Diary of a Faithful Black Man

The filmmaker Tyler Perry ('Madea's Family Reunion') talks about provoking serious discussion through comedy.

Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" surprised Hollywood observers with a number-one box office showing for its opening weekend--and continued to surprise as it went on to earn more than $50 million. Not bad for a film made on a reported $5.5 million budget. And not bad, especially, for a filmmaker who spent time living on the streets while he tried to jumpstart his play-writing career. Since then, though, Perry, 36, has found great success--first on the stage, and now on the screen--with stories that mix humor and drama, focusing on African-American communities and families. His signature character, Madea, is an over-the-top grandmother, played by Tyler himself, who dispenses wisdom, exhorts her family and friends to stand up for themselves and their loved ones, and is unafraid to pull out and wave her ever-ready pistol.

Perry spoke to Beliefnet just before the release of his follow-up to "Diary," "Madea's Family Reunion."  His "Meet the Browns" is available on DVD starting June 20th.

Family is obviously a recurring theme in your work. Why is it so important to you, and what is your definition of family?
Family and faith are both very important to me, and forgiveness. I think that with everything I've done, in the end, whoever the central character is, they would find a way to forgive, because that's really important to me. Forgiveness is important in families, especially when there are so many secrets that need to be healed--for the most part, every family's got them.
In your work, faith is integrated seamlessly into your characters' lives, in a way that a lot of movies don't do. What is the role of faith in your work?
The thing about it is, I don't know why it's never talked about in film. There are people [making films] who believe, but I think they're people who believe in the closet. They believe very quietly. There's this huge separation of church and state. I'm not afraid to mix the two. I'm not afraid to have a character say, "I am a Christian," or, "I believe in God," because I think they represent real people on this earth.
Why do you think there's such a fear of dealing with this topic in movies and on TV?
That's a very good question, and I have no answers for it. I'd like to know myself. If you ever find out, you let me know. Because I'd really like to know why people are afraid to say that. But I think, for me--and this is true of other writers--you write from your own experiences. And if your experiences are that, then you write from a place where that is.
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Interview by Michael Kress
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