Interview - For the Actors and Actresses: What Kind of Employer is Tyler Perry?
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Interviews

Interview - For the Actors and Actresses: What Kind of Employer is Tyler Perry?

nullTyler Perry’s two new television shows, “The

Haves and Have Nots” and “Love

Thy Neighbor,” debut today and tomorrow on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Channel. “The

Haves and Have Nots” debuts tonight (May 28) in a two-hour premiere.

With 3 new movies and two new television shows this year,

Tyler Perry is the largest employer of black actors and actresses in show

business.  Thus, if black actors and

actresses want to be a “working” professional in entertainment, the best thing

one can do is get on Team Tyler and stay there.

Is Tyler Perry a loyal employer? How does he discover

talent? Are the actors and actresses that work with him just as religious and

spiritual as Perry’s core audience? What expectations does Tyler Perry have of

those actors and actresses who work with him?

Shadow and Act had a chance to catch up with three actors on

Tyler Perry’s new shows. In the three mini interviews below, Palmer Williams

Jr., John Schneider and Patrice Lovely discuss their loyalty to Perry (and

his to them) and explain how they landed their roles.

– Palmer Williams Jr.

Palmer Williams Jr.

calls himself a “25-year overnight” success. 

Seven years ago Tyler Perry caught him playing Jesus at New Birth church

in Atlanta, and by the next week he was auditioning for a role on “House of

Payne.” After six years on “House of Payne” and major roles in three of

Tyler Perry’s plays, Williams captured the role of Floyd on “Love Thy Neighbor.” In

the interview below, Williams highlights Perry’s loyalty and expectation of

excellence from those who work for him.

So how long have you been

aware of Tyler Perry?

That would have to be well over 15 years ago with “I know I

have been changed.” Mr. Perry used to visit my wife and I at home. We used to

always talk about collaborating one day. He even showed me the first Madea

drawings. At the time I thought, “Well good luck with that bro… I hope it works out for you.” Needless to say, I did not think it was going to work out like this. He has always been a

go-getter.

There are millions of people who would love to be in my

shoes right now but God so chose me to be in this position. And I’m just ever so

grateful for it. It was like trial by fire, learning how to be in television.

He took a chance on me.

How do you remain loyal to

Tyler Perry?

He was loyal to me first. I’m still working. There is a time

where a lot of actors will go through mental anguish because they are not

working. They don’t know what may have happened with the last show or why they

didn’t get picked up for the new show. He’s so amazing to where he will cast me

in the weirdest way. When I first started doing “House of Payne,” he walked by me

during a taping. He said, “by they way, you’re going to be in a play right after

Christmas called ‘The Marriage Counselor’ and there will be somebody be in contact with you.” He just walked off.

All of sudden right after Christmas, somebody called me and we

went right into rehearsal and we were up in Little Rock, Arkansas in late

January. I was only supposed to shoot 6 episodes of “House of Payne” and look

at me now.

What did you do to get your

opportunities and to “get on the good side of Tyler Perry?”

I am a 25-year-old overnight success. I’ve been working for

25 years doing this. It just so happened that God orchestrated it where I was

at the right place at the right time. He was at New Birth in Atlanta just

worshipping and I was playing Jesus Christ and dancing and Tyler Perry saw me.

Now we know you would never

do this, but what could you possibly do to get on the “bad” side of Tyler

Perry?

Drop from professionalism and not live up to his expectations

of what he expects and knows I can do.

Have you seen people drop

their professionalism?

Unfortunately they may not be working with him anymore. I

still respect the man even though I am older than he is. I still respect the

person who signs my checks so there has to be some sort of respect that is

equipping you with the type of finances to maintain my lifestyle for my family. 

– John Schneider

Many people will

recognize Jon Schneider from his six years on the “Dukes of Hazzard” television

show and 11 years on “Smallville.” In his leading role in “The Haves and Have

Nots”, Schneider landed the part after Perry, a fan of his from

his “Dukes of Hazzard” days, invited him to audition. In “The Haves and Haves

Nots” John plays Jim Cryer, a wealthy judge who wants to become Georgia’s next governor.

When did you first become

aware of Tyler Perry and all of his projects?

I wish it was longer ago but it was about a year ago. I feel

that I know the car crowd—the people that live on a dirt road and work on a car

and pull the engine out with an oak tree—the audience I built with “Dukes of

Hazzard.” Someone told me that, although I knew my audience, I should study this

guy named Tyler Perryd who knows his audience better than you know yours.

How did you connect with

Tyler Perry for the part in “The Haves & Have Nots?” Did your agent see the

role and think that you would be perfect?

Now that I know Tyler as well as I know Tyler, I don’t think

any agent goes to Tyler about somebody, I think Tyler goes to the (agent). He

didn’t come to me and offer me the role. He came to me and offered me the

audition. He grew up watching the “Dukes of Hazzard” in Hammond, Louisiana. When

I came in for the audition, I loved the script. I wanted this role.

Traditionally when black

actors have a role on a multicultural television show, the show is produced by a

white person and the network is run by a white person. But you are working on a show produced by a black man on a network run by a black woman. What is that like?

Isn’t it amazing? It has to be God. And I’m not the token

white guy. I’m not like the innocent that’s gonna be killed in episode three.

I’m engrained in this show. I feel very fortunate that I was chosen to be that

guy in this flagship in this marriage between Tyler & Oprah. At 53-years

old, it’s the best thing that’s happened in my glorious career. Tyler Perry

said that’s the white guy I want in my show.

How long did it take to

shoot the show?

We shot 16 hours in 22 working days. We did 22 episodes of

“Smallville” and “Dukes of Hazzard” in 10 months. It’s wonderful quality. It’s

nothing less than impossible and he does it everyday.

– Patrice Lovely

When Tyler Perry

promised that he would cast two people from current shows and plays in his OWN

shows, Patrice Lovely won out. After 25 years of traveling the country non-stop

doing gospel plays, she landed her own television show, “Love Thy Neighbor.”

She plays Hattie Mae Love, a character from Tyler

Perry’s play, “A Madea Christmas.”

So Patrice, you have your

own show produced by Tyler Perry on a network owned by Oprah Winfrey. How is

that possible?

I got everything that God had for me. I would have never

fathomed in my wildest dreams to say my boss is Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey; and

I come straight from the projects in Troy, Alabama. To walk into where you are

supposed to be and kick the door down.

That is God. It’s almost like you have just been pushed.

I’ve done 20 or 25 years of theatre, but to me theatre is not work because

that’s what I like to do. And then you meet the man (Tyler Perry) and THE lady

(Oprah Winfrey) of the world. It’s like you’ve been giving a platter and you

just take it, and now do what you do on a higher level.

It’s like mind blowing. I can’t believe that I’m here but I

do know that I’ve walked into my destiny, into where and what God wanted me to

have. I always get choked up about where I’ve come from. Pentecostal

denomination, so you know I was choked to death with one Lord, One Faith.

How did you first connect

with Tyler Perry?

He flew into Detroit because he had heard all this hoopla

about me from Allen Payne. [After he saw my show in Detroit], his people called

me on the phone that night. The next day I was in Tyler’s office, sitting there

looking at him face to face. The next week, we were signing papers. I have

never done an audition for Tyler. I’ve never sent in a headshot. Tyler gave me

my first script and he said “here, do what you do.” I took apart where I wanted.

I added the meat where I wanted. I performed in the plays “Madea’s

Christmas,”  “The Haves and The Have

Nots,” “I Don’t want To Do Wrong,” and “Madea Gets a Job.”

Tell Us about Your Career in

Theatre, performing in Gospel Plays.

I did Gospel plays all over the

country. I have never been at home. This is the first time I’ve been at home. I

made a GOOD living because I was in demand. God had given me those characters.

God gave me that. He put those characters inside of me. I went from tour to tour

with those gifts that God gave me.

Tyler Perry is often

criticized for content and quality of his television shows and movies. How does

that affect you as an actress in his productions? Do you focus on it? Do you

care?

Your hater are your motivators. That’s what keeps Tyler

from moving to the next script. Those same haters that have so much to say but

don’t have nary a dime in their pocket. They should be on that show “Where Are

they Now?” Tyler keeps moving from level to level. He’s with Oprah. Oprah

Winfrey… Tyler Perry.

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