Loretta Devine adds her spark to The Carmichael Show

Loretta Devine stars in The Carmichael Show on NBC

From her Broadway turn in Dreamgirls and starring roles in films like Waiting to Exhale and Jumping the Broom to TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Loretta Devine has the thespian trifecta when it comes to a diversified resumé. The delightfully humble Devine returns to TV in comedian Jerrod Carmichael’s new multicam sitcom The Carmichael Show (beginning Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 9pm on NBC). The laugh-out-loud series is a modern-day All in the Family of sorts that follows the Carmichael family’s zany dynamics.

Loretta Devine stars in The Carmichael Show on NBCCarmichael plays Jerrod, who’s hiding from his contrarian father (David Alan Grier) and Bible-obsessed mother (Devine) that his girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West) now lives with him.

“Edith Bunker was a very kind woman from my memory of All in the Family, but Jerrod also based [my character, Cynthia] on his own mom and own family, even down to the turtlenecks that she wanted to wear,” Devine shares. “There are Bibles everywhere in that living room, and if you really look closely at the set you’ll see … there’s at least five Bibles in the living room. … I think she’s going to be a kind lady.”

In real life, Devine did have a chance to meet Carmichael’s mother. “She’s absolutely beautiful. I was very complimented thinking that I could even do the role, since she’s such a gorgeous lady in spirit and in person, you know? But I like the way she’s written. … I think Cynthia is going to be quite funny. I feel like it’s also a high-comedy role. I just really like that about her personality. She’s very honest, she seems like she’s going to be very genuine and very giving. I’m looking forward to giving Amber a hard time because she’s very much so in love with my character’s son and sort of like has this set plan for their life already, which is what the show is about.”

Jerrod’s parents definitely have some old-fashioned views that don’t quite go with the new generation of thinking, and that’s where much of the social edginess of the show comes in to play. Devine says a lot of the conflict in the series is going to come from David Alan Grier’s character. (The series actually marks a long-awaited reunion for Grier and Devine, who first worked together in the ’80s on Broadway’s Dreamgirls.)

The Carmichael Show“His jokes are like right on the edge,” Devine says of Carmichael. “He really attacks a lot of the current stuff that’s going on and how people feel about different issues … what people are currently talking about in their houses. … It’s going to cause a lot of conversation. What do you feel about this? And then you’ll be able to really talk about it. Is it family? Is it friends? A while at the water cooler?”

And speaking of water cooler talk, we had to ask the former Grey’s Anatomy star what she thought about the series and if she’s still watching.

Grey's Anatomy“First of all, the show is so hard to watch because I’m not on it anymore. I get so jealous when I see Debbie Allen talking to my husband. From the grave, I’m just turning over,” she laughs. “But it’s just so good, because to have a storyline where the reason [Patrick Dempsey’s] gone is because the doctors weren’t competent, it just breaks your heart, you know? And even episodes after that, just the way Ellen Pompeo had to deal with the sister and finally letting her hear his final message. It was just a tear-jerker. All those shows were just heartbreaking. I thought it was a good send-off for him, because he left with such dignity, I think. And [creator] Shonda Rhimes and her team of writers are just exquisite.”