It’s a sunny afternoon in central London and I find myself in the rather grand setting of Dorchester Hotel. I’m here as one of the most important filmmakers to emerge in the last decade, Tyler Perry as well as the star of his latest film Singer and actress Janet Jackson are both in the UK to promote his latest film Why Did I get Married Too? The movie is released on Friday 3rd September.
Since releasing his first film Diary of a Mad Black Woman in 2002, Perry has seen all his subsequent releases go straight into the US Top Ten and make over $500 Million at the American box office. Yet this is his first film to get a UK release and it’s a sequel to the 2007 release Why Did I Get Married? As with all his previous work Perry both writes, directs as well as stars in a movie which explores the lives of four sets of married couples on their annual holiday.
The first thing I’ve noticed about the film is the undercurrent of Christian themes running through this and your other films. Is this deliberate?
Tyler Perry: For me absolutely. You know what the thing is I don’t know how to solve any of my issues without praying or talking to God. So when I’m writing characters I‘m not one of these writers who’s had a lot of education and went to school and studied abroad to learn all these wonderful things. For me it’s just simple, if I write a character and then they have issues and I don’t know how to solve them I do what I do as a person, and that is pray.
Would you also agree that your work is very family orientated?
TP: It comes from all the years I did touring and seeing the people coming to my shows, I’d see entire families. I’m currently on tour with the show Madea’s Big Happy Family, and there are entire generations and entire families represented. So I know my audience and know who I’m speaking to and I know that I can’t target one group out of such a broad base so I’m trying to speak to all of them as best I can.
Janet, how is it playing Patricia again? When Tyler came back to you and said he wanted you to reprise the role how did you feel about it?
Janet Jackson: I was really excited. Tyler said he was taking her places that I wouldn’t expect. And when I actually read the script I was shocked and very excited because it was something I’d never done in any film before.
The audience was actually gasping in the screening I attended because there’s a mixture of comedy and drama in there. One scene especially comes to mind where you use a golf club to destroy your home. When you get to that scene was it rehearsed or did Tyler say just go with what you feel is right?
JJ: It was more of a blocking moment, I call it a rehearse but it wasn’t, it was blocking. He told me “go here, go there. You can take this, this and this and throw it and the rest you can’t“.
TP: I was worried that there were some things that were fake and other things that were real and she [Janet] was just so in the moment. Like the dining room table was real glass and I was really worried about her breaking the table. If you look at the cut she goes down and then we did a special cut for the scene but the rest she really does go bananas on.
And you really did hurt your foot during the scene, didn’t you?
JJ: Yes. There were 3 irons [golf clubs] that I used and one of them, the first one broke and the broken piece hit me on my foot and it was so swollen for the duration of the shoot I thought that I might not be able to dance. It was pretty bad. I hit Tyler in the elbow and I didn’t know it.
TP: Then she hid it from me. We’re going over to do the next scene and ask, “Where’s Janet? Oh she’s back there.” I go back and people are saying “Oh she’s fine, she’s fine” and I ask what you talking about and there she is with a bag of ice on her ankle. She didn’t even tell me, she was just ready to go back and do the next scene.
So were you in the zone by that point then?
JJ: Well yes, definitely in the moment and feeling the character. But we had a job to do and wanted to get it done. Also I didn’t want Tyler to worry about me either, which he did anyway. He kept asking about my foot anyway and I told him it was going to be fine.
TP: I stopped asking you about a year later. I think it.s fine now, with those shoes on it has to be fine.
Tyler you’ve mentioned that you know your audience in America. Now you’re bringing all your work in the UK do you think it’ll cross cultures?
TP: This is why I’m here to find out. I know that these stories are universal but I also know there’s a different way of viewing films. Even in the US, there are very different cultures that view things very differently and could be shocked at some of the things that happen in this film. Because it is so schizophrenic: it’s drama, it’s comedy, it’s Christian. They might ask themselves “What is this?” So it’ll be interesting to see how it plays but I’m looking forward to it though.
So why’s has it taken so long for your work to get in the UK?
TP: Somebody had to say that this could be done. This is the only thing in my life where someone had to physically [tell me]. I’m a hands-on type of guy, you can’t tell me “You can do this and it’ll be great”.
Will Smith brought me over here about a year ago while he was promoting Seven Pounds and he showed me that this was possible. You can bring your films here. There is an audience here. In the States, we as African-American people in film are taught that there is no market for us overseas. It’s deliberately told to us quite a bit.
Really, you believe so?
TP : Oh, no it is. There is no overseas market for you in film at all. This is what is said to us.
This is Hollywood we’re talking about?
TP: Oh, yes this is Hollywood. So it took Will Smith to take the time to bring me over and say they’re wrong, there is a market. It’s really great.
Janet I’d like to talk about Patricia giving out advice but not prepared to take it. Would you say that’s true of all of us that easier to give advice that to take it?
JJ: She’s great at giving advice but it’s not the fact she doesn’t want to take it, but she doesn’t want to look at her own issues. I think some of us aren’t great at taking advice. Don’t you Tyler?
TP: What are you saying Janet. What you trying to say Janet. No, no. Janet has said this numerous times about herself, there was a point in her life were she could help everybody else with their issues but couldn’t help herself or would not help herself. So Janet why you throwing it on me?
JJ: We were talking about people receiving advice.
TP: What advice did you give me? Why you making this a moment?
Can I ask you about the film’s theme tune entitled Nothing: was it recorded before the film or after?
JJ: Once the film was finished I actually viewed it and wrote the song with Jermaine Dupri and presented it to Tyler. It was inspired by the characters in the film and he liked it.
TP: It’s a really beautiful song and has charted in all types of charts.
So is your focus music or is it acting? Will you be doing another album?
JJ: I’ll have to see.
TP: I want her to do an album called True You to accompany her book of the same name.
Can you tell us a little something about the book?
JJ: People ask me about the weight gain and the weight loss and how I did it and what sort of programme I was on. So instead of writing about that I wanted to go back to the very beginning which is my childhood. It’s not an autobiography but there are anecdotes about my entire life from my childhood till now. You’ll be able to see how I’ve gotten to where I am in certain places.
TP: Can’t you say that in music?
JJ: No, and I smiled when you said that because that was an idea we talked about. I wanted the book to appeal to kids and teens and also it speaks about self-esteem. Because I wish I had something like this when I was a kid to read as it may have helped me.
So it’s a self-help book?
JJ: Yes it is. I’m not saying I’m any sort of guru but this is my journey that I went through. Hopefully someone will get something very positive from it too.
Janet, when will you next tour the UK?
JJ: I don’t know it’s been twelve years since the last time I was here. I love touring and I love London and I do plan on coming back.
Finally Tyler, you mentioned that you’ve been touring your stage production around the US, any plans do anything on the stage here?
TP: Oh, yes were looking into that.
Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? is released in cinemas across the UK on 3rd September. His earlier works Why Did I Get Married?, Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion are all available to buy or rent on DVD from stockists.
Janet Jackson’s True You is due to be published in the US sometime in autumn of 2010.
Posted: Monday 6th September 2010 1:35 am
Tags: Black Films