I’ve personally never felt that characters of African decent should be inherently good, educated, or of a particular caliber in order to be presented in film and on television. In my opinion, that is an argument of past centuries, when the narrative of Black Americans on screen may have needed a particular sort of trajectory. I also feel that everyone has a right to tell their stories, but I don’t feel that these stories should be mediocre or inherently stereotypical, which is why I often find the work of Tyler Perry extremely problematic. Still, despite my criticisms and the criticisms of others, Perry has carved out a prolific path for himself in the entertainment industry. From his stage plays to his body of films, and now with four shows on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, including, “Love Thy Neighbor” and “The Haves and the Have Nots”, which premièred last week to over 3 million viewers, it’s clear that his audience is always eager to tune in.
At a recent press event for “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “Love Thy Neighbor”, Tyler Perry, as well as some of the casts from both series, including John Schneider, Angela Robinson, Patrice Lovely, and Palmer Williams sat down to talk about the success of the shows, Perry’s writing process, and being a part of OWN Network. Shadow and Act was there to take it all in. Here are some of the highlights.
On the Evolution of Both “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “Love Thy Neighbor”
Tyler Perry: What’s amazing about this, is that we are about to cross one hundred episodes for both of these shows. What’s so great about it is, that you start one way, but the characters dictate where they want to go, and how they want to go. If you look at a show when it first starts, you go, ‘hum…how is going to go?’ but by the tenth episode, you see the characters start to gel, and you really start to believe them. That’s what has happened with both of these shows. By episode fifteen we had settled in. I think at this point in both the shows, the characters have evolved and the show has a evolved. With Veronica (Angela Robinson ‘HAHN’) having one or two lines in the first show, I didn’t know she was going to turn out to be this character, but I love the madness of it. I love the insanity of it.
On the Writing Process
TP: I’ve said this before, I don’t have a writer’s room, I write all of the shows myself. Ninety-one episodes a season, I’m sitting at the computer writing, writing and writing. I want the voice to be authentic, so the audience is hearing from me and not other writers. There are a lot of other shows on the air that are fantastic shows, but they have writer’s rooms. The people that we love the most only write one or two episodes a season. What’s great about it when your writing for actors like this, who are tremendously talented, you can throw anything at them. I sit in a room and as I’m sitting at the computer, and I can hear these characters talking. The only thing that is difficult for me is to force one show out of my head so that Eddie doesn’t sound like Joe, or that Mama Hattie doesn’t sound like Angela which in a way they kind of do. If you look at the characters themselves, and the shows themselves they are very different and don’t think people really give credit to how different each show is. The pleasure that I take is being at work for the actual characters themselves. So, the minute that they stop talking we have a problem.
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Image: Tyler Perry