Sunday, October 2, 2022

Loretta Devine Talks Playing An ’80-year-old, Blind Stripper’ On ‘P-Valley’ | VIDEO

Loretta Devine
Getty

*Loretta Devine is speaking out about her role on the hit STARZ series “P-Valley,” in which she portrays Ernestine — the former owner of the local strip club the Pynk. The second season is currently airing Sunday nights on STARZ and new episodes are also available on the STARZ app, STARZ streaming and on-demand platforms.

The acclaimed drama, based on the play by Pulitzer Prize winner Katori Hall, has drawn praise from collaborators from across the music industry for its authentic trap music and for being a platform to spotlight southern female rappers, per the network’s press release. 

As reported by The Cut, in episode seven, “Devine’s character navigates the aftermath of contracting COVID-19 and experiences a fever dream that depicts her in full glam, all while showcasing the singing voice that helped establish her career many moons ago,” the outlet writes (Listen to her amazing performance of Aretha’s classic “Until You Come Back to Me,” below.)

The actress spoke further about her role and the new season of “P-Valley” in a new interview with The Cut. Check out what she had to say below.

READ MORE: J. Alphonse Nicholson Reacts to Outrage Over His Gay Sex Scene in ‘P-Valley’

It felt really special to see you in full glam and singing onstage in episode seven of P-Valley, particularly for those of us who weren’t able to see you perform in Dreamgirls 50 years ago. Was the fever-dream sequence a nod to your Broadway roots?

No, I think it was really something that Katori Hall had in mind since Ernestine owned this juke joint, the Pynk. She talked about how she met some incredible people that had been around much earlier than Dreamgirls.

At my age, I’m always excited to do something I’ve never done before. It’s a little more risqué than what people are used to. I’m still doing Doc McStuffins and all of those things for the babies. Family Reunion is for the teenagers, and P-Valley is adult entertainment. I’m always shocked when people come up to me and they whisper, “We saw you in P-Valley!”

Loretta Devine - Nicco Annan (P-Valley)
Loretta Devine (Grandmuva Ernestine) – Nicco Annan (Uncle Clifford)

People love Grandmuva Ernestine! Chosen family is a common theme in art that centers queer characters because social and familial rejection are still such real issues. There’s an ease between Uncle Clifford and Ernestine that feels rare and refreshing to see onscreen, especially between a Black queer character and an elder family member. What has that been like for you to portray that love and acceptance?

They have all these scenes and communication about Uncle Clifford getting her first purse. I think she was accepted for who she was from the time she was a baby and was allowed to be whatever she wanted to be. I love working with Nicco Annan. He’s a great performer. He has a lot of Uncle Cliff’s personality in that he is caring, he’s protective.

I’ve been in theater forever. There’s no way you can be in the theater and not be aware of all of the different genres and all of the different lifestyles. You just accept people because you love people that you get to know and work with. The hardest part for me right now is learning all the alphabets correctly. That’s just like me trying to figure out everything on the computer. I think people are more accepting of a lot of things now than they’ve ever been because of the way life is going now. I’m hoping it opens more doors and will make some things easier, but everything won’t be easy because everything is changing at one time.

What has been one of your favorite parts of stepping into the world of P-Valley and the imagination of Katori Hall? Is there something you’ve gotten to do in this role that you’ve never done before?

Well, Ernestine is an 80-year-old, blind stripper. So the blind part, I think, has been the hardest part for me, because they have to do stuff to your eyes. It’s a physical change that’s a lot harder than I expected, but the character is very freeing. I mean, you get a chance to say and do things that I never thought I’d get a chance to do in my career.

I told myself, “Oh my God, I’m playing all these grandmothers.” People want to stereotype me in one particular kind of role. But I’ve been a character actress my entire career. This is so exciting because it is different for me. And P-Valley is now taking on this otherworldliness where there are all these ghosts. It’s going into like —

Hoodoo and spirituality …

Yeah, because I was born in the South and there’s all of this stuff that people never talk about that you’ve heard about since you were a child. P-Valley is teaching a little bit. We talked about the fact that Black women died more than any other women during pregnancy when they were dealing with Brandee Evans’s character and her daughter. There’s all this teaching going on as well as just learning about the culture of this particular area.

If you could give a piece of advice to your younger self about being an actor and an artist, what would you say?

People always wonder, “How did you do it so long?” I think I used to tell God I wanted to be a working actress, and I could have asked to be a superstar or whatever, but I like the way my life has played out. I’ve gotten a chance to do a lot of the things I want to do and to still be in it. I would tell my younger self to relax, to enjoy the experience, to find a way to tell others not to be afraid, what is yours is yours. It sounds like saying everything is going to be all right and nobody believes that.

Also, get involved in other people’s journeys. Even when you are not winning and others are winning, you can root for them as positively as you can, which sometimes becomes hard because everything that’s winning in our culture is competitive. And try to help someone. If not everybody, just do something a little bit for somebody every day. That’s about as much as you can do, and enjoy life.

Loretta Devine (Ernestine in P-Valley) - STARZ
Loretta Devine (Ernestine in P-Valley) – STARZ

Read the full interview here.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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