Tyler Perry Opens Up About New Show
One look at the promo photo for Tyler Perry’s upcoming drama, Tyler Perry’s Too Close to Home, might leave you scratching your head.
If you’ve followed Perry’s meteoric rise to fame then you know most of his work centers on the Black experience. But lately casts for his television projects (i.e. The Haves and the Have Nots and If Loving You Is Wrong) have become much more diverse. Now his latest TLC Network offering features an all-white cast of principal players, which had us wonder why the shift, and what’s the experience been like for the rags to riches filmmaker?
“Working with white people is hard!”
Perry shouted this quip alongside his cast and the audience during a screening of Too Close to Home at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. “Seriously there is no difference. There’s absolutely no difference, people are people,” Perry elaborated. “For me what was going on is I had these ideas in my and usually what happens when I sit down to write, I don’t necessarily see color or size, race, anything like that when I’m starting to write a story, unless it’s Madea I know she’s Black. But when I started this show I just started writing as I was seeing these characters and hearing from them.”
The writer/director also added a little food for thought on the subject of him working with an all-white cast. “That’s a question that Norman Lear never got. I just think there is no difference in all of us. We all share the same ability to have the same amount of pain, the same amount of love, the same amount of forgiveness so here’s just another side of a story that I wanted to tell.”
Tyler Perry’s Too Close to Home follows a young woman – who after leaving her life in the trailer park in the dust, scores the job of a lifetime as a White House intern. But after she’s involved in salacious scandal she’s forced to return home to Happy, Alabama in shame to deal with the skeletons she left behind.
Just the mention of a scandal in the White House will perk the ears of anyone who calls themselves a true fan of the great Shonda Rhimes. So you have to wonder if Perry got any inspiration from Shondaland?
“Of course you get inspiration from Shonda. Scandal is such a great show. I love Kerry to death,” Perry said. “When you have these moments, you have the oval office everybody wants to know what’s really going on … But of course she was a big inspirational. How could she not be?”
While Shonda may have been an inspiration, Perry’s television relationship with Oprah Winfrey had something to do with Too Close to Home landing on TLC as well. The network is owned by Discovery Communications, which also owns a portion of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Since Perry has had four shows running on Oprah’s network, TLC reached out to him for their first scripted series. As they bounced around ideas for the project it was the filmmaker himself who suggested that they take pieces from the reality shows that TLC is famous for to piece together a tantalizing drama. And leave it to Perry – who’s churned out 15 films and a television series in a span of seven years (between 2002 and 2009) to turn around an eight-episode drama in eight days!
“Because I was broke and had to do everything myself I learned to do everything myself.” Tyler explained about how he was able to shoot the series so quickly. “So as I’m shooting, I’m editing all the time so I know when I got the shot. I know when the cuts are coming. There’s not a committee of people there. It’s just me making the decisions and the choices and hopefully it all works out.”
Actor Matt Battaglia, who plays President Thomas on Too Close to Home suggested that other networks might soon follow suit. “I thought how are you going to pull off eight episodes in eight days? And then I watch and he’s got three cameras rolling at once. They’re hand-held. You’ve got lighting and it all works… And then you watch how fast he shot it and you watch the production value. It’s a wake-up call. And I think a lot of the networks are going to have a wake-up call too.”
Upon watching the first episode of Too Close to Home, a portion of which deals with the White House and the aforementioned scandal in the oval office, two things will undoubtedly come to mind with regard to the plot: The current election and the Monica Lewinski scandal, both of which Perry was more or less influenced by.
“I got more material out of the election than I could get out of anything in the world. I mean I have enjoyed this train wreck. I’ve enjoyed it so much! I couldn’t write this better. TLC couldn’t come up with a reality show that would be better!”
Perry continued: “But as far as Monica Lewinski, there’s always a bit of truth in all art, or in jokes. But I didn’t particularly pull on any scandals from anybody’s past. It’s not something that I want to do or revisit. But a lot of times when you have reality that has happened somewhere in the back of your head it may be living.”
While Too Close to Home has drama, sex and scandal – it wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry production if there wasn’t also an underlying message. And that is, according to Perry, “no matter where you come or go, no matter how far you try to travel, no matter how far you try to get away from life it all comes back to you. You have to face everything that you’ve left behind in some kind of way. If you didn’t leave it right, if it’s not cleaned up the right way, if it wasn’t done right, some kind of way it’s going to show up in your life again and unfortunately it showed up on the president’s desk and now she’s back in Alabama.”
Tyler Perry’s Too Close to Home premieres on the TLC Network Monday, August 22 at 9/8c.