O: And for your new movie you've taken on an iconic book and play and story, For Colored Girls. Were you scared to do that?

TP: Sure. But I enjoy a challenge.

O: During the process of filming this movie, I think that something happened to you. The difference between doing a serious drama and having done Madea—

TP: It elevated my thinking of what film is. It made me understand that there is an art and a style to it. But here's the thing: Steven Spielberg got to start messing around with a camera as a kid, and Jason Reitman got his father to help. Me, it took nine films to be ready.

O: You just sort of taught yourself how to be a director. How did you do that?

TP: I learned in progress. My first time directing was Madea's Family Reunion, which I cannot watch.

O: Why not?

TP: Because I didn't know that the cameras should actually move! The camera is the eye of the audience. But it's all a part of learning, and I'm grateful for the journey, and I'm proud of the work—every bit of it. In every film I learned something to propel me to the next level. I don't know what else will come in the future, but For Colored Girls is the absolute best that I can do at this time.

O: I was talking to somebody the other day who was saying that you are a performer's director.

TP: Well, first of all, the caliber of acting in this movie is just top-notch. I don't think it gets any better. You cannot have Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton—

O: Anika Noni Rose...

TP: You cannot have them in a scene together and not expect there to be sparks.

Oh: The film is a big risk. The audience that has supported you is used to being able to laugh every time they go to your movies.

TP: It will be interesting to see what happens.

O: Okay. Shifting gears now: Are you comfortable with your wealth?

TP: I'm comfortable with the wealth. It took me a minute. 'Cause the first year I gave every dime away. There was something in me that felt like I didn't deserve it.

O: And are you over that now?

TP: You're sitting on my tricked-out bus! I'm over that.

O: What about the attention your wealth brings?

TP: That I don't like. I don't like the Forbes list. I also don't need to be in the biggest hotel and walking through the lobby and shopping and everybody looking at me. I'd rather just do the show and go live my life privately.

O: Do you think you're shy?

TP: Until you put me onstage and put me in a situation where I'm supposed to perform, yes. I'm not good at all in small crowds.

O: You may be reserved, but I wouldn't call you shy. You'd just rather be at home by yourself—

TP: With the dogs—

O: —than out at a big glamorous party.

TP: Not going to do that. I hate it with a passion.

O: All right. So why aren't you with someone? I cannot figure that out.

TP: I love being by myself too much.

O: Maybe you haven't met the right person. Do you think it's that?

TP: I keep hearing that.

O: Have you been in love?

TP: I was, a few years ago, with the wrong woman. And it was really bad for me and hurtful. Maybe I'm still dealing with that. 'Cause I never cried in a relationship before.

O: You cried in that relationship?

TP: Yeah.

O: You didn't tell me that. I didn't know you were in love. I thought it was just that thing in the beginning where it's intense, and you can't even call it love yet 'cause you haven't been through enough for it to be love. Are you open now?

TP: I'm open to whatever God has for me. I really am. However it comes.

O: So as we sit here now with you looking at how far you've come and where you still have to go, what is it you know for sure?

TP: What I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God is with me. I know that. I know that He's always been with me. It is evident in everything I have endured—and the fact that I made it through with some sanity.

Oprah: Can you see the future for yourself?

TP: After my mother died, I realized that one of the reasons I was always running so hard was that I'd made some promises to her as a child that I was trying to keep. All those years of working and working—a lot of it was for her. Now that she's gone, I've had to reevaluate. So when you ask what's next, it makes me take a step back and go, "What do I want to do? What's going to make me happy? And do I want to continue working this hard?" At this point, I'm still looking for the answers.

Photo: Rob Howard


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