Tyler Perry in Madea Goes to Jail.
When it comes to pleasing his fans and expanding his box office receipts, Tyler Perry hits the jackpot whenever his alter ego Madea pops up.
The no-nonsense, law-breaking and tactless character makes her first full appearance in a Perry flick since 2006’s Madea’s Family Reunion in Madea Goes to Jail. Perry had her appear in a cameo role in last year’s Meet the Browns to set up his current film that hits theaters on Friday.
The film, which stars Perry, Derek Luke, former “Cosby” kid Keshia Knight Pulliam, Ion Overman, Viola Davis, Sofia Vergara, Tamela Mann and David Mann, has Madea serving time for a variety of crimes, like assaulting police officers after taking them on a high-speed chase. The subplot features Luke as a successful attorney whose fiancée (Overman) sets up a prostitute (Pulliam), who happens to be an old friend of Luke’s character.
Fandango: Can you talk a little bit about Madea’s “resurrection”?
Tyler Perry: [laughs] The Madea resurrection! She hadn’t been buried that long but hopefully after this time she’ll be buried a little longer. Actually, I’m going to do another Madea film right after this one and then she’s going to go away for a long time.
Fandango: You are always able to put together some nice casts. Talk about your choices for this film.
Perry: I wanted to work with Derek. We hadn’t had a chance to work together and we wanted to. He’s just a great guy. Keshia, who would have thought of little Rudy as a prostitute? When I look at her I do not see Rudy anywhere.
Fandango: You just opened up your massive studio in Atlanta. What did you set that company up for?
Perry: Tyler Perry’s brand is faith, family and this whole thing that I’ve built, while my company, 34th Street Films, is like Disney’s Touchstone. We can do anything. People don’t know what to expect from me yet.
Fandango: You do so much—movies, plays, books, television. What does a day off feel like?
Perry: I work three months really hard, nonstop, and then I take a month off. Then I do it all over again. I work hard but I give myself four breaks a year.
Fandango: Both “Meet the Browns” and “House of Payne” are doing exceptionally well. Any more TV shows planned?
Perry: I don’t know. I’d love to do a young, hot, sexy show but I can’t talk about it too much right now. With those two on the air, you move right on to the next one. When you get your shot, keep going. You give me one, I’ve got another one.
Fandango: Can you talk about what Madea will be doing next?
Perry: You know what? The next movie won’t be a Madea movie. She’s in it just for the sake of comedy. If I could not have her in it and just write it as a drama I would. But black dramas are so hard to sell—even to us. I’m thinking it’s going to be a huge musical. I’d love to put Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. and Gladys Knight and Marvin Winans and a whole bunch of folks in it. So, we’ll see.
Fandango: Why do you think black drama is still such a hard sell?
Perry: Because we want to laugh! We’ve got too much drama in our own lives. We don’t want to sit there for two hours and be sad and depressed. We need to laugh!
Fandango: Some people in this town are still surprised by your success. Has Hollywood been everything you thought it would be?
Perry: I didn’t really know what to expect until I got here. I thought it was this really wonderful magical place that when you came here all your dreams came true. Then I got here and saw what it does to people. I’ve recently seen the worst and the ugliness of the business and that is very disheartening. That’s why I’m glad I’m in Atlanta. I’m glad I’m out of it. I’m glad I’m in it but not of it. It is what I thought it was, but it’s a beast that has a heartbeat of its own and will tear you apart too.
Fandango: Tell us about the situation with the Writers Guild. [Last October the WGA filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Perry of firing four writers who were reportedly attempting to unionize. The two sides eventually worked out a deal.]:
Perry: I was so mad about that. Here’s the thing. I have a deal with SAG, I have a deal with the DGA, I have a deal with the Teamsters. Every union had given me a fantastic deal. They knew I didn’t have any money. They knew I wasn’t Disney, they knew I wasn’t Sony. The only people I didn’t have a deal with were the WGA. I called them five months before all this stuff started happening trying to negotiate a deal. The last deal [they offered] me I said, I can’t afford to sign this deal. In the end, I ended up getting a better deal because the NAACP got involved. But me, personally, I will never be a member of the WGA because of the way that deal went down. It was the nastiest thing I’d ever seen and that made me see the nasty side of the business.
Fandango: Last question: What is the coolest part about being you?
Perry: Besides making other people’s dreams come true? That’s really cool. It’s almost like having a game show. Like I’m on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”
Miki Turner is an award-winning writer and producer in Los Angeles who has written for various publications and websites including MSNBC.com, Ebony, Essence, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Orange County Register and the Chicago Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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