Tyler Perry says he didn't use white actors to appeal to a different audience

by Kevin C. Johnson

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

19 September 2008


Unlikely movie mogul Tyler Perry created his own industry with flicks such as “Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married.”

His low-budget movies consistently open at No. 1 on the strength of African-American moviegoers, but with his new movie, “Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys,” he may be extending his reach.

In addition to a full lineup of African-American actors including Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, Robin Givens and Rockmond Dunbar, Perry also cast white actors for the first time as part of his ensemble with Kathy Bates and Cole Hauser.

Some will say Perry is no longer staying in his lane by trying to appeal to white moviegoers. But Perry says otherwise.

“I just wrote the story as the story came to me,” he says. “I didn’t see white or black.”

He explains that as his fame has grown, the circles he travels in have changed.

“There were times when I was always around people who looked like me, sounded like me, who are me. Now I’m invited into other areas and places, and I pay attention,” says Perry, who has a role in the coming J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” movie.

Perry says he’d never add white characters just to gain fans.

“I’m always true to the stories I want to tell, and from Day One I’ve never chased money. It’s about how do the stories feel to you. And this so-called thing called crossover, if it’s a line, then people can cross it either way. But I can’t make a business move and be artistic at the same time.”

The dramatic “Tyler Perry’s the Family That Preys,” about the intertwined lives of two families led by Bates and Woodard, is generating good buzz. Still, he refused to screen the movie in advance for critics to review. Perry says it’s a business decision stemming from his experience with “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which he did screen.

“I got the cost reports of what it cost to screen for all those critics, then I looked at the reviews and 99 percent of them were negative,” he says. “Why spend the money to screen for these critics for them to say that kind of thing?”

Perry concedes that he may take on too many roles - he usually writes, directs, produces and stars in his films - but says the one time he put directorial duties in another’s hands, it didn’t go well.

“The experience to me was a nightmare,” he says of working with Darren Grant on “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”

“We had different ideas of what the film should be. I learned that if I don’t do it, it’s not going to be done the way I want it done.”

Perry is next up with the second season of his sitcom “House of Payne,” then the January debut of his “Meet the Browns” TV show, which is a spinoff of the movie of the same name.

Then it’s back to Madea, the character that put Perry on the map. February’s “Madea Goes to Jail” again features Perry in his Madea drag, playing the rambunctious grandmother. It’s based on his stage play of the same name.

“I wanted to have some fun and act a fool, and that’s what I did,” says Perry, who says this will be the last Madea movie. But he will create one more stage play to officially send her off.

“I have to say goodbye,” he says.

Topics: tyler perry
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