Tyler Perry is no stranger to directing himself onscreen, but his latest film, “Good Deeds” marks his first leading role. Perry — who of course wrote, directed and produced the film as well — stars as Wesley Deeds, a wealthy business owner who strays from his straight-and-narrow path to aid a homeless single mother, played by Thandie Newton. “I was just looking at my own life and asked myself, what if I had done what other people wanted me to do?” Perry tells Metro of his inspiration for the story. “Like, my mother wanted me to work at the phone company. What if I had done that instead of following my own dream, my own heart?”
“Good Deeds” is the first time you’ve put yourself in the lead of one of your more dramatic films.
At the beginning of it, it was very scary because I’ve never felt this exposed before. I usually like to have a costume to hide behind, somewhere to hide. The character I play is so close to me and my life, as far as running my own business and some of the things that he endured, so it was pretty scary. But the first week into it, I was like, “You know what? This is going to be great.”
You also have the film “I, Alex Cross” coming up — a gig where you’re only acting and not writing or directing.
The toughest part of that is that I hate the downtime. The downtime is ridiculous. But I learned very quickly that this is what it is. You sit in the trailer for 12 hours. You’re being paid to sit there, so shut your mouth and sit there. Well, for me, I used the time. I wrote three movies while I was on that.
What do you think about studios still being averse to backing films with predominantly African-American casts?
I think George Lucas can speak to it better because he clearly got an education in it [while trying to produce “Red Tails”]. It was clearly shocking to him that it was so difficult. I don’t think it’s about racism as much as it’s about money. And a lot of films being made these days are dependent on international money and box offices, and it’s been reported — but never proven — that films with all-black stars, besides Will [Smith] and Denzel [Washington], don’t do well abroad. The big issue with that is that nobody’s trying to help cultivate an audience. I know I have a huge following in Australia and the U.K. and Africa and the Netherlands, but I haven’t found the partner to try and help build that audience.
But that’s something you’re actively looking to do?
Absolutely. The stories that I’m telling are relevant to anyone. It would be fantastic for people to start to really understand that we all have stories to tell and we all have stories of interest to anyone around the world.
At Sundance, Spike Lee complained that studios “know nothing about black people.” What do you think about that?
You know what I’ve decided to do with Spike Lee? Stay on purpose, and my purpose here is to just completely focus on what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and my audience. I do know that he has had a time in this business because he came along long before me, so I’m sure that he is experiencing a lot of tough times. And he’s got war stories and battles, I’m sure. So if that’s where he is in life with it, well God bless him.