Tyler Perry's Oprah Show Retrospective
Tyler attributed his success to the power of forgiveness. "I finally listened to the thing that I had written six years ago. Subconsciously, it had come to me and said, 'This is how you become successful at whatever you do: forgive.' Once I learned the power of forgiveness, I was able to move on and everything, everything, changed," Tyler said.
He also acknowledged a certain "woman who came on television every day at 3 p.m."
"Had I not seen that show where you said it was cathartic to actually write things down, I would not have started writing," Tyler told Oprah in 2001. "I would not be here to tell you that when you speak, people's lives change. And thank you for being an instrument that God used to change my life."
Tyler wrote and produced this film, and he also played three different characters. One of his most popular characters is "Madea"—Southern slang for "mother dear." This hysterical character is based on his real-life aunt, Jerry Banks.
"My aunt, who was at the premiere last night, has a pistol in her purse," Tyler said during his 2005 appearance. "I'm like, 'How did you get this through the airport?' And she said, no, no,she didn't fly with it! That is who Madea is—my aunt. You don't want to meet her in a dark alley. I'm telling you. She can handle herself!"
Madea Simmons—one of Tyler's most beloved characters—joined Oprah via satellite from her "home" in Atlanta for a rare interview. Even though she doesn't like doing interviews, Madea opened up about why she decided to talk to Oprah.
"You know, Oprah, I'm not political or correct," Madea said. "I don't worry about what people say. I say what's on my mind and, you know, people don't want you to say what's on your mind. But I say, 'I do Oprah because Oprah gonna make sure I'm all right.' You can handle people telling the truth."
Tyler's popular stage shows—like Madea Goes to Jail—have grossed more than $100 million.
His hit films Madea's Family Reunion and Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened at the top of the box office, and his first book, Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings, debuted at number one on The New York Times best-seller list. By channeling his pain, Tyler said he's able to create stories that touch people.
"That's why it's so important to me, because everything I've done, all the movies, there are positive messages in them," Tyler said. "I take some criticism for them being so funny or so Christian-oriented or whatever, but a lot of the stories that I tell, it's just about people getting healed and moving on. That's just my own experiences that I've put into film and television and everywhere else."
As a child, Tyler was abused and did not begin to deal with the pain until he was 28 years old—the same age NFL wide receiver Laveranues Coles decided to open up about his own childhood sexual abuse on The Oprah Show. After seeing that show, Tyler reached out to Laveranues.
That year, he also donated $1 million to pave the way for Perry Place, a 15-home neighborhood for families affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. "You have come through so much stuff, and I just wanted to say God bless you for making it," Tyler said to the families.
Tyler wrote and directed Why Did I Get Married?, a film that chronicles the lives of four couples.
Having never been married, Tyler said he relied on personal experiences to pen the characters. He also incorporated a theme that's been a driving force in his own life: forgiveness.
"Right now in my life, family is so important," he said in 2007. "Marriages are falling apart. All of these things are happening for no reason, and I think it's because so many of us don't have a spiritual connection. ... We don't know when to forgive when our partner makes a mistake. We don't know what to do to move on."
Oprah said she was shocked to learn Tyler had never voted before.
Tyler said the historic 2008 presidential campaign changed his opinion of the electoral process.
"It's really easy to just say, 'Oh, I'm just going to register to vote and not tell a soul.' Nobody would have been none the wiser," he said. "But I just want everybody who thinks the same way that I did—who thinks that your vote doesn't count, who thinks that you're too insignificant to matter—that it's the wrong way to think."
Cameras followed Tyler to a Georgia polling place to document the moment he cast his first vote. After performing his civic duty, a volunteer gave Tyler a sticker he wore with pride. It said, "I'm a Georgia voter!"
Madea Goes to Jail grossed $68 million in two weeks. Tyler said he was thrilled the movie did so well and that people's experiences—not critic reviews or ratings—was what was most important to him.
"All I wanted to do ... is make a film that we can go out, laugh, forget about it for an hour and a half and enjoy ourselves," he said. "So that's what was important to me—to see that so many people saw it, to see that it's doing very well, means that I get to make another one."
When Gayle asked Tyler if he thought the film had universal appeal, he said, "I certainly do. Everybody understands pain. Everybody understands triumph, no matter what race."
More from the award-winning film Precious
Both Tyler and Janet reflected on the loss of Janet's brother Michael Jackson, who died shortly after the production of Why Did I Get Married Too? began. Tyler said the pain Janet was going through is evident in her performance.
"There are shots where Janet doesn't have any makeup on, and she's crying and snotting and everything else," Tyler says. "I didn't want the pictures showing up on the cover of some tabloid saying this is what she's going through when it was her acting in the film."
Janet said Tyler and her cast's support did not go unnoticed.
"The day my brother passed, [Tyler] called me, and he was constantly checking up on me. Then, he stopped production and came down to the service, and he was with me the entire time," Janet said. "He spoke to the cast and the crew and [told them] to make sure I felt at home and asked me how I wanted to be treated on set, and I said, 'Just treat me the way they always have—with open arms.'"
See what Tyler endured during his childhood, which he refers to as "a living hell."