Born in Houston in 1949, actress Loretta Devine rose to fame on-stage in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls before parlaying her acclaim into a career in film and television. Her first major onscreen role came in 1987, when she was cast as a resident advisor on the Cosby Show-spin-off A Different World. Though she left the series after the first season, it was far from her final gig as a TV series regular.
Throughout the early '90s, Devine appeared in small supporting roles in features films such as Class Act and Amos & Andrew as well as a number of TV guest spots on shows ranging from Roc to Picket Fences. In 1995, Devine's career was given a shot in the arm when she was cast as one of the leads in Waiting to Exhale, an ensemble film that proved to be a success with both critics and audiences. More supporting work followed, and in 2000 she was cast as a lead on David E. Kelley's Fox drama Boston Public, a show that would go on to be nominated for multiple Emmys over the course of its four seasons on the air.