As she munches on Peanut M&Ms, exchanges a quick word with her publicist and taps out a lightning-fast text message — “I’m so sorry, just making arrangements with the kids,” she blurts — Denise Richards is every bit the multi-tasking mom. But in a matter of hours, she’ll dial up the glamour, working the red carpet for the premiere of “Madea’s Witness Protection,” the seventh installment in Tyler Perry’s ever-expanding franchise.
Releasing nationwide this Friday, the raucous comedy is centered on George Needleman (Eugene Levy), an honest but absent-minded Wall Street CFO who learns his firm is operating a mob-backed Ponzi scheme. When Brian, a federal prosecutor from Atlanta (Perry), places George and his family in the safest hideaway he can think of — his Aunt Madea’s down South — what unfolds is a whacky collision of cultures, punctuated with brazen one-liners, courtesy of Perry’s fearless, larger-than-life matriarch.
“I haven’t seen [the film] yet,” confesses Richards, 41, who plays George’s aggravated second wife, Kate. “My girls won’t be embarrassed? Like, ‘Mom, you’re acting really weird’?” she asks with a self-conscious giggle.
She’s asking about an especially outrageous scene where Kate channels Madea’s thunderous, trademark holler in a last-ditch effort to discipline her spoiled stepdaughter (Danielle Campbell). “Thank God they sprung that scene on me on set, otherwise I would’ve gotten myself worked up,” she admits. “It was intimidating. I was imitating Tyler Perry imitating Madea.”
Richards sings praises for Perry, marveling at his seamless ability to write, direct and simultaneously play three characters (in addition to Brian and Madea, Perry also portrays Uncle Joe, Madea’s eccentric, live-in brother). “He’s so sexy, he’s got this great presence,” Richards gushes, describing Perry’s charismatic, off-screen persona. “And to go from that to Madea and Joe telling fart jokes … I’m like, how does that come out of you?”
The cast, which also includes Doris Roberts, John Amos and Romeo Miller, shot exclusively in Perry’s Atlanta studio, or “empire,” as Richards dubs it. “There’s a different feel when you’re on location together, no one has their families to go home to,” she explains, though she was eventually joined by her three daughters. “But people could not be nicer. We had that camaraderie.”
Richards guest stars on ex-husband Charlie Sheen’s highly anticipated comeback sitcom, “Anger Management,” which made its FX debut this week.
“If it gets picked up, I’ll be a recurring character,” she says enthusiastically. “I think people will be surprised to see Charlie playing a different character — it’s not what they’re expecting.”