*Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family” hits theaters today and there’s already been a maelstrom of media scrutiny surrounding the film. Some of it’s good and some of it, as is the case with his ‘Spike can go to hell’ statement, did raise an eyebrow or two.
But, no matter what you think, Perry has a solid following of ever loyal fans who appear to be multiplying exponentially. This is the sixth film in which Perry will be playing the role of Madea.
EURweb.com’s El Heffe Lee Bailey was on hand for the recent press junket/conference in Los Angeles. A reporter asked Perry whether any of his cast members were caught off guard when they first saw him directing in drag.
“It wasn’t challenging for those people who are used to seeing me like this,” said Perry. “But for the people who aren’t used to seeing me in a wig and make up, they may not be used to seeing me say ‘Well you move over there and you move over there, but when the camera’s come on I say ‘Hello’r’ but it works well.”
Though Madea’s fanbase initially had a stronghold among black southerners, the character’s popularity is growing at a rapid pace among people from all over the country. Here Tyler tells reporters why he feels the character’s appeal is universal.
“I think everybody loves Madea, Black, White, Latin,” said Perry. “If you’re from a certain generation you knew this grandmother. She said what she wanted to say, she didn’t care. If you said something wrong she would smack you in the ass. She’s just that old, haggered, tough cookie.”
Though the Madea, Mr. Brown and Cora characters are mainstays in Tyler’s work, each of his films introduce a newness because of the rotation of new characters with which Madea interacts.
“When I wrote it I knew that I had a certain group of people that I wanted to work with me,” he explained. “Lauren (London), and Bow Wow, and Teyana (Taylor). I wanted a younger, more exciting group. Cassi (Davis), David and Tamela (Mann) and I had worked with before. Isaiah (Mustafa), I was just really interesting in giving him the chance to do something different and Loretta (Devine)is the hardest working woman in Hollywood. That’s why she’s not here, because she’s working. I just wanted a good healthy cast. We had a lot of fun.”
Though Perry and cast appear to have had a wonderful time during the filming, he told reporters this film’s subject matter was actually picked by the audience members of his plays.
“What’s easier about this one is I was on the road with this one doing the play,” explained Perry. “We did 125 shows in 126 days and Cassi was right there with me. But, the audience told me. The audience told me what they wanted to see. They wanted more Madea. I think you put all the movies together and this is more Madea than all of the others combined.”
No matter who you are, what side of the “buffonery” argument you take, one thing is for certain. You can’t sit and watch Tyler Perry as Madea and not laugh. Even some of Perry’s critics have relented regarding Madea’s comic appeal. But some just don’t get it, and will never get it.
“I pushed the envelope on this a little bit,” Perry told reporters. “When something happens to you at 40 and you loose your mother, it just doesn’t even matter anymore (what people say). I just don’t take things as seriously as I used to. I know the church folks are going to be like ‘Oh Lord!’ Listen, I’ve got some people who have a problem everytime I say ‘Hell’ in one of the shows. There are going to be those that think it’s too much, but then there are others who know what Madea is and what Madea is not. Madea is not the Christian in the movie but Christian themes are represented there. So sorry, so sorry. I felt Spike in the air. So sorry. I was waiting on you to ask me, Lee,” joked Perry
Though we are aware that some folks about which we write occasionally come to EURweb.com we were a little bit taken aback to find out Perry may be one of them. He may have read or word or two penned by yours truly as well, a surreal feeling to be certain. Tyler tells reporters that his brand of comedy is based on happenings he encounters throughout his day. There’s pleasure and pain that are culled as fuel for his works.
“Well, I’m black and I live in a neighborhood where … for example the scene from the drive thru. I went to a Burger King in Atlanta and I pulled up to the window and ordered a whooper and the lady said ‘We ain’t got no meat!’ See, you can’t make that up. That’s where the whole Madea scene comes from. So (it’s about) being able to have those sorts of experiences from being around people that are going through something, and people that will tell you the truth. Also, this is around the time my mother died. I needed a place to go and grieve after my mother died. So, I wrote this and went on the road with it.”
Though the laughs in the average Tyler Perry offering are on rapid fire, Perry says this offering was cathartic. He was troubled by the loss of his mother, and the loss of his 30s as well.
“I needed a place to deal with it and I shut everything down,” he explained of his reaction to the death of this mother. “I was supposed to do a movie ‘Colored Girls’ as a matter of fact and I just wrote this and took it on the road. Cassi was with me the whole time because her father had died just 10 years ago. Nobody prepared me for turning 40 and nobody prepared me for that kind of grief. The two of them were a lot to deal with and I’m so glad that the people were there to help me deal with it. There’s nothing wrong with being 40, but nobody prepares you for what happens because you get in this place where you’re like ‘You know what? You can really … go to hell!’
As was reported in a prior story here on EURweb.com, Perry did in fact tell one of his alleged critics to ‘go straight to hell.’ That critic was Spike Lee, who has gone on record as stating he felt Perry’s works were “coonery.” Though Spike is known as an outspoken critic of well … just about everything, Tyler has taken it to heart perhaps because Lee’s quotes are continually thrown in his face. Honestly, we can’t remember the last time Spike has said anything new about Tyler. It’s more like Spike according to reporters. Be that as it may we understand that Perry had to speak up even if we don’t exactly agree with the manner in which it was done. Here Tyler addresses another criticism often levied on his works.
“They say white people don’t come see my (stuff). That’s a lie! I’m standing up on stage looking at thousands of people,” he explained. “Every race represented! I’m tired of it! I’m tired of just laying down, tired of letting people say whatever they want to say, however they want to say it, without people knowing what the attempt really is. That’s what the attempt is.”
As Perry finished his statement the reporters in the room erupted in applause. Ironically, these are some of the very same reporters who rapid fired Lee vs. Perry questions in the past.
“It’s never been about the money, and you can ask all these people here,” he said, referring to the Manns and Cassi. “It’s never been about the money. What was happening was I was trying to use my work to uplift somebody, make them laugh and give them a message. All of that other stuff just came. God bless that other stuff, but it has never been about the money.”
“Madea’s Big Happy Family” premiers today, April 22, and stars Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Bow Wow, David & Tamela Mann, Cassi Davis, Lauren London and Isiah Mustafa among others. Industry speculators feel there’s a good chance it could break $30 million the first week. Also, here’s to the hope that Perry and Lee can squash there creative differences.