Studio owner, director, producer, writer, actor, and philanthropist Tyler Perry recently sat down with AARP, The Magazine. According to the media outlet, he spoke about ownership, the influence of his mother, his career, and how he placed Bibles throughout his studio as a hedge of protection for his company.
Perry’s rise to fame and success was an arduous journey, which he has often spoken about, but like grapes to a winepress, Perry’s struggles have afforded him the ability to produce good wine.
He overcame homelessness as he pursued his dream of becoming a playwright. The success of his theatrical presentations allowed him to reach billionaire status and continue to produce numerous projects on a 330-acre studio he owns that was once a Confederate Army base. Undoubtedly, while owning such a vast piece of real estate is an immense accomplishment, the knowledge that the property once housed people who wanted Perry’s ancestors to remain enslaved is not lost on the multitalented entertainer.
“From the moment I walked onto the property, I was haunted by it. Sometimes when I’m walking here at night, I get a chill from all the things that have happened here. So, as we built each of the 12 soundstages, we buried Bibles underneath them, as a way of refocusing the spirit of the place. I wanted this to be a place where everyone was welcome,” reveals the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winner.
His commitment to his faith has blessed him with the ongoing success of many of his films, television series, and plays. His significant monetary increase has granted him the freedom to provide gainful employment to the forgotten but also contribute financial support to revered artists like Cicely Tyson.
“I’ve never said this publicly, but I took care of Ms. Tyson for the last 15 years of her life. She was a proud woman, and the only reason I mention this is because she wrote it in her book. This woman had done so many amazing things, but she wasn’t well compensated for it. She made $6,000 for Sounder, you know? I wanted to make sure she knew that there were people who valued her. So, she did one day of work on my 2007 film Why Did I Get Married? I paid her a million dollars,” he divulged.
“I loved working with her. And it makes me feel great that I was in a position to give this incredible woman some security in her latter years.”
In addition to supporting the greats of film, he opens his doors to formerly imprisoned individuals who ordinarily would be locked out of mainstream society.
“Thousands of people come through the gate every day to work here. And it’s a beautiful thing. A lot of them are former prisoners who wouldn’t have had this shot.”
Perry is working on his latest project, A Jazzman’s Blues, a coming-of-age drama period piece sent in the 1940s, inspired by celebrated playwright August Wilson, due on Netflix on Sept. 23, 2022.