Even though Loretta Devine doesn’t have the biggest role on Grey's Anatomy, she had a devastating story arc in Season 8 as we watched Adele’s Alzheimer’s regress, and her husband Richard’s (James Pickens Jr.) decision to start letting go of their marriage.
Wetpaint Entertainment spoke to Loretta in an exclusive interview about her second Emmy nomination, whether or not Adele will be back for Season 9, and her own intimate experience with Alzheimer’s.
Wetpaint Entertainment: Congratulations on the Emmy nomination. That must have been very, very exciting.
Loretta Devine: It is! Thank you so much. I call it an embarrassment of riches because I won last year, and I wasn't expecting this.
What is Emmy morning like for you?
Well, I was asleep. My husband was the one that was up watching. He went on the internet and he found that I was nominated, and I was like, “You've got to be kidding.” He said, “No.” He said, “This year you're even more excited than last year.” That's true. It's all good.
What has playing Adele meant for you?
I'm just so proud of the character, and I'm so happy to be on a show that's a hit. It's so hard to stay current in this business or to stay in the business, period. So Grey's Anatomy has truly been a blessing for me, and I love playing Adele with Dr. Webber.
Her story arcs in the past few years are not a happy place to be. What’s it like to get those scripts?
I was very shocked when I first got my script saying that she was going to be a candidate for the Alzheimer’s trial. And it started out with my character refusing to believe that she had Alzheimer's, and I, myself, was refusing to believe that. And then, all of the episodes happened with the trial coming up and how it played into Ellen Pompeo’s (Meredith Grey) plot lines. And then, finally, this year, I had to admit that I did have the disease and needed to be separated from my husband. So it's been a roller coaster of emotions and the writing is just so good. You just have to put yourself in it and go for it when you're at work.
What's the biggest challenge in playing someone with Alzheimer's?
I think it's the same with any character that you create. It's being honest and genuine. If you were to look at a script, sometimes you can't even understand how it's saying all of the things that you're going through. It could have been dementia at some point, and it turned out to be full-blown Alzheimer's. By the time they put her in the home, she had totally forgotten who her husband was. That's an extreme thing to have to deal with. So that part of it is very hard. You feel very sad for the character, I guess, is what I should say.
Do you know anyone who suffers from Alzheimer's?
My father had it before he passed away.
It must be so emotional for you to have to relive that.
Yes, it is. I mean, it's not an easy thing to do, but I think I was successful in capturing what it feels like and what it looks like.
Has there been any talk about what happens from here?
They don't talk to recurring actors like that. I haven't a clue. They just call me for availability and give me a script, and there I go. It's like that. It’s not like we’re discussing anything. No. It's not like that.
So Shonda has never talked about wanting to take this all the way?
No. Not to me, she hasn't. The last time I saw my husband, I didn't even know who he was. I was telling him I had a boyfriend and was waving at this new guy, and then he caught us in the bed together. It was like, “Oh my God.” I just knew everybody was going to hate Adele. And then next you saw him going out with the Debbie Allen’s character, and I was like, “It's a set‑up.” So I don't know what's going to happen next. I'm hoping that they have me back. I never know. It's been seven or eight years of working like this. Whenever they call I’m like, “Yes!” It's sort of like going home because I love everybody. We've been working together so long.
What's it like to work with Jim [Pickens]?
Well, I've known Jim forever. We came from New York nearly about the same time. I've known his wife forever. So it's a very relaxed working situation. I feel like he's my husband when I'm over there. Jim's very quiet too. It all works very well. I get there. We don't even have to rehearse. We just hit and quit it, that's the way we do it. It’s like butter.
So then you can't be thrilled about him and Debbie Allen's character?
No, I am not! She's taken my husband. She knows I'm sick.
I know! Wait your turn.
I know. She don't care.
What are you doing while waiting for Grey’s to give you an episode?
Well, I’ve got Doc McStuffins coming out on DVD for the first season, and it's been picked up for next season. So I know I'm going to be working next season. I play Hallie, the hippo. It's my voiceover job. It's number one on Disney. I'm telling you this little cartoon is huge! So I'm doing that. And then The Client List goes back into production in September. So I'll be back over there with Jennifer Love Hewitt, hopefully. So that's all I know.
I know everyone's asking you all about Grey's Anatomy, but I assume The Client List feels more like your gig at this point?
As for right now. This past season, I had to do both of them and I was so glad to go back to The Client List because it's a lot of fun. We're all cleavage out and tight skirts and talking crazy, our excessive hair dos and stuff. And it's fun. And all the cute guys over there, we're giving them massages. It's a woman's set, whereas at Grey's, because we're dealing with something very serious, there’s no laughing. You have to be focused.
What about Waiting to Exhale’s sequel Is that still somewhat in the cards?
Yeah, but they're having to do all these rewrites because of everything that's happened. I'm so excited about seeing Whitney in Sparkle. I mean, to know Whitney was like a special thing to happen to you, even if you didn't realize it when it was happening. And I got a chance to work with her so many times. I worked with her on Preacher's Wife. I worked with her on Boston Public and onWaiting to Exhale. It was such a loss, and I'm glad to be able to see her again.
Grey’s Anatomy Season 9 will premiere on Thursday, September 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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