Hailing from Houston, Texas, African-American actress Loretta Devine got her start as a stage director for the Black Arts Center before appearing in the stage musical “Dreamgirls” (1981), where she originated the role of Lorell. She later earned praise for her work in “The Colored Museum” (1986) and rose to fame after offering a poignant comic performance as the divorcee and overprotective mother, Gloria, in the Forest Whitaker-helmed “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), from which she picked up her first of five Image Awards. She won her second Image Award the following year for her intense supporting portrayal of Beverly in Penny Marshall's “The Preacher's Wife” (1997). Once an English teacher at her alma mater, The University of Houston, Devine received her last three Image Awards as passionate high school teacher Marla Hendricks on the Fox drama “Boston Public” (2000-2005). She is also known for playing roles in such films as “Urban Legends” (1998) and its sequel, “Urban Legends: Final Cut” (2000), “Funny Valentines” (1999, TV), “Kingdom Come” (2001), “I Am Sam” (2001), “Woman Thou Art Loosed” (2004, earned an Independent Spirit nomination), the Academy Award winner “Crash” (2005, shared a Black Reel Award), “King's Ransom” (2005), “Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story” (2006, TV) and “This Christmas” (2007). Describing her experience on “Crash,” she said, “It was so crazy because I worked the very first day. I was there the first day and the director, who is also the writer, had never done it before so it was scary. It was such an intense movie too and I think Paul had such a specific idea of how he wanted it to be. It reminded me a little bit of ‘Grand Canyon.’ The whole thing of people in LA coming together when there’s a crash and that’s when you meet. It’s really an incredible movie.”
Now playing Patti on the legal drama “Eli Stones” (2008-2009), opposite Jonny Lee Miller, Devine's other series TV credits besides “Boston Public” include playing regular roles on the series “A Different World” (1987-1988), “Sugar and Spice” (1990) and “Wild Card” (2004-2005). She also portrayed recurring roles on such shows as “Touched by an Angel” (1997), “Grey's Anatomy” (2005-2007) and “Everybody Hates Chris” (2006-2007) and guest starred in episodes of “Picket Fences,” “Moesha,” “Boston Legal” and others. She provided the voice of Muriel Stubbs for the Fox animated series “The PJs” (1999-2001).
In April 2001, the former lecturer became engaged to financial expert Glenn Marshall.
Childhood and Family:
Loretta Devine was born on August 21, 1949, in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Eunice O'Neal, was a beautician and her father, James Devine, was a laborer. Loretta earned a BA in Speech and Drama from the University of Houston in 1971 and a MFA in Theater from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1976. She also taught English at Brandeis University and became an instructor at a summer program at Harvard University.
Loretta is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Waiting to Exhale
A year after earning her undergraduate degree from The University of Houston, Loretta Devine launched her career as a stage director with the Black Arts Center in Houston, Texas. Her first acting experience arrived five years later in 1977 when she landed a musical role on the off-Broadway production of “Godsong” at the prestigious La MaMa Etc. Company in New York City. Shortly thereafter, she moved on to Broadway with a part in a revival of “Hair” (also 1977), and enjoyed her first big success as Lorell in Michael Bennett's award winning Broadway production “Dreamgirls” (1981).
The same year she gained attention in “Dreamgirls, Devine broke into film in a 1981 independent drama called “Will,” which starred Obaka Adedunyo. She followed up the performance with the small part of a school teacher in the science fiction film “Anna to the Infinite Power” in 1983. She, however, subsequently disappeared from the screen, but was put back in the public eye in 1986 when she had multiple roles in the off-Broadway production of George C Wolfe's “The Colored Museum,” from which she was praised for her performance. The same year, she also acted in the musical “Big Deal,” by Bob Fosse.
1987 saw Devine make her TV series debut in the first season of NBC’s comedy “A Different World,” where she played the dorm director. Her first TV movie was in the 1988 “The Murder of Mary Phagan,” which starred Jack Lemmon. It was also in 1988 that Devine returned to feature films with small roles in Richard Benjamin's “Little Nikita” and Catlin Adams' comedy “Sticky Fingers.” She rounded out the decade by acting in two TV movies, the sequel “Parent Trap III” and “Heart and Soul” (both 1989).
Entering the 1990s, Devine found herself starring in her first television series, “Sugar and Spice” (1990), in which she portrayed a free-spirited woman who joins her sister (played by Vickilyn Reynolds) to raise their nieces. The CBS sitcom, however, only had a short life. Throughout the rest of the decade, she continued to land guest starring or recurring roles in such series as “Murphy Brown” (1990), “Reasonable Doubts” (1992), Fox's “Roc” (1992-1993), “Picket Fences” (1995), “Touched by an Angel” (1997) and “Moesha” (1999). She also acted in several TV films, including reprising her stage role of Janine in the PBS version of “The Colored Museum” (1991), teamed up with Alfre Woodard in “Funny Valentines” (1999, earned a Black Reel nomination for Network/Cable- Best Supporting Actress) and supported Halle Berry in Berry's Emmy-winning performance in “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” (1999).
Meanwhile, on the big screen, Devine opened up the 1990s in a supporting role in the romantic movie “Stanley and Iris” (1990), opposite Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. She then delivered a solid performance as the trustworthy sister in the comedy “Livin' Large” (1991), for director Michael Schultz. A string of supporting roles followed, most notably Christopher Martin's mother in Randall Miller's “Class Act” (1992), before she scored a breakthrough screen role in Forest Whitaker's “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), which was scripted by Terry McMillan from his novel. Supporting Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett as Gloria 'Glo' Matthews, she was handed her first Image Award in 1996. This led to her next memorable role, that of Beverly in the Penny Marshall-directed “The Preacher's Wife” (1997), which starred Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston and won Devine a second Outstanding Supporting Actress Image Award. Devine was next seen in “The Price of Kissing” and “Lover Girl” (both 1997) and as Reese Wilson, a university security guard, in “Urban Legends,” opposite Jared Leto and Alicia Witt. She then portrayed Zenia, an affectionate caregiver of an Alzheimer’s patient, in the moving drama “Down in the Delta” (1998). 1999 saw her in the films “The Breaks” and “Operation Splitsville.”
A voice-over actress for the Eddie Murphy-created animated series “The PJs” (Fox, 1999-2001), in which she starred as Muriel Stubbs, Devine's television career gained a boost when she won the supporting role of Marla Hendricks on the Fox hailed drama “Boston Public,” which ran from 2000 to 2005. As the fervent high school teacher, she picked up three Images for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2001, 2003 and 2004) and two Golden Satellite nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Drama (2003, 2004). She also reprised her role of Reese Wilson for the installment “Urban Legends: Final Cut” (2000), appeared in the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt comedy hit “What Women Want” (2000), played the domineering mother, Marguerite, in the comedy “Kingdom Come” (2001), from which she netted an Image nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, and was cast as a social worker named Margaret Calgrove in the custody battle drama “I Am Sam” (2001), which won star Sean Penn an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. After having a recurring role on “Half & Half” (2003), Devine returned to the wide screen with “Woman Thou Art Loosed” (2004, as Cassey Jordan ) and the Oscar Best Picture winning film “Crash” (2005, as Shaniqua Johnson).
Following the cancellation of “Boston Public,” Devine was cast as Miss Gladys, Malcolm King’s secretary, in the comedy “King's Ransom” (2005). Back to series TV, she portrayed M. Pearl McGuire in the Lifetime drama “Wild Card” (2004-2005) and Adele Webber in nine episodes of the ABC medical drama “Grey's Anatomy” (2005-2007). She also had recurring roles in “Girlfriends” (2005-2006), as Judge Jackson, and the CW sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris” (2006-2007), as Tichina Arnold's mother. Her more recent film projects include “Dirty Laundry” (2006), the big screen version of “Dreamgirls” (2006), in which she made a cameo appearance as a jazz singer, “Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story” (2006, TV), where she received a 2007 Image nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special, Christopher Duddy's “Cougar Club” (2007, as Dolly), and the Preston A. Whitmore II-directed/written “This Christmas” (2007), from which she netted an Image nomination for her scene-stealing role of Shirley Ann 'MaDere' Whitfield. In “First Sunday” (2008), a film by director/writer David E. Talbert that starred Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan, Devine was cast as Sister Doris McPherson.
Currently, Devine portrays Patti in the ABC supernatural legal drama “Eli Stones” (2008-2009), which stars Jonny Lee Miller in the title role. She is scheduled to play Dr. Racine Marguerite in the comedy film “Spring Breakdown” (2008) and Miss Esther in Dan Neira's drama “Touched” (2008).
Black Reel: Best Ensemble, “Crash,” 2006
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, “Boston Public,” 2004
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, “Boston Public,” 2003
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, “Boston Public,” 2001
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, “The Preacher's Wife,” 1997
Image: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, “Waiting to Exhale,” 1996