‘Waiting to Exhale’: Where Are They Now?

Author Terry McMillan just had a birthday, so we decided to take a look at the 1995 film of her Waiting to Exhale and see what the cast has been up to.

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    Loretta Devine, Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and Lela Rochon

    In 1995, Waiting to Exhale was an instant hit, opening at No. 1 at the box office over the Christmas weekend. Hollywood execs might have been surprised by the movie’s runaway success, but we weren’t. How could it not be a hit? It was a chick flick with a cast of talented black actresses, the story of four women looking for love that lasts. In celebration of the book’s author, Terry McMillan, and amid talks of a sequel following McMillan’s release of Getting to Happy, take a look at what the cast has been up to.

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    Terry McMillan, Then

    McMillan has penned more than a few novels — nine, to be exact — but perhaps none have resonated with black women  as much as her third novel, Waiting to Exhale, which was released in 1992. Three years later, she reunited with director Forest Whitaker to release the film adaptation. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, another book-turned-film by McMillan, was released in 1998, and also starred Angela Bassett.

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    Terry McMillan, Now

    In 2010, she released a sequel to Waiting to Exhale, Getting to Happy, and the buzz began about a possible sequel to the film. In late September of this year, McMillan released Who Asked You? a novel about close friendships and family relationships.

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    Whitney Houston, Then

    “I don’t have to be in love with him to do it. Hell, my body needs this.”

    Houston was already a megastar when she took on the role of Savannah. With Waiting to Exhale, Houston proved she could act, too. Viewers rooted for Savannah, who is looking for love in all the wrong places — even her mother is trying to hook her up with a married man, Kenneth. After realizing that Kenneth will never leave his wife and child, Savannah finally reads her mother — and Kenneth — for filth and kicks him to the curb.

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    Whitney Houston, Now

    Houston’s final film was the 2012 remake of Sparkle. On the eve of the 2012 Grammy Awards, Houston died of an accidental drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel. She was 48. Since her death, there have been talks of possibly replacing her character if Getting to Happy is made into a movie.

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    Angela Bassett, Then

    “Would you mind terribly if I had a word with my husband?” *slaps*

    In perhaps one of the most epic woman in rage scenes in movie history, Bernadine, played by Bassett, burns her soon-to-be ex’s clothes and belongings in her front yard. She gets the last laugh in the divorce — and the crib, the vacation house in Acapulco and several thousands of dollars — after a judge rules in her favor. Bassett’s role in Exhale came on the heels of her Golden Globe-winning performance in 1993’s What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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    Angela Bassett, Now

    Bassett has portrayed several notable figures in her career including Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Katherine Jackson and Voletta Wallace. She was even the voice of Michelle Obama on The Simpsons in 2010. In 2013 she appeared as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs in Olympus Has Fallen. She has a few upcoming films, including Black Nativity, but viewers can check her out now playing Marie Laveau in FX’s American Horror Story.

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    Loretta Devine, Then

    “I could be home watching Good Times.”

    Gloria, played by Devine, is a single mother raising her 17-year-old son. When Marvin, a widowed man, moves in across the street from her, she sends a plate over to welcome him to the neighborhood. She literally takes a moment to exhale in mid-conversation with him — and by the end of the film, they end up falling for each other. This was one more solid performance for the Houston native, who by the ’90s had appeared on a number of TV series and TV movies. But she is perhaps more well-known for her Broadway work as Lorrell Robinson in Dreamgirls.

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    Loretta Devine, Now

    In 2011, Devine won an Emmy for outstanding guest star for her work on Grey’s Anatomy. This year, she has voiced a character on the TV miniseries The Doc Files, a Disney spinoff of Doc McStuffins. She was recently cast in an upcoming series for USA Network, Sirens, a comedy based on Chicago’s best EMTs.

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    Lela Rochon, Then

    “I could have had a V-8.”

    Robin is desperately trying to get over her married boo thang, Russell. She starts “dating” her co-worker, Michael, who proves to be a one-minute man in the bed, but also is a good listener and — for a brief moment — wants to make Robin’s dreams come true. Before Exhale, Rochon had a few one-off roles on TV series including The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. You may also remember her as the woman with the jacked-up toes in Boomerang.

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    Lela Rochon, Now

    Rochon has had sporadic work in Hollywood since her role in Waiting to Exhale. In 2012, she appeared in Supremacy, and the year before she appeared in an episode of Reed Between the Lines. In 2001, she appeared as Inspector Angela Reide in The Division. She is married to director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).

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    Forest Whitaker, Then

    Whitaker spent years working in Hollywood before his major directorial debut, Waiting to Exhale. (He directed Strapped, a TV movie starring Fredro Starr and Bokeem Woodbine, in 1993.) He also directed the music video for Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop),” which was featured on the film’s soundtrack. But most know him as a powerhouse actor, from his earliest days in a breakout role as tormented jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker in Bird.

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    Forest Whitaker, Now

    Whitaker is a busy man. Since Waiting to Exhale, he has also directed Hope Floats and First Daughter. He won Golden Globe, Oscar, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA awards for his role as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. This year, he starred in the buzzworthy film Lee Daniels’ The Butler as Cecil Gaines. Shadow and Act reports that he will star in and produce a feature film called Iraq War Problem, in which he will play Colin Powell. At the end of this year, he will appear alongside Angela Bassett in Black Nativity.

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    Gregory Hines, Then

    “My wife was a big woman, too. I like a woman with some meat on her bones.”

    Marvin is like a daydream come true for Gloria. He moves in across the street, and promptly starts showing her son, Tarik, how to fix things and even takes him fishing. Before Exhale, Hines, an acclaimed tap dancer, starred on Broadway in the early ’80s with his brother Maurice in a Tony Award-winning tribute to Duke Ellington, Sophisticated Ladies. In 1992, he won another Tony for his role in Jelly’s Last Jam. He also appeared in several films including Tap, The Cotton Club and White Nights.

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    Gregory Hines, Now

    In the late ’90s, Hines starred in his own show, The Gregory Hines Show, as Ben Stevenson, a widower and publishing agent raising a 12-year-old son. His last act in Hollywood was as the voice of Big Bill on Bill Cosby’s cartoon, Little Bill. Hines died of cancer in Los Angeles in 2003. He was 57.

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    Dennis Haysbert, Then

    Kenneth is Savannah’s old flame. Problem is, he is now married with a daughter. Savannah’s pushy mother keeps telling her that she needs a “good man” like Kenneth in her life, despite his marital status. He says he is filing for divorce, but has a “sudden” change of heart. Prior to playing sleazeball Kenneth, Haysbert played a coach in the TV series Just the Ten of Us.

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    Dennis Haysbert, Now

    This year, Haysbert has appeared on the big and small screens, but a few upcoming films are particularly interesting. He will play Uncle Eddie in Think Like a Man Too, and also has a role in the upcoming movie Dear White People. But of course, you can always see him in your favorite Allstate commercial — any day of the week.

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    Mykelti Williamson, Then

    “Then you meet a man, a brother, with genuine interest in ya, and you gotta act simple. Then you wonder why we date white women.”

    Troy seems like of those old guys who hit on the “young tenders” at the club. He parties a lot, smokes a lot and drinks even more. Robin tries to overlook all of those things after he invites her to a family barbecue. A year before the film’s release, the St. Louis native gave an amazing performance as Bubba alongside Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.

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    Mykelti Williamson, Now

    Williamson has had a few recurring roles in hit TV series in the past couple of years, including Touch, Justified, 24 and CSI: NY. Our favorite role of his since Exhale is a toss-up: Don King in Ali or Uncle George in ATL.

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    Michael Beach, Then

    John is Bernadine’s cheating husband. The sting goes a bit deeper for Bernie because not only does John cheat with someone who works for him, but the woman is also white. Although all of the accounts and business deals are in his name, Bernadine ends up winning her fair share in the divorce. Beach had several small roles on TV shows in the ’90s including Quantum Leap, South Central, ER and NYPD Blue.

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    Mchael Beach, Now

    Two years after Exhale, Beach starred alongside Vivica Fox and Vanessa Williams in Soul Food, which was later made into a TV show. He’s been working hard ever since, starring in NBC TV’s Third Watch from 1999-2005 and has had a recurring role on The Game, as the owner of the San Diego Sabers. He has also appeared on The Client List.

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    Leon, Then

    “I can’t take coming here being pressured about what I’m doing with my own wife.”

    Russell is Robin’s on-again-off-again fling. He has a wife whom he keeps saying he was going to divorce. But by the time he files the papers, it’s too late. Prior to Exhale, Leon starred in The Five Heartbeats. He also starred in Cool Runnings, The Women of Brewster Place and was the stage manager for the TV series, In Living Color. Would we be dating ourselves if we mentioned that he also was the sexy black Saint in Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video?

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    Leon, Now

    If you’re a fan of the Real Housewives of Atlanta franchise, you have probably most recently seen Leon as the father of Cynthia Bailey’s daughter. Since Exhale, he’s played Little Richard in the 2000 TV movie of the same name. He’s also appeared in the HBO series, Oz, Je’Caryous Johnson’s Marriage Material, Reed Between the Lines and the Web series Diary of a Single Mom.

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    Wendell Pierce, Then

    Michael promises to give Robin everything she needs — that is, until he gets up from under her bed sheets. The two work together, and he gives her a hard time at an important board meeting. At a happy hour, Robin gives him the perfect side eye when he walks in the club with another woman. Prior to Exhale, Pierce appeared in another Forest Whitaker-directed film, Strapped. He also appeared in A Rage in Harlem and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X.  

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    Wendell Pierce, Now

    Most of us know Pierce from his stint at Det. William “Bunk” Moreland on HBO’s critically acclaimed The Wire. After that, he starred in HBO’s Treme, a series about post-Katrina New Orleans, which airs its final season this year. A community activist, Pierce started a grocery chain in his hometown of New Orleans called Sterling Farms. Currently, you can find him co-starring on The Michael J. Fox Show as Harris Green, a longtime friend of former anchor Mike Henry (played by Michael J. Fox).

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    Donald Faison, Then

    Tarik is Gloria’s teenage son. He has a few slick comments about his daddy’s sexuality, gets caught getting, um, pleasured in the pool house and is dying to go on a trip overseas with Up With the People, an international orchestra. In the end, Gloria lets her only son go to Europe, and promptly begins to get her groove back with Marvin (Gregory Hines). Faison was in another very popular movie in 1995, Clueless, as Murray, Dionne’s (Stacey Dash) boyfriend.

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    Donald Faison, Now

    Faison has appeared on the TV series The Exes since 2011. He’s also appeared alongside Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans and voiced Wedgie Rudlin in Aaron McGruder’s cartoon series The Boondocks. His biggest role, however, was as Dr. Chris Turk on the long-running medical comedy series Scrubs.

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    Brandon Hammond, Then

    John Jr. is John and Bernadine’s son, and he is a mama’s boy (even the kids on the schoolbus tease him). After a weekend with his father, he runs up to his mother, Bernadine, without saying goodbye to his dad. Before Exhale, Hammond appeared in Menace II Society in 1993, and in a few TV series including Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper and Coach.

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    Brandon Hammond, Now

    In 2012, Essence caught up with the child star, who also appeared in 1997’s Soul Food. He has graduated from film school and is working on a few projects. Hammond appeared as Matty Stevenson in The Gregory Hines Show in 1997. Since then, he has appeared on The West Wing and Early Edition, as well as the TV movie Our America, and the short film Summer Blame.

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    Jazz Raycole, Then

    “Mama, is ‘freak’ a bad word?”

    Onika is John and Bernadine’s daughter. She seems to be a daddy’s girl and still shows her father love while her parents are going through a divorce. Exhale was the professionally trained dancer’s first on-screen appearance. However, her first work in Hollywood was voiceover work, playing a puppy in the Oscar-winning movie Babe.

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    Jazz Raycole, Now

    She had recurring roles on Jericho and Everybody Hates Chris. For 12 episodes, she played Claire Kyle, the oldest daughter in My Wife and Kids. After her mother didn’t like an upcoming plot where one of Claire’s friends was pregnant, the show replaced Raycole with Jennifer Freeman. Today, you can watch her playing Lyric Ballentine on TV Land’s The Soul Man alongside Cedric the Entertainer and Niecy Nash. She’s also appeared on the TNT series Rizzoli & Isles.

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