Tyler Perry explains why he’s being more openly political now

September 26, 2019 Atlanta - Portrait of Tyler Perry in Tyler Perry Studios on Thursday, September 26, 2019. On Oct. 5, Tyler Perry will hold the ceremonial grand opening for his movie studio at Fort McPherson. He bought the land in 2015 and the complex has been up and running for a couple years. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
September 26, 2019 Atlanta - Portrait of Tyler Perry in Tyler Perry Studios on Thursday, September 26, 2019. On Oct. 5, Tyler Perry will hold the ceremonial grand opening for his movie studio at Fort McPherson. He bought the land in 2015 and the complex has been up and running for a couple years. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

In a Variety cover story, he credits his 5-year-old son for inspiring him to be more vocal.

For many years, Tyler Perry was so focused on building his career, he didn’t do a lot of interviews. He bristled that the press and Hollywood dismissed him, not understanding the appeal of his TV shows and movies, many of which targeted church-going Black women.

But over the past year, the 51-year-old Atlanta media mogul has become much more open as the nation has been dealt a pandemic, economic upheaval, racial unrest and a contentious election.

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He invited more than 100 media members to his 330-acre Tyler Perry Studios for a massive grand opening party last fall. He recently opened up his finances to Forbes magazine, who placed him on its cover and declared him a billionaire. He wrote an emotional essay after the George Floyd killing that landed on the cover of People magazine. Over the summer, he spoke to several media outlets, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, about shooting TV shows on his campus in the age of COVID-19, quarantine style.

And Hollywood is now lining up to honor him. Last month, he accepted the treasured Governor’s Award at the Emmy Awards. Next month, he will be named the People’s Champion of 2020 at E!'s “People’s Choice Awards” for his charitable contributions.

Now he’s on the cover of Variety magazine — about as Hollywood a publication there is — to discuss his career and why he’s chosen to become more political in recent months. Variety crowned Perry “Showman of the Year" with the cover headline “Calling the Shots.”

In reaction, Perry told Variety: “Just to try and use what I’ve been given — this platform [and] the gifts that I’ve managed to have — to celebrate and encourage and lift other people, that feels pretty awesome. I keep hearing the lyrics from ‘This Is Me’ [from ‘The Greatest Showman’] in my head."

He also explained why he has been more vocal about social and political issues of late, actively supporting the Joe Biden ticket: “I really, truly don’t want to get political. What I want people to do is vote because everybody has very strong opinions about this. As do I. I have very, very strong feelings about the current administration. I have very strong feelings about a lot that’s going on. But I’m neither Democrat [nor] Republican — I’m an independent thinker. I vote for who I think is best to run the country.”

And he said his 5-year-old son, Aman, has also impacted his need to speak out: “If it were just me, I could step back and maybe have a different opinion. But I want him to be able to go to the national parks, and they’re not drilling inside of them, to be able to turn on a debate and see two men stand professionally, giving each other the respect to finish their two minutes that they’re allotted and not talking over and screaming at each other.”

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Credit: Variety magazine

The story talks to folks like Whoopi Goldberg, friend and writer-director Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone”) and Mike Paseornek, a Lionsgate Films executive who gave Perry a chance 15 years ago by producing “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” Perry also describes how he and Spike Lee reconciled after Lee criticized Perry’s artistry in 2009.

The writer also notes that beyond using his studio grounds to make films and TV shows, Perry plans to build a home for abused women, displaced LGBTQ+ youth and sex-trafficking survivors, providing them a window into what he does and inspiring them to rise above their circumstances as he did.

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