Grey’s Anatomy star Loretta Devine has a lot to celebrate: She won an Emmy for her meaty role as the Alzheimer’s-riddled Adele on the ABC soap last year, and she’s nominated again this year. It’s not a stretch to think she might take home a second trophy, but the field — guest actress in a drama series — is notoriously deep with talent and this year that’s no different: Devine is up against The Good Wife‘s Martha Plimpton, Harry’s Law‘s Jean Smart, Mad Men‘s Julia Ormond, Shameless‘ Joan Cusack, and Smash‘s Uma Thurman.
But win or not, Devine has lots more to smile about: Besides her Emmy-winning role on Grey’s, she’s also got a spot as a sassy madame on Lifetime’s successful movie spin-off series The Client List, and she voices a role in Disney Junior’s cute, animated show Doc McStuffins, which just released a DVD. Between it all, Devine found a few minutes to chat with EW about her Emmy nomination, her future on Grey’s, what she’d like to see happen to her character Adele, what’s going on with the Waiting to Exhale sequel, and much more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You won an Emmy last year for Grey’s Anatomy, and you’re nominated again this year. How does it feel to be nominated a second time?
LORETTA DEVINE: I keep telling everyone, it’s like an embarrassment of riches. I would totally not expect it. I was like, What? What’s it for? I couldn’t tell you if I was upset or excited. I was just like, Oh my God, oh my God! I’m screaming because the first time you’re nominated, everyone is so amazed — and it is so amazing to get nominated. I’m so terrified, I think I’m even more afraid the second time. It’s a strange feeling, but I do hope I win. If I don’t win, I’m going to pay them to mention my name when they get up there! But you know what? It’s so nice to be respected by your peers and have them say: “We love what you did. We loved your work.” It is such hard work. The character that I’m playing on Grey’s is such a hard character. I was so glad I was doing The Client List at the same time, which was a little bit more goofing off and having fun with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Then when I go and have to do this particular character, it’s just such a such a hard thing, it’s so heartbreaking, even when you’re doing it.
When Adele started having trouble with Alzheimer’s, were you surprised?
Did I snap my head back a little bit? Yes. I was like, God, how old am I? I’m not old enough for this! [Laughs.] You feel like, Couldn’t they wait another 10 or 20 years before I’m playing a person with Alzheimer’s? But then you study up on it and you read up on it, and you find out that it happens to women in their 40s sometimes. You never know what life is going to do for you. This past season she had to admit to herself that she was sick, and then she had a big confrontation with her husband where there was the fight, and it was so heartbreaking. Then when he found her with someone else, and she’s telling him that she’s in love — it was heartbreaking. I kept thinking, Oh, everyone is going to hate Adele. They’re going to hate her so much! And then the next episode, my Richard, he’s strutting around with Debbie Allen! What the hell? [Laughs.] Debbie Allen! I was like, Oh God, how unfair! But that’s the way life goes!
Do you know if you’re going to be on much this coming season?
You know, I’m waiting to hear about everything. The Client List, too. The contracts are coming up, they’re getting ready to go into the second season of that. So all of that is in the air. With Grey’s, I’ve always been recurring, which means they simply call and say, “Are you available?” And if you’re available, they can put you in, and if you’re not, they can push it. You know? I think they’re bringing me back, but I don’t really know, to be honest. And I don’t dare call over there and ask them!
If you could choose an ending for Adele, how would you see her story continue from here?
You know, I would love for them to get some new medication that made her more lucid and that she would begin to recognize her husband again and get in that hospital and whip that Debbie Allen’s butt! No, I’m kidding!
I like that idea!
Yeah, if could have a little Love & Hip Hop in the hospital. [Laughs.] No, not trying to be funny, but I would love it if they came up with something that made her better.
Were there weeks where you’d be going back from The Client List to Grey’s Anatomy? That’s such a funny juxtapositions of shows!
I know! A madame on one, and then other, a doctor’s wife. Yeah, there were a couple time where I’d be going from one to the other. But it was so easy to keep the two separated — they’re two totally different entities. I didn’t have trouble going, Oh God, who I am today? It was never anything like that.
Loretta, what’s happening with the Waiting to Exhale 2? Still in the works?
To my knowledge, yeah, it’s still in the works. [Writer] Terry [McMillan] is still working on the scripts. I don’t know what decisions they’ve made about what they’re going to do with Whitney [Houston]’s character, but I think they’re still going to try to do it. We’re hoping that Sparkle will be a real success, because that always helps — when one movie does well, it makes room for another that’s like it. I’m hoping that does really well.
One of your first big roles was in Dreamgirls on Broadway. Will you ever return to the stage?
When I first came out here, I did a lot of stage. I did much more than I did of late. I think the last thing I did was at the Pasadena Playhouse, and I’ve done a few three or four day shows that are for some writers like David Talbott, where you perform at these special events. I would love to go back to Broadway — it’s just being in LA, it’s hard to get the hook-up going in New York. I had been working on some things with Ron Abel and Whoopi [Goldberg] was producing, but some things didn’t go through yet. It could still happen, it’s just timing and everything.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky