When you hear certain actresses’ names you know that they will bring a certain prestige to any film or series they star in. Actresses with an incredible talent that never fails to impress. Loretta Devine is one of those actresses. I’ve followed her career from Waiting to Exhale to the Urban Legend franchise, “Supernatural”, and everything in between. That includes her most recent role in the supernatural horror Spell from director Mark Tonderai and writer Kurt Wimmer.
In Spell, Omari Hardwick stars as Marquis. He and his family leave the big city aboard his plane to return to the Tennesse mountains where he was born for his father’s funeral. When the plane is caught in a terrible storm it crashes. Marquis wakes to find that he’s in the attic of Eloise (Mrs. Devine) and her husband, not knowing where his family is, or that Eloise isn’t the kind southern woman he thinks she is. There’s serious “root magic” at play here that will change his life forever.
Mrs. Devine sat down with me to discuss her character, the magic, and the horrors that await those who witness Spell.
Horror Fuel: “I’m a huge fan!”
Loretta Devine: “Oh, thank you! I need fans [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “I’m a fan from back in your Waiting to Exhale days.”
Loretta Devine: “That is way back girl. You must have been a baby [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “I’m older than you’d think [laughter].
How did you prepare for your role in Spell?”
Loretta Devine: “I thought about my grandmother. Mark gave me a book of information -besides the script- and I learned all about who my character was what her intentions were from that bible.
Eloise is a hundred and eighty-seven years old. She was a slave that was born with a caul over her face which was a sign she had special powers. So, they threw her in the river and she was rescued by runaway slaves. They brought her back to the plantation. An old lady named Momma Duck taught her how to do rootwork. Eloise’s two daughters, they were sold to another plantation. She made the overseer Louis her slave. She took his tongue, that’s why he wasn’t able to speak. Her husband, played by John Beasley, she had control over him too. She’s just a POWERFUL woman! I love that [laughter]. That’s why I wanted to play her.”
Horror Fuel: “[laughter] love it! Was this your first experience with Hoodoo rootwork?”
Loretta Devine: “When you’re little you hear things about it. I was raised in Huston, Texas. There were all these stories about Old Man Cornel and I had heard of a boy born with a caul over his face and they did this Hoodoo stuff. You heard pieces of it, just enough to scare you when you were little. You throw it out of your mind when you get older. When this came up I was like, ‘Oh, my god! I’ve heard of that. I’ve heard tales of that happening. There is an actual thing called rootwork.
There’s a whole population of black people that live in the Appalachian mountains that nobody knows much about. There’s a lot of poverty there, so they don’t have doctors, they have Hoodoo and rootwork with herbs. They used to give us Castor oil for everything, I don’t care what it was. It’s kind of like that. You take what you need from the earth or the woods and then they put the magic in it. People are born with magical abilities and then it becomes power.
To her [Eloise], she’s a doctor, a healer, a practitioner. People come to her with things. She’s a powerful woman.
The house she lives in belonged to the man who sold her children. She killed him and stole his house. There are all these things that are very menacing, but she seems like a loving grandmother. Doesn’t she?
Horror Fuel: “She does actually remind me of my grandmother. She knew all about Hoodoo and rootwork. My great grandmother was run out of town for being a practitioner. She taught us a thing or two.”
Loretta Devine: “Oh! Was she? There are all kinds of things to be scared of. They were passed down. You know, these young kids, they’re on the internet all the time, I don’t know how they get their schooling on these things.
You put that all together and realize that evil does exist. That’s what’s so scary more than anything else, that some of this has truth in it. It’s not just malarky, you know what I’m saying?”
Horror Fuel: “I do. If I may ask, Spell is pretty dark and scary, was there anything during filming that really spooked or scared you?”
Loretta Devine: “We filmed this thing in South Africa. We were there for six weeks and we lived in a hotel that was in a resort area. They had a lot of shops and everything. We would have to drive about an hour away to the set that they had built. Out in this winery that was way out in the woods. You would see herds of zebra crossing some mornings. But I think the scariest thing for me was that we would come back to the hotel late at night and it would be locked down. I mean chains and locks. I would be like, ‘Who is coming that we need chains?’ That part was scary. At the place that we were filming at, they had guards out in the woods. It was just surrounded by fear. I guess I should say there was a fear of the unknown.
I was in the first two Urban Legends, I played the cop that saved everybody, and I was in Supernatural, that was scary to me too. It was a challenge for me to do this kind of work.”
Horror Fuel: “That does sound scary. I loved you in Urban Legend. I got a kick out of Reese’s obsession with Foxy Brown.”
Loretta Devine: “Right! I was a good guy in that one, but Marquis is the good guy in this one. He was a city boy but Eloise wanted him to know that he was from the Appalachian Mountains. That he belonged here with us [laughter]. That sums up the movie really.”
Horror Fuel: “I think Eloise teaches him a thing or two. And oh my god, that thing with his foot!”
Loretta Devine: “You can feel it can’t you?”
Horror Fuel: “I cringed so hard and didn’t realize I was holding onto mine for dear life until it started to actually hurt.”
Loretta Devine: “I thought the scene with his tongue was good.”
Horror Fuel: “That was a good trick.
Loretta Devine: “She makes him face his rage and discover his true power.”
Speaking of power, Mrs. Devine fantastic in Spell, she was a pleasure to talk with. In Spell, she portrays a “sweet southern grandma” mixed with a ruthless villain like nobody’s business. She delivers a certain charm in Spell and things just wouldn’t be the same if they had gone with a different actress. She absolutely killed it! I guess you can say she put a spell on me.
Spell, which we call “spooky as hell” in our review, arrives on October 30th on Video-On-Demand and Digital, from Paramount Home Entertainment, just in time for Halloween! Go watch it!