By Dennis J. Freeman
Loretta Devine is an actress for all seasons. She defined the diva role in the Broadway smash play, Dreamgirls. She made us breathe with a purpose in Waiting to Exhale. Now she’s making us think about our love choices in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls.
Based on Ntozake Shange’s Tony Award-nominated stage play, “For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” and book by the same name, the film adaptation brings together a stunning array of some of the most talented black actresses in Hollywood today.
Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson and Anika Noni Rose are among the heavy hitters Perry was able to assemble together for the movie.
But Devine, whose film and television credits include Death at a Funeral, Grey’s Anatomy, First Sunday, Boston Public and This Christmas, is certainly on the short list when it comes to top black actresses. Perhaps best known for her role as Lorell in the play Dreamgirls, Devine has since taken her career to another level to become a very recognizable face in film and on television.
Playing Juanita Sims-a nurse who runs her own community clinic-For Colored Girls, however, ranks as one of her-all-time roles, Devine said in an interview with news4usonline.com.
“It’s up there with Waiting to Exhale and Dreamgirls,” Devine said. “This is one of the big ones. This is one of the great things to come along like a landmark or a milestone every once in a while in your career. It is an incredible film. I got a chance to work with 10 incredible women. I’m just very ecstatic that I got a chance to be a part of this. I had auditioned for this (role) when I was in grad school and I got the part. But then I had to finish school, so I didn’t get a chance to do it. So now it’s come full circle. I’m very excited about this piece.”
Tackling this role wasn’t too difficult for her to master, said Devine. By playing a nurse in the film, she was basically emulating her real-life sisters’ occupation. And being connected to friends who have had to deal with lovers coming and going out of their lives, as does her character, it wasn’t a stretch for her to get in sync with the role, she said.
“That’s pretty easy being a black woman and having been in love before,” Devine said. “I play a nurse. I run a free clinic in my community, which teaches self-esteem. She’s in love Frank-a man who goes back and forth, so my character is about that relationship. I have sisters that are nurses. I have friends that are in relationships where the lover goes back and forth.
“This was not some abstract thing that I had to figure out. It was very clear: I had to create a character. I thought I did a pretty good job at doing it. It was easy to create who Juanita would be.”For Colored Girls have drawn critical acclaim, but so far have been on the outside looking in when it comes to generating the buzz its needs to reach Academy Awards voters. The film and Perry were both snubbed out of the Golden Globes this year. But all is not lost. There are some industry insiders who believe For Colored Girls will be on the Oscar voters’ short list.
However all of that plays out, Devine is sure about one thing: this is just not a female thing. The movie is one that anyone can identify with, particularly young black men, she said.
“It covers love relationships or the lack of love in relationships, so that is something that everybody deals with,” said Devine. “This will have just as much impact on young black boys as girls. They have so many images…I think any teenager alive should see it. Young boys will see examples of what they should not be, issues they have to deal with while they’re young. Tyler (Perry) pulls the poetry into the present. It covers just about every issue in their young lives.”