Tyler Perry Is Ready to Defend Himself
The writer-director hears everything you say about him — and he’s got answers
“I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
Tyler Perry steps into a nondescript hotel suite near New York’s Columbus Circle, trailed by a septet of aides, assistants, and all the other support staff that comes along with being a studio mogul. Something weird is going on, and it’s not the unseasonably warm January afternoon outside.
Interviews like this tend to be a seminar in Advanced Waiting, long periods of looking over your questions punctuated by periodic text updates from some unseen wrangler as to why the person you’re there to talk to is nowhere to be found. But Perry, who has nearly as many hyphens in his job description as he does candles on his birthday cake — the writer-director-producer recently turned 50 — is a full 30 minutes early. So early, in fact, that no one’s briefed him on why he’s there.
His management runs down the list: First, a photographer from LEVEL will shoot some pictures, then he’ll sit down with a journalist. He’s clearly had a long day, but he sizes both of us up cooly: “Well, what do y’all want me to do?”
The young photographer springs into action and directs the director. As Perry moves through the requested angles and poses, the multitasker comes out, and he begins to dictate instructions to his team for the evening’s meetings.
That attention to detail continues. Six days before the release of A Fall From Grace, his 23rd film in 15 years, Tyler Perry is cool, even, and thoughtful. He lifts a reporter’s recorder and repositions it so it will pick up his voice, a swift motion from a director who knows about doing every single part of a production — from writing and directing to handling concessions.
With a staff of hundreds and a massive new Atlanta-area studio compound, Tyler Perry no longer has to handle everything. And yet, he still does. Over a conversation in a sparse room, one lone staffer scrolling on a phone nearby, Tyler Perry sits back in his chair, makes direct eye…