The legendary Loretta Devine, who is currently starring in the Netflix show “Family Reunion,” was one of the original cast members from the 1981 Broadway show “Dreamgirls.” The iconic production, which made the song “And I Am Telling You (I Am Not Going)” a classic, starred Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holliday and Devine. In an interview on SiriusXM, the Emmy winner opened up about the colorism the women experienced at the time.
On “The Clay Cane Show” on SiriusXM Urban View, Cane asked, “I’ve heard this ongoing rumor, I don’t know if it’s true or not but with ‘Dreamgirls,’ the creators specifically wanted dark-skinned women in those three roles. Is that true?”
Devine answered, “Yeah and peopled called us ‘Dreamgirls from the planet of the apes.’ Ya’ll can be mean, I know how mean ya’ll can be. And that was because we were dark-skinned.” Listen below:
Back in 2006, Ralph, who played Deena Jones, also talked about the creators wanting three dark-skinned women in the lead, “It’s interesting, when Tom Eyen who is the creator, had this idea, he said that the Dreams, have to be three obviously Black girls. Why? Because America will always go for that light, bright, long haired Black girl because they will feel comfortable building her up, since they see themselves in her. But for the obviously Black girl, if she makes it, she deserves to be right there. Because they aren’t trying to push her, that’s why the Dreams had to be three obviously Black girls.”
When talking about the film version, she added, “So when they cast Beyonce in the role of Deena Jones. I said, ‘Wow, this is exactly what Tom Eyen said would happen.’ They going to take to that light, bright blackish blonde girl because they feel comfortable with her. That’s the reality.”
In January of this year, Ralph also said she was shunned from the opportunity to work with Bey during the filming of the remake. She told “AM to DM,” “I didn’t get a chance to because they kept us apart. They said — what was said to me — and, you know, I’ve been around long enough to actually remember what was said to me, they said that it would be a distraction to have the two of us together.”
She continued, “What does that mean? So it just never happened, we never came together.”
The musical was on Broadway for four years, nominated for 13 Tony Awards and won six. It would later go onto become a film, landing Jennifer Hudson an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White made famous by vocal powerhouse Jennifer Holliday.