Growing up, Tyler Perry skipped horror movies. “Never watched them,” he quipped during an intimate press day held at the Four Seasons. So a Halloween film of any kind was not on his radar. When his longtime distributor Lionsgate suggested he do one, Perry initially hesitated but eventually responded with last year’s multigenerational romp “Boo! A Madea Halloween.”
In the film, Perry’s signature alter ego Madea and her geriatric crew, including her cantankerous brother Joe (also played by Perry) with friends Bam (Cassi Davis) and the baby-voiced Hattie (Patrice Lovely), set out to watch over Madea’s girl-gone-wild teenage grandniece Tiffany (Diamond White), who is determined to attend a college Halloween party thrown by a fraternity despite being underage and forbidden to do so by her father, Brian, played by a no makeup Perry. What ensues is a series of scary pranks packed with laughs from both the adults and kids.
Because “Boo!,” directed by Perry, landed at No. 1 two consecutive weeks, topping films by Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks respectively and earning nearly $75 million in all, Madea and the crew have returned with “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween,” set to hit the big screen Oct. 20. (Both “Boo!” movies filmed in Atlanta.) This time around, Tiffany has turned 18 and is determined to attend the fraternity’s Halloween bash held at a notoriously haunted campground by the lake, over her father’s objections.
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Perry credits the film’s success with younger audiences to his millennial cast and their substantial social media followings. “Everything is going digital these days, the way consumers are taking in content,” he explained, “and to have the use of Brock O’Hurn, Lexy Panterra and Inanna (Sarkis), all these social media stars who people love what they do and watch them by the millions, brings a whole other level of youth to it.”
A lot of Perry’s success, he believes, is due to his penchant for gravitating toward the underdog. “I was the underdog, so I’m the guy who champions the underdog,” he explained. “I’m like, ‘Here, put this cape on and let’s see what we can do together.’”
Lovely, who plays Hattie, one of Madea’s sidekicks, remembers donning that cape with Perry for her first-ever comedy series “Love Thy Neighbor,” which has been on OWN for five seasons. Similar to Perry, the Alabama native’s older alter ego Hattie is inspired by the Southern women in her life like those who inform Madea, and was born when she was doing a play that needed a boost. Doing “Love Thy Neighbor” “was very intimidating to me,” Lovely admitted during her press day interview alongside Davis. Perry, however, eased her fears.
“He was like, ‘Do what I do and take my lead and just do you,’” she recalled. “He said, ‘Patrice, you’re naturally funny. Do that and I’ll capture that.’” Visibly touched by Perry’s confidence in her still, “The fact that he took me under his wings and taught me everything I know,” she continued. “It’s a blessing to be part of the TP (Tyler Perry) Studios and have Tyler Perry as my friend.”
Davis, who played Ella Payne in Perry’s first TV series “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” started her ride with Perry back in 2003, 2004 when Madea was still only on the stage. By the time the Mississippi native and Spelman alum who appeared in Spike Lee’s 1988 sophomore feature film, “School Daze,” met Perry, she said, “I had given up on the dream. It just beats you up so much.”
For two and a half years, Perry pursued Davis before she said yes, and it’s been a remarkable journey ever since. “Tyler had already had an audience with his plays and so, by the time television came on, his play people just rallied up under him and now he has the massive empire. And he had just started doing movies (too), so he was doing everything all at the same time.”
Today he’s still doing everything all at the same time. “I’ve got three movies in the can right now and a book (‘Higher Is Waiting) coming out in November; four television shows on OWN and now I’m writing four television shows for Viacom,” he reported.
Perry, who has been very open about his extremely abusive father, is happy, however, to slow down the pace for his own son, Aman Tyler Perry, who will be 3 in December. “Now that he’s starting to talk and we’re having genuine conversation, he takes my full attention,” he beamed. “Whatever I’m doing, I stop when he walks in the room and give him my full attention and let him know I am engaged with him. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, when he walks in the room, he knows that Dad is here for him.”