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Tyler Perry Interview: 'I Want My Films to be Relevant to People’s Lives'

( [email protected] ) Mar 11, 2014 03:51 PM EDT
There's a familiar thread that runs through most of Tyler Perry's films, for the actor, director and playwright has long embraced religion in his projects.
Tyler Perry - photo by Royalty Image

There's a familiar thread that runs through most of Tyler Perry's films, for the actor, director and playwright has long embraced religion in his projects.

Whether it's "Good Deeds," "Why Did I Get Married?" "The Family That Preys," or his latest film "The Single Moms Club," there's always a life-affirming message about faith, family and friendship.

"Being a man of faith, I don't want to do films just to make money," shares Perry, who was born into poverty and raised in a household scarred by abuse. "If it's not speaking to somebody or not encouraging somebody, then I am not doing what I am here to do. There are lots of people who do film and television and entertain, but I feel like I have a responsibility to impact some sort of something."

Sharing meaningful and uplifting stories is Perry's top priority. In eight years he's helmed several inspirational themed films and plays including "Woman Thou Art Loosed!," a collaboration with pastor T.D. Jakes, and fought from a young age to find the strength, faith and perseverance that would later form the foundations of his much-acclaimed projects.

Physically abused by his father and sexually molested by other adults, he's been able to transcend his horrific childhood by writing stories and is the first African-American to own a major film and TV studio.

His first play "I Know I've Been Changed" which he spent his life savings to produce in 1992 was a gospel musical about two adult survivors of child abuse. With just a handful of people in the audience, the play was a flop and he spent several years living in his car and credits his faith in God for sustaining him through the dark years.

Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry at the Oscars - photo credit Bryan Crowe

His core audiences are black churchgoers, but Perry has managed through a distribution deal with Lionsgate studio and collaboration with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) to tap into mainstream America. His films, plays and the TV shows on the cable networks TBS and OWN have featured several award-winning actors and actresses from Cosby Show's Keshia Knight Pulliam, Louis Gossett Jr., Janet Jackson, Angela Bassett, Kathy Bates, Kerry Washington to Wendi McLendon-Covey who stars in his latest film "The Single Moms Club."

A film which follows a group of single mothers who create a support group, for Perry, who is taking a break from film to concentrate on TV, it's a project that's long overdue.

"This movie is something I needed to be addressed, and is something I have wanted to do for a while, as I felt that it would be inspiring and really encouraging to a lot of people. This is about women who are doing what they have to do for their kids and making it happen."

Singles Moms Club
The stars of The Single Moms Club Nia Long, (left), Wendi McLendon-Covey, (left center), Zulay Henao, (right center), and Cocoa Brown, right Photo Credit K C Bailey

Also starring Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Terry Crews and William Levy, Perry's spirited comedy follows five single mothers whose children - thanks to a generous scholarship program - all attend an exclusive prep school. The mothers range from a white career-driven woman to an African-American fast food worker who find themselves united after their children are threatened with expulsion for bad behavior. Together, they form the Single Moms Club, a haven for single mothers seeking support and an understanding ear.

Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry on the set of The Single Moms Club Photo Credit K C Bailey

"What was important for me to show is that no matter what your background or color is we are all dealing with the same issues. We are all in the same situation and all need support for each other," adds the media mogul who hopes the Single Moms Club model might inspire other single mothers to form clubs of their own.

"I want my films to be relevant to people's lives and give them hope, so it's important to deal with subjects like single parenthood and poverty, but at the same time point the way forward through laughter, love and faith."

"Single Moms Club" releases in theaters March 14.

Single Moms Club

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