Women in Tyler Perry's life drove him to success

The Fresno BeeMarch 12, 2014 

Actor-producer-director Tyler Perry.

ABC

LOS ANGELES — At 5 years old, Tyler Perry knew that he wanted to be so successful when he grew up that he could take care of his mother. His determination never wavered and he's now one of the most prolific writer/director/actors working with multiple TV series on the air and his latest movie, "The Single Moms Club," opening today in theaters.

It wasn't until his mother, Willie Maxine Perry, died in 2009 that Perry realized striving for success just for his mother wasn't the wisest thing to do.

"I did everything for my mother. I sacrificed my entire life for her. It worked out because it drove me to success because I wanted to be the kid who made it. But when my mother died, it left me so empty. I didn't have any of this on my own. There was no success for myself," Perry says. "It was great. I had it. But it was all about her. So I had to find a way to re-focus."

The result of that focus is "The Single Moms Club," which looks at five women — played by Nia Long, Cocoa Brown, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Zulay Henao — from different backgrounds who are pushed together. They soon discover they have one thing in common: raising children on their own.

It was Perry's aunt who served as the inspiration for "The Single Moms Club."

"My aunt raised four boys by herself. She never took welfare a day in her life. She never begged anybody for anything. But she always made it her own way," Perry says. "She raised these four boys by herself. I started thinking about her life. This is my homage to her and every single mother out there."

Perry says this isn't a "woe is me" movie about single mothers. He's written about a group of women who are doing what they have to do for their kids and the support they give each other. He's a strong believer in the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.

Family is a familiar theme for a Perry movie. Although he's heard complaints that all of his movies have a similar voice, he thinks each one has had something different to say. What they often say reflects Perry's Christian beliefs, whether it's a full blown comedy like any of the "Madea" movies or something that has a more dramatic edge such as "The Single Mom's Club."

"I usually like to do something really stupid and silly and fun after I have done something really heavy. I remember thinking after shooting 'For Colored Girls' and 'Alex Cross' that this was really dark and taking me down too far. So I wanted to do something that was really, really fun," Perry says. "It's all about where I am in my own head where I just need a break.

"With this movie, I just thought this was a subject that needed to be addressed. It is the last film I'm going to be doing for a couple of years so I can focus on television. So I wanted to take a break with something that I hoped would be inspiring and encouraging to a lot of people."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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