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September 2007
An Interview with Tyler Perry and Janet Jackson

An Interview with Tyler Perry and Janet Jackson

By Wilson Morales

October 8, 2007

fter all the Madea films he’s created and played in, Tyler Perry is finally stepping out of character to actually play something normal, a regular married guy who goes through personal issues that others can relate with. In his film, “Why Did I Get Married?”, which he wrote and directed, Perry has some assembled some talent you wouldn’t think of including bringing back Janet Jackson to the acting field and introducing Jill Scott to the industry. Also featured in the film are Malik Yoba, Sharon Leal, Tasha Smith, Michael Jai White, Denise Boutte, Lamann Rucker.

A big-screen adaptation of Perry's hit stage play of the same title, "Why Did I Get Married?" is an intimate story about the difficulty of maintaining a solid love relationship in modern times told through 3 couple. As secrets are revealed, each couple begins questioning the validity of their own marriage. Jackson plays Patricia, a popular psychologist and best-selling author whose marriage to her architect husband Gavin, (Malik Yoba), goes through some turmoil when a secret tragedy that they shared finally comes to light; while Perry plays a doctor who’s getting fed up with his career driven wife (Sharon Leal). In speaking with blackfilm.com, both Perry and Jackson share their thoughts on the film and how it reflected their own personal lives.

Do you feel that this is your best film?

Tyler Perry: I feel that this is my best film because it’s about relationship and because I was going through so much madness when I wrote it. I brought it all to the movie and not only was it my best writing, my best directing, I think the cast made it even better. Everybody was perfect in their roles.

Well, you have Janet Jackson.

TP: Yes, you don’t get any better than Janet Jackson.

Janet Jackson: (Looking at Tyler) You brought so much to the film too. He knows what he wants.

Janet, you are a product of a long term marriage through your parents and for the both of you, I wanted to know who are your marriage role models and how does this film change your attitude about marriage now?

Janet: My marriage role models were not my parents. It was someone else that I knew that I consider my second mother. Her name was Mrs. Fine and his name was Sidney Fine and he was a composer, and she was our tutor for years. That’s who looked up to in looking at their marriage. They were just very loving and very close and always connected and communicative.

Tyler: I had the reverse. My mother and father had a really crazy relationship. I learned the reverse in that if do the opposite of what they did, then I have my answers to how to be a good husband.

As a director, do you feel this film is pro-marriage?

Tyler: I think it’s pro-marriage, pro-relationship, pro-family. It’s pro-individual. I think it’s pro-getting yourself together to be a couple. I think it’s all of those things.

Most of your scenes are pretty intense and I think people will get a kick watching you and Malik in the kitchen scene, but the movie has some strong emotional stuff. Can you talk about just connecting with that? I also think this the public see you in a performance they are not familiar with.

Janet: It is definitely a difference. Once again, I have to say Tyler is an actor’s director and he was very helpful in bringing that out in me, in the character. I didn’t have very much time to prepare for the character. I think it was than four days once we decided to do the film and then we had our first scene to shoot. It was a lot of emotional stuff and a lot of heavy stuff and it did wear on you and you did wind up taking a lot of that stuff home. There were moments were I did have to let it go because I was actually rehearsing for a show with the dancers in the band in the Bahamas. My days on set were dedicated to trying to be there and give Tyler what he wanted and what the character needed and do my job and then do my other job.

What emotional baggage did you take away from this? In other words, when Tyler says, “Cut”, do you just cut or were there stuff still inside of you that made you look at your own life?

Janet: There was stuff still inside of me. Just watching the movie makes you look at your own life. It’s about relationships. Whether you see can yourself in other characters and I saw a great of myself in Sheila (Jill Scott’s character) as a matter of fact. How she had self-esteem issues and how she blamed herself for it; and the cheating and there was one other thing, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is so much reminding myself so much of my life.” The name calling from her husband. So much of Sheila reminded me of my life. I have to stop for a second because this is catching up to me.

Tyler: As we were talking about it with Patricia and went over what would be the best character for her to play and how much she could relate to Sheila. I’m really glad she did this movie and glad she played Patricia because she did an amazing job at it.

While you were writing thing and writing the character of Sheila, was she putting on weight during her marriage and would say ‘Don’t touch me’ to her husband because he was really a mean man?

Tyler: That may have been something going on in her mind but I think she was really unhappy and she’s an emotional eater so the more unhappy she was the more she ate and it just became a vicious cycle; and then when she found somebody who was there to support her and say, “Wait a minute, I love you. Let me just show how much I love you. I don’t care about the weight. Let everyone else think about that. I’m just going to love you how you are.” I think it helped her.

Tyler, you did such a good job with the acting. You’re the director, the writer, and doing everything on this. How did you direct yourself and second, bringing this dramatic role for you and everyone else is somewhat new. Where did this come from?

Tyler: I think it’s always been there. With Madea, it comes naturally, only because it’s funny and silly. I can be silly in a heartbeat and Old Man Joe, I can be silly with him, so it’s natural thing. But to be exposed and to have people see me for the first time because this character is really close to who I am as a person and as a man, it was tough. I had such a great team around me. I had all this support and I’m watching the veterans and what they are doing, and that’s where it came from and I just to focus on the subtlety and I’m just really glad to not have a costume and a fat suit and it worked out well for me and I didn’t have to talk like Madea through the whole film, which was really nice for me.

Janet, did you know Jill prior to this? Tyler, what’s the dynamic to having two powerhouse women together?

Janet: Actually, I think I met Jill once prior to this. I don’t think she even remembers because we were at the table read, she came up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Jill Scott, nice to meet you.” We were at an awards and I was coming off stage and I told her I was a big fan although there was no time to speak or anything like that. It was just in passing. I think it’s absolutely wonderful. I love the fact that we were both able to be a part of this film. Just to be able to watch Jill and the work that she did in this film was so amazing. I thought she was absolutely wonderful in it.

It’s always interesting to see singers that act, and actors that sing. Do you use the same techniques when you are getting ready to do a role that you do when you are going on stage or about to sing something in a studio?

Janet: Like I said earlier, you do tap into your own life, and I always write about what’s going on in my life and bringing that to my music. You try to bring some of those truths that you have in your life and things you have experienced into the character.

What sort of scripts have you been getting?

Janet: It’s really difficult for me. The first thing is the scheduling issue. The timing was always wrong and it’s something I absolute love. I can’t do it because I’m recording or have to go on tour or promote an album; or there isn’t a script that I like. This was perfect because I wanted to do something that had an ensemble piece and the part was just the right size and I fell in love with the character because I was working on a tour and a performance I had to do, so I didn’t have a lot of time to give to be on the set each and every day; and the days I wasn’t there, I was doing my other job, so it was perfect for me.

Half of the marriages in America are ending in divorce and three members (Malik Yoba, Tasha Smith, and Jill Scot) of the cast were going through a divorce while the film was being shot. What do you think this film will do for people who are in that situation right now? Either they are thinking about getting married or thinking about getting a divorce.

Tyler: I’m hoping that it will make them really think about it. That 80/20 rule is so amazing. You’re either 80% of a person and end up with 20%. I borrowed that from T.D. Jakes. It’s so profound. In relationships you have to know what you have and you have to appreciate it, and when you begin to take it for granted, things can spiral out of control. What I’m hoping people will walk away from this in relationships is very simple. Do I stay or do I go? Make your list or all the good and all the bad, and that will give you your answer. The movie talks about so many lessons that could help and that could strengthen a relationship or end a relationship that needs to be ended. I really believe that.

So Tyler, not having been married before, what was the inspiration behind the film?

Tyler: I had just came out of a really bad relationship.

But that’s not marriage though….

Tyler: It’s all the same. I really believe relationships are all the same and this was really tough for me because I’m a person that likes to fix things and make it work and I’m not good at failure, so I really wanted this relationship to work and she was a person who had a lot of pain and I couldn’t help her. So, I brought all of that to the writing as well as I’m on the phone constantly with my friends, and they’re telling me what’s going on with their lives. I try and help them through this and all of that brought me to this movie.

Janet, I like how your character has the scene where she counsels her two friends. What was going on in your mind when you shot that?

Janet: Oh gosh, for once I was thinking about my own life and thinking I should have done this with my own marriages, maybe the one that went 13 years wouldn’t have lasted for so long, but it was a great marriage…. But like Tyler said, making the list, outweighing the good and the bad. That’s a great way for people to look at their relationships, whether it’s marriage or just being in a relationship as a couple.

Tyler, what would Madea’s advice be to single people who want to get married?

Tyler: I would have to think about it. I think the biggest thing about all of it is that Madea would probably say to make sure you get a pre-nup.

You are always working, if not on films but the TV show and the plays. What drives you?

Tyler: The scales are so tilted one way. Our children in our families are falling apart because there’s only one thing to see and there’s only one place you can go for information, especially as African-American people and a lot of times, it’s very negative and there are a lot of horrible things going on. When you turn on the television, you get sex and violence and everyone’s becoming desensitized to it, so I’m working so hard because I want to own a network that, when you turn on in the morning, it will be positive. It will inspire your children from when you are watching cartoons to when you are watching primetime and that’s what I’m working for.

How do you plan to do this?

Tyler: Well, I’m building content online but it will actually be a television cable network.

Are you happy with TBS?

Tyler: I’m absolutely happy with TBS. I’m excited on how they handled “House of Pain”. It was the #1 rated sitcom in cable history and still is their highest rated show and is beating some shows on CW. My message board is my lifeline so I reading what the people are saying. 90% like it and 10% don’t. either you like it or love the show, but I’m very proud of it.

TYLER PERRY’S WHY DID I GET MARRIED? Opens on October 12, 2007


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