's Big Happy Family" (2011). Meanwhile, in 2011 Devine was recognized for her portrayal of Adele Webber on "Grey's Anatomy" with an Emmy win for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama. She was nominated again the following year.

Credits

Saving Bikini Bottom: The Sandy Cheeks Movie

Voice
Granny Cheeks
Movie
2024

God-ly

Actor
Show
2023

Young LoveStream

Voice
Gigi Young
Series
2023
100%

Act Your Age

Actor
Series
2023

A Snowy Day in Oakland

Actor
Jeanette
Movie
2023

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Voice
Irene
Movie
2022

Mack & Rita

Actor
Sharon
Movie
2022

All I Didn't Want for ChristmasStream

Actor
Lorraine
Movie
2022

Friday Night Vibes

Guest
Series
2021

Queen Bees

Actor
Sally
Movie
2021

Christmas in Harmony

Actor
Mama
Movie
2021

Christmas Déjà VuStream

Actor
Crystal
Movie
2021

CONNECTING...Stream

Guest Star
Series
2020
67%

Game On! A Comedy Crossover Event

Actor
Amelia "M'Dear" McKellan
Show
2020

Always & 4Ever

Actor
Elda
Movie
2020

Spell

Actor
Eloise
Movie
2020

The Kelly Clarkson ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2019

Tamron Hall

Guest
Talk
2019

First Day Back

Actor
Superintendent Lola Greene
Show
2019

Family ReunionStream

Actor
M'Dear
Series
2019

Today With Hoda & Jenna

Guest
Show
2019

Represent Change: 50th NAACP Image Awards Tribute

Guest
Show
2019

The DL Hughley Show

Guest
Show
2019

A Sweet Christmas Romance

Actor
Loretta
Movie
2019

A Family Reunion ChristmasStream

Actor
Movie
2019

Love Is...

Actor
Betty
Series
2018
80%

Couch Surfing

Guest
Show
2018

Living Biblically

Guest Star
Estelle
Series
2018
18%

Behind the Movement

Actor
JoAnn Robinson
Movie
2018

Jingle BelleStream

Actor
Emory Simons
Movie
2018

Daily Blast Live

Guest
Show
2017

The Lost Souls Café

Actor
Movie
2017

Naked

Actor
Bride's Mother
Movie
2017

My Other Home

Actor
Mabel Marbury
Movie
2017

Doc McStuffins: Toy Hospital

Voice
Hallie
Show
2016

Brett Gelman's Dinner in AmericaStream

Guest
Special
2016

Norm of the North

Voice
Tamecia
Movie
2016

Caged No More

Actor
Aggie
Movie
2016

Grandma's House

Actor
Margie
Movie
2016

36 Hour Layover

Actor
Ms. Carey
Movie
2016

1440 and Counting

Actor
Show
2015

The Carmichael ShowStream

Actor
Cynthia Carmichael
Series
2015
87%

The Boris & Nicole Show

Guest
Show
2015

Back to School Mom

Actor
Meghan Graham
Movie
2015

For the Love of Ruth

Actor
Movie
2015

Chapter & Verse

Actor
Miss Maddy
Movie
2015

Being Mary Jane: Extras

Actor
Show
2014

Black-ishStream

Guest Star
Lynette
Series
2014
92%

Hollywood Today Live

Guest
Show
2014

Comeback Dad

Actor
Malinda
Movie
2014

You're Not You

Actor
Marilyn
Movie
2014

A Very Larry Christmas

Actor
Mrs. Claus
Movie
2014

Welcome to Me

Actor
Barb Vaughn
Movie
2014

The Sound & the Fury

Actor
Dilsey
Movie
2014

Peeples: Extras

Actor
Show
2013

The Doc Files

Actor
Hallie
Show
2013

The Real

Guest
Talk
2013

Hollywood Game Night

Guest
Game Show
2013

Khumba

Voice
Mama V
Movie
2013

Saving Westbrook High

Actor
Doris
Movie
2013

Saving Westbrook High

Executive Producer
Movie
2013

Steve Harvey

Guest
Talk
2012

Sullivan & SonStream

Guest
Roy's Mother
Series
2012

Larry King NowStream

Guest
Talk
2012

The Soul ManStream

Guest Star
Series
2012

The Client ListStream

Actor
Georgia Cummings
Series
2012
68%

Doc McStuffinsStream

Voice
Hallie
Series
2012

The Chew

Guest
Talk
2011

Dish Nation

Guest
Talk
2011

State of Georgia

Actor
Show
2011

Madea's Big Happy FamilyStream

Actor
Shirley
Movie
2011
38%

Jumping the BroomStream

Actor
Mrs. Taylor
Movie
2011
57%

Politics of Love

Actor
Shirlee Gupta
Movie
2011

Kiss and Tell: The History of Black Romance in Movie

Actor
Movie
2011

In the Hive

Actor
Mrs. Inez
Movie
2011

Shake It UpStream

Guest Star
Judge Marsha Sanders
Series
2010

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

Access Hollywood Live

Guest
Show
2010

Death at a FuneralStream

Actor
Cynthia
Movie
2010
43%

Lottery Ticket

Actor
Grandma
Movie
2010

For Colored GirlsStream

Actor
Juanita/Green
Movie
2010
32%

The Cleveland ShowStream

Guest Voice
Shirley
Series
2009

GleeStream

Guest Star
Sister Mary Constance
Series
2009
70%

Party DownStream

Guest Star
Diane Ellison
Series
2009
94%

Spring Breakdown

Actor
Dr. Racine Marguerite
Movie
2009

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Actor
Miss Roberts
Movie
2009

The Wendy Williams Show

Guest
Talk
2008

Eli StoneStream

Actor
Patti
Series
2008
60%

First SundayStream

Actor
Sister Doris
Movie
2008
12%

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Voice
Delta
Movie
2008

This ChristmasStream

Actor
Ma Dear
Movie
2007
55%

Cougar Club

Actor
Dolly
Movie
2007

The GameStream

Guest Star
Series
2006

PsychStream

Guest Star
Series
2006
89%

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life Is Not a Fairy Tale

Actor
Addie Collins
Movie
2006

Dirty Laundry

Actor
Evelyn
Movie
2006

Made in Hollywood

Guest
Series
2005

Everybody Hates ChrisStream

Guest Star
Maxine
Series
2005
95%

SupernaturalStream

Guest Star
Series
2005
93%

Grey's AnatomyStream

Guest Star
Series
2005
84%

King's RansomStream

Actor
Miss Gladys
Movie
2005
2%

Boston LegalStream

Guest Star
Annabelle Carruthers
Series
2004
86%

InnerVIEWS With Ernie Manouse

Guest
Show
2004

Tavis Smiley

Guest
Talk
2004

CrashStream

Actor
Shaniqua Johnson
Movie
2004
74%

Woman Thou Art Loosed

Actor
Cassie
Movie
2004

Cold CaseStream

Guest Star
Series
2003

Zoe Busiek: Wild Card

Actor
M. (Matilda) Pearl McGuire
Show
2003

Half & HalfStream

Guest Star
Series
2002

Book of Love

Actor
Movie
2002

Kingdom ComeStream

Actor
Marguerite
Movie
2001
27%

I Am SamStream

Actor
Margaret Calgrove
Movie
2001
36%

Boston Public

Actor
Marla Hendricks
Series
2000

GirlfriendsStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

Freedom Song

Actor
Evelyn Walker
Movie
2000

Best Actress

Actor
Connie Travers
Movie
2000

Urban Legends: Final Cut

Actor
Reese
Movie
2000

Punks

Actor
Health Counselor
Movie
2000

Family LawStream

Guest Star
Series
1999

The PJsStream

Voice
Muriel Stubbs
Series
1999

Funny Valentines

Actor
Dearie B.
Movie
1999

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Actor
Ruby Dandridge
Movie
1999

Splitsville

Actor
Principal
Movie
1999

The Breaks

Actor
Floria
Movie
1999

Love Kills

Actor
Sylvia Finkelstein
Movie
1998

Urban LegendStream

Actor
Reese Wilson
Movie
1998
27%

Down in the DeltaStream

Actor
Zenia
Movie
1998
76%

Ally McBeal

Guest Star
Series
1997
61%

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

Don King: El Capo del Box

Actor
Connie Harper
Movie
1997

The Price of Kissing

Actor
Jackee
Movie
1997

Clover

Actor
Everleen
Movie
1997

Don King: Only in America

Actor
Connie Harper
Movie
1997

HoodlumStream

Actor
Pigfoot Mary
Movie
1997
43%

Lover Girl

Actor
Leticia/"Coco"
Movie
1997

Clueless

Guest Star
Series
1996

MoeshaStream

Guest Star
Series
1996

Rebound -- The Legend of Earl The Goat Manigault

Actor
Miss Mary
Movie
1996

The Preacher's WifeStream

Actor
Beverly
Movie
1996
62%

Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

Voice
Show
1995

Waiting to ExhaleStream

Actor
Gloria 'Glo' Matthews
Movie
1995
61%

Touched by an AngelStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

Amos & Andrew

Actor
Ula
Movie
1993

Class Act

Actor
Blade's Mom
Movie
1992

Hotel Oklahoma

Actor
Judy
Movie
1992

Livin' Large!

Actor
Nadine Biggs
Movie
1991

Sugar and Spice

Actor
Loretta Fontaine
Show
1990

Parent Trap III

Actor
Thelma
Movie
1989

Little Nikita

Actor
Verna McLaughlin
Movie
1988

Sticky Fingers

Actor
Diane
Movie
1988

The Murder of Mary Phagan

Actor
Annie Maude Carter
Movie
1988

A Different WorldStream

Guest Star
Series
1987

Ana Poder Infinito

Actor
Movie
1983

Anna to the Infinite Power

Actor
Ms. Benson
Movie
1983

Will

Actor
Movie
1981

News aboutLoretta Devine