ENTERTAINMENT/FILM/OPINION

MY INTERVIEW WITH
TYLER PERRY

“Believe me, believe me, this woman exists,” said actor/director Tyler Perry. So, is he saying is that there are cold-hearted Black women who break the spirits of good Black men like Sanaa Lathan’s character, Andrea, in his new movie, “The Family That Preys?” And this certain kind of woman is lurking among orthodox Black women – you know, the ones who got her man’s back, encourages him to pursue his dreams and works side by side with him to excavate parts of his masculinity that has been buried underneath racism, social and economic injustice and other nasty little inequities born out of slavery? Seriously?

“I know three men that were married to a woman like that – saying what they wanna say, breaking us down, and devaluing us at every chance.” The movie mogul explained that the dynamic between Andrea and her husband, Chris, played by Rockmond Dunbar, isn’t based on a real life situation. He, instead, borrowed “their attitudes, their spirits” of those women to create the drama in this riveting storyline.

“I guess I would call her a villainess. She’s not the most honest person and does not have much integrity,” said Lathan, who had trouble playing such a ruthless person. Andrea is the first in her working-class family to graduate from college. She lands a seemingly high-paying job with a lucrative construction corporation owned by her mother’s (Alfre Woodard) best friend, Charlotte (Kathy Bates). Andrea stops at nothing to achieve the lifestyle she so desperately desires. “At times I wanted to play against her meanness, but Tyler would push me, saying ‘she’s ruthless, she’s cold.’ I guess there are people like that, so you can’t judge the character.”

And rather than judge the lives of rich people, the self-proclaimed ‘student of life’ made a movie about it. Perry said that after achieving a certain level of success, which included building a multimillion dollar mansion in an upscale neighborhood of Atlanta and a new studio facility near Greenbriar Mall, the fame became too much.

“I had all of these wonderful things going for me but I was unhappy because I lost so much of myself,” he said, recalling fans scaling up the fence around his home just to take a peek at him, and “people saying all kinds of nasty stuff about you who don’t have a clue of who you are and it really started to bother me and I started to write this movie. And when Charlotte, Kathy Bate’s character, had that issue I was like whoa.”

Growing up poor in New Orleans, Perry admitted that up until a few years ago his life had always evolved around poor and working class Blacks. Now, the once homeless man who slept in his car is, as Forbes magazine reported, building a billion-dollar fortune.

“The Family That Prey’s” is Perry’s sixth film; the other five have reportedly made $240 million at the box office, with three debuting at number one. His television show, “House of Payne,” has the highest ratings in the history of cable television and is now entering syndication. Not to mention that his stage plays have made over $150 million and sell out across the country, according to Forbes.

He’s rubbing elbows with those donned in expensive tailor-made attire, and dealing with the troubles that come with money, as with Charlotte and her son, William, played by Cole Hauser. William’s shady business dealings continue to extinguish his relationship with his mother – a byproduct of wealth that Perry said happens in real life. “My entire life I’ve lived in a Black neighborhood. I went to all Black schools, went to work and not see anybody that didn’t look like me. Then, I move to Atlanta [and then] to Buckhead and started meeting a lot of different people. That’s why I wanted to write about it. But I know a lot of people that have those relationships that are not redeemed and I didn’t want to make it fake.”

And audiences will get a dose of reality witnessing Chris cope with his treacherous relationship with Andrea. “I’m one of those men who loves his wife through and through,” said Dunbar of his character. “But she’s an adulteress and I’m sort of gullible. There’s a point in the film where you go ‘wow, you didn’t see that coming!”

Perry admitted to being blinded by love like Chris and even shedding some tears, but quickly clarified, “I’ve only cried once in a relationship and I was so frustrated and that ain’t me at all.” He finally had to make a choice between himself and the relationship. And what came of that experience? “I wrote ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ So she is a combination of a few women in that movie. I take everything to the screen.”

To balance the scheming and conniving plotlines, Perry’s character, Ben, and his wife, Pam (Taraji Henson), offer a look into a working-class Black family with dreams. Unlike his character, who gave up on his dreams a long time ago and is now bogged down with fear of jeopardizing his family’s survival, Perry said the lack of family responsibilities is part of the reason why he is who he is today. “I didn’t date much. If I had been dating or had kids I wouldn’t be here because I wouldn’t have been able to take my family through the things I went through, being homeless, struggling and all of that stuff.” But he said even with responsibilities dreams have a way of coming true.

“When you truly have a dream and God gives it to you, your spouse doesn’t have to do anything because if God gave you the dream there’s a point in your life where, even if you’ve given up and you’re tired and you can’t make it, the dream will take over itself. The dream will start to bring you into situations that you didn’t know you’ll be in. The dream will introduce you to people that will make you know you can do this too. The dream will take you there. So you don’t have to do much but just pray for the dream. The Bible says when a dream is deferred you can really, really become miserable, but when it comes it springs forth like a tree. It brings forth new life. There is a place where the dream will believe.”

Yaminah Ahmad is editor-in-chief of The Atlanta Voice and contributing editor to Collective Voices, a newspaper published by the non-profit, SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective. More information on the group can be found at www.sistersong.net. Ahmad can be reached at missyaminah@gmail.com.


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Comments

September 11th, 2008 at 10:34 pm SweetSis says:

Am I wrong or does this one not look atrocious? Am I blinded by Alfre and Kathy Bates? Did you see already Yaminah? What did you think?

September 11th, 2008 at 10:35 pm SweetSis says:

And that Cole Hauser is a QT!

September 11th, 2008 at 10:55 pm Sasha Fuller says:

Definitely checking this out this weekend. Thanks. Was he nice or arrogant?

September 11th, 2008 at 11:03 pm RedRazor says:

Ah! Sanaa! That is all you had to say!

September 11th, 2008 at 11:13 pm PATTY CAKE says:

This is a great interview with both Tyler Perry and Sanaa Lathan, Miss Yaminag. So it is about a vindictive woman and the end she gets hit? I don’t know, but I’ll have to see for myself. It does sound suspect to me.

September 11th, 2008 at 11:15 pm PATTY CAKE says:

I hear you Sweet Sis on the white boy. I liked him in a lot of stuff.

September 11th, 2008 at 11:26 pm renep says:

I’M SEEING THIS AT THE 6:30 SHOW RIGHT AFTER WORK. WE ALREADY GOT OUR TICKETS. IT IS ME & MY SISTERS TRADITION!

September 12th, 2008 at 12:02 am thelma says:

Everytime I think he has a good one it turns out to be crappy. I aint falling for it again. No Way.

September 12th, 2008 at 12:45 am kamalp says:

$240 mil, dang I need to make a movie fo realz.

September 12th, 2008 at 1:01 am culturepop says:

Something about Tyler has never settled right with me. I mean, I definitely give the brother his props and I think he is talented and I ain’t mad at his loot. Its just SOMETHING ya know? Am I trippin?

September 12th, 2008 at 1:57 am nicq says:

Sanna is hella fine!

September 12th, 2008 at 4:04 am Miss Yaminah says:

@SweetSis: I did see it and it was really good! The cast is fantastic and the storyline is good. I’m going to see it again.
@Sasha Fuller: He was very humble. He could be the dude you strike up a good conversation with while waiting for the bus. Very personable.
@RedRazor: Sanaa did her thing in this movie. I’m still made at her character!
@Patty Cake: Go see it. You’ll enjoy it.
@Renep: I don’t know how it is where you live, but here in Atlanta, it’s Tyler Perry Country when he has a movie coming out and if you don’t get your tickets early, you’ll have to wait! I tried to buy tickets for Why Did I Get Married three times before I was finally able to see it. Glad you got yours!
@Thelma: LOL. Tell us how you really feel! You didn’t like Why Did I Get Married? I watch that all the time.
@Kamalp: After talking with him I think the key is to just do what’s in your heart and the money will come
@Culturepop: Trust your instincts. I’ll tell you that if you had that feeling about me.
@Nicq: I’ll guess you’ll be at the movies!

September 12th, 2008 at 6:17 am Elsa Harkins says:

Sanaa always seemed stuck up to me. I don’t know why. I can’t put my finger on it. I never been a fan. She might be the only thing that keeps me away especially if she is playing a real mean character. No thank you. I got enough real stuck up chicks in my life to need to pay to spend 2 hours with one. l-o-l

September 12th, 2008 at 8:42 am BigAaron says:

I like his movies because he has a point to them. I mean that is all I ask of our entertainers; entertain with a purpose to uplift and inspire not degrade us. I don’t believe that is too much to ask.

September 12th, 2008 at 9:17 am Ashley says:

Love the last paragraph about where your dream will take you. That is a beautiful thought.

September 12th, 2008 at 9:18 am Krista Wills says:

House of Payne is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen! I’m happy that he is employing black folks in all areas in front of and behidn the camera. But good lord! It looks like a chitlin curcuit play where folks can’t remember lines and nobody yells CUT!

September 12th, 2008 at 9:52 am Tina says:

Why Did I Get Married is the first of his films that I really liked. The other ones had scenes that where just way to over the top for me. WDIGM seemed more real. I am looking for to this new one because they do seem to be getting better and better.

September 12th, 2008 at 10:13 am lilmamma86 says:

I love me some Madea!!!

September 12th, 2008 at 11:06 am Mr.Fantastic says:

I loved “Why Did I get Married” so i think ill go check this one out too

September 12th, 2008 at 3:34 pm pmatters says:

That is dope that you got to interview Tyler Perry. I’ll be there this weekend front and center. I love his movies. Even the corny ones.

September 12th, 2008 at 7:54 pm just2bee says:

I will chekc this out I really like Alfre Woordard

September 12th, 2008 at 10:09 pm TylerLover says:

I cannot wait to see this tomorrow!!!! Thanks for the interview!

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