Tyler Perry practices what he preaches, and what he preaches has endeared him to millions of fans drawn by that unique blend of spiritual hope and down-home humor that continues to shape his inspiring life story and extraordinary body of work.
Here, he talks about his latest film, "Madea's Witness Protection," which he not only wrote, directed and produced, but also stars in, playing three roles, including the sassy, straight-talking title character.
Kam Williams: Hi Tyler. I'm very honored to be speaking with you again, brother.
Tyler Perry: Oh, good, Kam! How're you doing?
KW: Great! I really enjoyed this film. Where did you come up with the inspired idea of mixing Madea with a family in the Witness Protection Program?
TP: I was having dinner with a friend, and we were talking about Bernie Madoff, and he said, "You know what would be a great punishment for Bernie Madoff? If he had to go live with Madea." (Chuckles) I thought, man, that's a great concept! I need to go write that script. And then when I asked myself who could play the Bernie Madoff character, of course, I thought of Eugene Levy.
KW: How did you determine the casting? Looks like you went for a lot of veteran comedians this time out: Eugene Levy of the "American Pie" franchise, John Amos of "Good Times," Marla Gibbs of "The Jeffersons," Doris Roberts of "Everybody Loves Raymond," and even Charlie Sheen, if you don't mind my mentioning him in this article since he makes such a surprising cameo.
TP: That's okay, since he's only in the outtakes at the very end of the movie. But I was definitely looking for some heavyweights to help me carry the picture, and those were the right people to rely on. So, I'm pretty excited about it.
KW: What message do you want people to take away from "Madea's Witness Protection Program?"
TP: What is clear to me is that it's about everything in your life: work, and struggling, and paying attention to grinding, grinding, grinding. It takes their going into a simple situation, living with Madea, a woman who doesn't even have wi-fi, to realize what family is, come back together, and get to know each other.
KW: I have some questions for you from fans. Leon Marquis asks: "Do you wear a girdle as Madea?"
TP: (LOL) You tell Leon, "Hell no!" It's bad enough being stuffed into that costume. It's just one piece that gets zipped up the back.
KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier asks: "Is there a new genre of movie that you would like to make in the future?"
TP: Absolutely! It's not a new genre, but a new genre for me: sci-fi. I have a great sci-fi story that I'm currently working on. I'm going to be all over the place... all over the place.
KW: Patricia also asks: "What advice do you have for young people entering the movie industry who want to be multifaceted like you are?"
TP: You have to want it more than breathing. Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you're a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life.
KW: Jessica Angelique says: "Mr. Perry, I have recently published my autobiography, "Alas Peace Be Still," (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1468134051/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20) which is dedicated to you. I was inspired to write it after experiencing a catharsis while listening to you share your life story with Oprah Winfrey on October 27th, 2010. I wanted to know if you would be so kind as to write a few words for the foreword of the second edition. I also hope to actually meet you in person one day to be able to thank you for what you did for me. I don't think I would be alive today had it not been for your help and the grace of God."
TP: Wow! That's pretty powerful. Yes, I'd love to, Jessica. Get a copy of the book to me, Kam.
KW: Sticking with the Oprah theme, legal recruiter Nicole Ibanez wants to know why you always cry on Oprah.
TP: (LOL) I've been on Oprah a dozen times, and cried once. Tell Nicole to lighten up.
KW: The Kerry Washington question: "If you were an animal, what animal would you be?"
TP: That depends on the time of day, because I go from a lion in the morning to a black bear in the evening.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: "How can your fans help you?"
TP: I had one request when I started doing the plays. My prayer was: God let me do well enough to be able to take care of my mother. I was able to do that 'til the day she died because of my audience. So, they've already done enough. All I ask for now is their continued support.
KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: "When do you feel the most content?"
TP: When I have absolutely nothing to do, and I find myself in the middle of all of it going, "Wow!" When nothing's going on, that's when I get to stop and really appreciate the journey.
KW: What do you wish other people would note about you?
TP: I've been pretty transparent with all that I've done. I think my work speaks a lot for who I am. So, I don't think there's a particular thing I'd like them to know.
KW: What motivates you?
TP: Gosh, the motivations have changed so much over the years. Today, seeing people laugh definitely inspires me, and so does seeing people get life lessons about living better.
KW: What defines who you are?
TP: My faith in God.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
TP: Don't. They should be finding their own paths.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Tyler, and best of luck with the movie.
TP: Thank you, Kam.
To see a trailer for Madea's Witness Protection, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDNa72ZgymY