I just have to be real with y’all. Loretta Devine is like an auntie in my head. In addition to her profound talent, she always seemed like a sweet spirit. So I was extremely excited and a little nervous to get the chance to speak to her on the phone and see if my gut feeling about her was right. (Hint: It was.)
Devine, who keeps a job, is coming back to network television with a new sitcom called “The Carmichael Show.” According to NBC,
the show based on the comedy of Jerrod Carmichael, is “an irreverent sitcom inspired by Jerrod’s relationships with his say-anything, contrarian father, his therapist-in-training girlfriend, his ever-hustling brother and his mother who is always, always, always right with Jesus.”
Devine is the mother, Cynthia Carmichael.
She spoke with me about her new role in the show, the increasing number of Blacks on TV, the Waiting To Exhale sequel and her longevity in the industry.
Tell us about Cynthia
I play Jerrod’s mom. And I got a chance to meet the real Cynthia. She’s a very religious woman and she’s raising too bad kids. Laughs So her religion fails her a bit but most of the time it’s in tact. I’m married to David Alan Grier who plays Joe. And we have ourselves a wonderful time. It’s such an interesting show and I think people are going to either love it or hate it. That’s all I can tell you.
Can you relate to Cynthia? Are you super religious like that?
I don’t think anyone will be as religious as Miss Cynthia. Jerrod loves “All in the Family” and that era of comedy. So the comedy is sort of rooted in that kind of experience. So we’re hitting a lot of hot topics. (In the first episode, Jerod tells his parents that he’s moving in with his girlfriend.) And it’s about a family and also the competition between the young and the old, one view opposed to another view. Whether that view is a better view or a better way to look at the world, whether what the young people are experiencing is totally different what the older people experienced when they were young. So those kinds of thing are what the show talks about.
Can you tell us what attracted you to this role and what made you want to take on this project?
Well, I auditioned and I got it! Laughs.
I went in three or four times. And towards the end–I had gotten the role– and I went in and auditioned with David Alan Grier to see whether or not our comedy and our chemistry was compatible for the show. And I think what they didn’t realize is that David Alan Grier and I had worked together thirty years ago, on Broadway in Dreamgirls and we worked in “Different World” together when we first came out here as young babies. So we’ve known each other, to some extent, for over thirty years. And that’s exactly what the characters are about, a couple that’s been married for over thirty years. So we were right in sync on that so I’m very happy about that.
You’ve played a lot of mothers and aunties. Are you ever afraid that you’ll be typecast in those type of roles?
You have got to kidding, I have worked for so many years, and I’ve done so much, such a variety of parts. And if you’ve mixed up my television career with my film career…like For Colored Girls, that was a very romantic role. This coming season on “Being Mary Jane,” I play my first lesbian role. Down South she would have been called a Bull Dyke, which is not politically correct, I know. But that’s a woman who thinks she’s a man and just don’t know no better. I got a chance to do a six episode run on that. That was extra challenging. I’ve been so blessed in that I get a chance to do both comedy and drama. On “Grey’s Anatomy” which is straight drama…”Boston Public,” straight episodic and then you go back to some of the other things I’ve done, Death at A Funeral, straight comedy. And this [The Carmichael Show] is straight comedy. So, I’ve had such a blessed career. As they say I feel Way, Way Up.