Q&A with Tyler Perry on Madea, new movies
Here are excerpts from the interview where Perry talks about the movie, the power of Netflix, a possible sci-fi movie, and the opening of Tyler Perry Studios for public tours.
AJC: Was the idea for this film born after the start of the pandemic?
Pear: Yes. A little after that. I watched how angry we all seemed and we all seemed alienated from the world. I wanted to do something to talk about it.
AJC: Did you decide to address COVID in any way in the film?
Pear: Joe’s character mentions it but the problem is that we live it in reality so I didn’t want to put it in the movie.
AJC: What was it like getting the Madea outfit back on after a few years off?
Pear: It’s old hat. It was like what I’ve been doing for twenty years. It was about setting it up, spreading it and doing it. But I wanted to add a few things to it that would make it better for me and more fun, so having Brendon O’Carroll because our careers were so parallel [O’Carroll made a name for himself in the U.K. playing a foul-mouthed matriarch Agnes Brown on stage and on TV.]. He’s older than me, but our birthdays are a few days apart. He was in Europe doing plays and on television playing Mrs. Brown. I was in America at the same time. So when I found out about him and called him, I said it was something we had to do. The timing worked.
AJC: How did you hear about him?
Pear: I was doing this movie “Brain on Fireand the director said, ‘Have you ever heard of Mrs. Brown?’ I said no, so I watched clips on YouTube and I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I was watching her story and our careers and our lives were so parallel. Quite deep.
AJC: Do you think many of your viewers will know who he is? They will have to look for him.
Pear: It will be a good mix of people who do and a lot of people who don’t. At the same time, a large part of his audience will not know who I am. It’s a good game. Both audiences will need to find out who the other person is.
AJC: Can you give a little insight into what Madea fans should expect in this film?
Pear: His great-grandson is graduating and he comes home and he has a secret he wants to share with the family. Once he does, it opens up a lot of conversations. But more than anything, what I want people to remember is the laughter. I don’t want them to take it too seriously. Don’t dig too hard. Relax and go for a ride.
AJC: When you think of Madea, do you feel like she’s evolved in any way?
Pear: I tried to keep it as close to what it always was. I didn’t want to water it down or change it too much. In this movie, I allowed her to go as far as she ever went and say things she never said. But you have to be sensitive to a lot of things going on now, that’s for sure.
AJC: Your first 11 Madea films were released in theaters primarily in the United States. This is the first time Madea has made its world debut at the same time.
Pear: That’s the magic of Netflix. I’m really, really excited about this because I want to see what it’s like… After all these years of being told that black movies don’t travel, that they don’t do well overseas, that a film comes out all over the world and to be able to get that data in real time is really powerful.
AJC: Why did you decide to work with Netflix instead of sticking with Lionsgate and releasing the films theatrically?
Pear: It’s just the time and day and how much things have changed. My hope is that movie theaters exist forever because I want my son and his son to have that experience in a movie theater with a big giant screen. Some films are made to be seen like this. But to be with a streamer as big as Netflix, from my first encounter I had with them, I was blown away by their approach to everything, what they know about diversity and being the company that they are, I was thrilled to work with them and it was great.
AJC: Did your first Netflix film “A Fall From Grace” shape your approach to this second film?
Pear: I think it shaped their process a lot more than mine. I don’t think they were aware of the success it would have. It was a huge success for them and I think it just opened the doors to a lot of other things, which is great. And to be such a small film that we did so quickly and so well is really powerful. I always knew what I could bring to the table. I think now that they understand what I can do, it has changed some things for sure.
AJC: That doesn’t stop you from making another movie in a theater, does it?
Pear: I will absolutely continue to put movies in theaters because a lot of movie chains really like it when I drop movies, especially in certain parts of the country.
AJC: “Don’t Look Up” received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Are you surprised to have been involved in this project?
Pear: I am grateful for Adam [McKay] Who wrote this. The more nominations like that you get, the more eyeballs you get. I hope this will help to better understand where we are and what we are doing.
AJC: What is your thought process when people approach you to do acting gigs that aren’t your plans? I guess you have a lot.
Pear: I really do not know ! I have to feel like it’s a director I want to work with, the story I want to do and the timing, how long they would need. For this role, it was like 12 days.
AJC: You came very naturally as a morning host.
Pear: Adam is brilliant in that sense. It is very improvised. I hear him in the back yelling great ad-lib lines. He’s a great writer, really funny so I just did my best to honor what he had in mind.
AJC: Is there a new genre of movie or TV show you could pursue on the road?
Pear: Sci-fi, those kind of movies I would love. Doing “Star Trek” I loved. I’m there in a heartbeat. I have an interest there. It depends on the character. If the character is going to be dark and crazy, that doesn’t necessarily interest me.
AJC: So, Could a Tyler Perry Sci-Fi Movie Happen?
Pear: I wrote a sci-fi movie that I’m hanging on to, so we’ll see.
AJC: So you have time to write stuff down and put it away?
Pear: Sometimes I get these ideas and start jotting things down. I will write 10 pages here, 12 pages there. A month later, I put it all together and realized I had 90 pages.
AJC: Just before the pandemic, I wrote about your plans to open Tyler Perry Studios to public tours. Obviously, the pandemic has delayed that. What is the status now?
Pear: Part of this 37 acre parcel that I just purchased will have a restaurant, museum and theater in front of the studio. There will also be a place to take a ride.
AJC: Will it happen in 2023, 2024?
Pear: I hope for 2023, 2024, if everything falls into place.
WHERE TO LOOK
“A Madea Homecoming,” available to Netflix subscribers February 25