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April 20, 2014

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The Madea Factor: Tyler Perry's Winning Formula

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Tyler Perry is up and ready to roll on a sunny California day as he knocks out a battery of media chores for his latest movie, 'Madea's Big Happy Family,' at Beverly Hills' posh Four Seasons hotel.

A crack team of handlers -- consisting of image makers and secret-service-like security detail -- are at his beck and call as journalists and media personalities are ushered in and out of his interview chamber.

At first glance, he seems to be in good spirits. He should be. His money making alter-ego Mabel "Madea" Simmons is in rare form in his latest flick, a critic-proof comedy romp that will surely continue his winning streak at box office dominance.

In true form, Mr. Perry (as some young studio staffers are commanded to refer to him) is ready to throw his interviewers through a loop when out of nowhere the loud and ornery voice of Madea appears to be yelling out catch-phrases a mile a minute -- thanks to a handheld device he has that threatens to "punch the hell out of you" with the push of a button.

"I wanted to bring her with me," he joked. "So ask her anything you want."


A direct question about his "formula" seems to catch Perry a little off guard. Eleven movies released in six years and grossing nearly $500 million, combined, at the North American box office is something no other director -- black or white -- has accomplished.

"The formula?," he pondered. "I never thought much about the formula as much as I'm a workaholic. I like to work. I like to be busy. I like to keep moving and as long as I'm giving people what they want, then I'm in a good position. And i think that's what makes it work. There's a huge audience that I've built long before I ever did a movie who are waiting for the next thing, so that's pretty exciting to me."And a cottage industry he has become; From clever celebrity stunt casting in the films, to the sold-out, national tours of his stage plays, and the two top-rated TV sitcoms, Perry rules the roost in a niche he literally carved out for himself.

"I noticed it on the road," he revealed. "There were thousands and thousands of people packing theaters to see the live shows. And it was sold out everywhere and I was trying to find a way to reach more people. So I thought film is the way to go. Because what people want, they want positivity, they want to be uplifted and they want to be encouraged. No matter what color you are, you want to laugh a little to help get through your days. So I think that's what's happening here. And I think that's what Madea does so well."

Tyler Perry talks Madea

Of the near dozen movies Perry has produced, the pistol-packing, pot smoking, bible verse-butchering, plus-sized senior citizen stars in and steals the show in six of them.

To date, even with many mainstream movie critics panning them, flicks such as 'Madea Goes To Jail,' 'Madea's Family Reunion' and 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself,' has raked in unpredicted millions.

In the beginning of it all, Perry said people kept referring to him as his alter ego, but once he started putting his name out there more, people got it.

"I was having a battle with her in the beginning, but we're straight."

And why does he think Madea is such a force of nature?

"Everybody, I don't care who you are, somebody knows or had a grandmother like that -- who will set you straight, hit you on the backside when you were doing something wrong.

"And that's what people can relate to because she's missed, she's not around anymore," he continued.

Madea's Big Happy Family posterIn the new film, Madea jumps into action when her niece Shirley, played by veteran actress Loretta Devine, seeks to reunite and reconcile her three adult children after getting bad news about her health. Her children -- played by Bow Wow, Shannon Kane and Natalie Dessell -- are are having many family issues of their own. The flick also stars Cassi David, David Mann, Tamela Mann, Lauren London, Teyana Taylor, Rodney Perry and Isaiah Mustafa.

"It's a different kind of storytelling," Perry explained. "I mean this is about family. The other stories that I've told is about relationships ... this is about family coming together, and finding out what's wrong, why can't [they] sit down, why can't [they]love one another. So it's a good, fun, inspirational movie."

With all he's amassed over the past five years, it can be easy to lose sense of self. Not for Perry, who when asked about his sense of self, said "just understanding at 41, there is a God."

"There is no way this could be happening without it," he continued. "And knowing that that kind of expression, that kind of love, that kind of faith dwells inside of me and makes the man I am. And as long as I stay true to that, that is who I am."

'Madea's Big Happy Family' is in theaters now.





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