Hollywood stars came out in full force for the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. The red carpet buzz surrounded Perry's history-making as the first African American actor/director/writer/producer to own a studio outright with no partners or corporate backing.
"Why did it take so long?" Goldberg wondered in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Why was he the first to get it? Now he's the man who makes the decisions, chooses the movies, and he doesn't have to ask anybody for shit. There's nothing better than that. He's never on his knees. He gets what he needs because he provided it."
Davis also beamed with admiration. "Tonight is history. Tonight is not just entertainment and flamboyancy, it's not just an excuse to get dressed up. It's an excuse to celebrate a historic moment which is a black artist taking control of their artistic life and the vision that God has for their life," she said. "What's happened with us historically is we're waiting for people to get us. We're waiting for people to throw us a crumb. That's not what Tyler Perry has done. I want to be able to look back on this and say 'I was there.'"
Winfrey added of Perry: "Tyler is my little big brother. To see him rise to this moment that I know he's dreamed about, planned, defined, clarify for himself, it's just a fulfillment of a dream. It's wonderful to see."
As for Perry himself, he talked to THR about the "God-given" opportunity to open his own studios: "What it means is that I get an opportunity to pass it on to people. I get to share it. I get to inspire people and encourage them. That is what it's all about."
Perry also touched on the legacy of the late Diahann Carroll, who died from cancer the day before. "Her level of grace, class and inspiration was just beyond anything I could ever imagine," he said. "The very fact that we were able to have her on the planet at the same time as we are, we should all be very, very blessed."
Following the red carpet, guests such as Diddy and his son Quincy were shuttled by trolley to a swanky cocktail reception where Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, T.D. Jakes, Usher, T. I., Jill Scott and Patti LaBelle shared the room.
Tyler kicked off the reception by sharing a story of what inspired him to move to Atlanta in 1992. "I saw black people doing well for the first time in my life. I saw black doctors, lawyers and other professionals and thought, This is the promised land. I can make it here!" At the time Perry lived in a weekly hotel on Buford Highway. He also reflected on the influence of his mother and God in his life: "It was my mother who taught me about faith. No matter what hell was going on in the house, she taught me about faith and God," he said. "Nobody is teaching kids enough about faith. About how to pray your way through a situation rather than turning to drugs or some other ernative. If my mother hadn't given me that, I don't know where I would be."
In a room of about 800 guests, Perry highlighted one special person in attendance who influenced him: Winfrey. "In 2005, Oprah invited me to her Legends Ball," he revealed. "I saw Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Tom Cruise and Sidney Poitier, and I said, 'What am I doing here?' I didn't know I said it out loud, but Yolanda Adams was sitting next to me and she said, 'You belong here.' By the end of the party I said, 'I'm going to dream bigger.' It was something about being in Oprah's house, being in her presence, seeing what a black person had accomplished — it really, really spoke to me."
He told his audience of the impact he'd like to make at the studios' grand opening. "If I can get you to leave this weekend feeling like I did that day, we're going to change some major things in this world. Sometimes your dreams are on life support. You don't know if you'll make it, but being exposed to something bigger can give your dreams the life it needs," he added.
"If I can build studios on this land that was once a confederate army base..." The crowd burst into applause, as Perry added, "We all get to stand here equally — black, white, whatever — this is the American dream."
After another resounding cheer from the crowd, he turned the floor over to Jennifer Hudson, who sang Andy Williams' "The Impossible Dream."
All guests were then given a tour of the 330-acre studio and each of the 12 soundstages, all named after iconic African American legends in the industry: Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belefonte, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Diahann Carroll.
As the tour, which saw Beyonce and Jay-Z, Maxwell, Colin Kaepernick and Ambassador Andrew Young, among others, stopped at each stage, a representative christened it by breaking a bottle of champagne against the studio wall.
Will Smith gave words of inspiration to future actors on the guided studio tour. "Bring great energy to set every single day. It's moment-to-moment when people of power will make a decision whether or not they want you there. Show up on time and do great work," he said. "Don't make it hard to make hits. Tyler went out on a limb to make this happen, now hits have to come out of this studio. There's so much on the line. Many people have suffered for us to be standing here."
He quipped: "They don't need your ass showing up late with an attitude."
After the walk through each stage, guests entered the final room filled with white roses for a candle-lit dinner that featured a mini-concert by Mary J. Blige for entertainment. Perry also orchestrated an impromptu performance with Tevin Campbell, Johnny Gill, Monica and Keith Washington.
As guests took to the dance floor, Haddish took over the DJ booth and spun beats to end the evening.
In June of this year, Tyler Perry brought the house down at the BET Awards. During his acceptance speech for the Ultimate Icon honor, Perry issued a powerful call to action on the necessity for African American proprietorship as a path to wealth-building and influence. It’s an idea that has been a critical motivator for Perry since his days on the so-called Chitlin Circuit, a historical network of venues that provided black entertainers safe spaces to perform.
Now, Perry controls rights to all of his film and TV work, and the 50-year-old multihyphenate is set to become the outright owner of the largest studio lot in America — the first African American to ever do so. On Saturday, Perry will host the official grand opening gala of his new $250 million Atlanta studios, which occupies the former 330-acre Fort McPherson military base, which he purchased in 2015.
In a phone interview this week, Perry said he first started dreaming about owning his own property during his childhood in New Orleans, as the son of a subcontractor father who built houses for a white entrepreneur. “He’d come home, so happy that he made $800 on a home he’d built, but then I’d notice that the white man would sell the house and make $80,000,” Perry said. “So I then knew that I always wanted to be the guy who owned and sold the house, rather than the guy who built it.”
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The studio was once a Confederate Army base, and that irony is not lost on him. “[It] meant that there were Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million Negroes enslaved, and now that land is owned by one Negro,” he said in his BET speech. “So while you're fighting for a seat at the table, I'll be down in Atlanta building my own.”
Some 50,000 square feet of the site are dedicated to standing permanent sets, including a replica of a luxury hotel lobby, a 16,000-square-foot mansion, a mock cheap hotel, a trailer park set, and a real 1950s-style diner that was relocated from a town 100 miles away; it also hosts 12 soundstages.
Even though Saturday’s gala will mark the studio’s official opening, the studio has been operating for a couple of years, while still under construction. Marvel’s “Black Panther” was the first feature filmed there, followed by everything from HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” to Dwayne Johnson’s “Rampage,” and Ryan Gosling’s “The First Man.” AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is currently filmed on the lot.
But Perry himself isn’t producing these projects, and it might seem like a logical next step for him to develop a black-owned film production and distribution studio, which would be the first of its kind — and might go a long way toward addressing the industry’s diversity challenges. However, Perry is reticent to embrace the role of studio mogul just yet.
“It’s a lot of work to run an entertainment company, and it takes a lot of sacrifice and concentration,” he said, “Some people just don’t want to own the house, because they don’t want the responsibility, and I get it. And you can’t be upset with them for that, which means you just have to wait for the ones who do.”
But he’s keeping the door open to future possibilities. “Man, I’m still so young and I got another 20 or so years to go, because there’s still a lot more that I want to do,” he said. For now, his focus is on continuing to build out his namesake, Tyler Perry Studios, which he said will physically expand to rival some of the world’s largest.
In the near term, Perry is developing film and TV content under the broad multi-year exclusive deal he inked with Viacom in 2017, which includes a range of film and television projects: his co-ownership of BET+, the standalone OTT service which launched on September 19; creating series for cable TV network BET; and developing films under a first look agreement with Paramount Pictures on the feature side.
While the TV deal didn’t kick in until May 2019, with new series “The Oval” and “Sistas” premiering on BET later this year, the feature film component has already delivered last year’s Tiffany Haddish comedy “Nobody’s Fool.”
Perry also recently teamed up with former Lionsgate marketing chief Tim Palen to launch Peachtree and Vine Productions, which will serve as a hub for other creatives of color. He declined to detail any projects in development or talent in the company’s sights at this time.
Perry may be leading the charge in black entertainment, but he’s spent much of the last 15 years dealing with backlash. The “Madea” franchise on which the Tyler Perry empire was built accounts for more than half of his 20-film library, and almost all of them have been met with near-universal pans. Perry’s movies make money, but he’s not exactly a revered auteur. This kind of sustained assault might start to take a toll on even the thickest of skins, but Perry never let any of it dampen his enthusiasm.
“For every critic that said how horrible my films were, and typically they weren’t black, I got thousands of letters from people telling me how much the work was literally changing their lives,” he said. “Had I focused on the criticism, I wouldn’t own this studio today. I could not have gotten here without Madea.”
And with that kind of attitude, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s not chasing awards, either. While Perry has won several film and TV honors over the years, none of his work has garnered serious Emmy or Oscar season traction. “I came from outside the system, and I remain so far outside the system, that these things have never been of interest to me at all,” he said. He called winning awards “a very political process” that he would rather avoid.
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral”
However, Perry is more than ready to bid farewell to the contentious Madea character for good. Prior to premiering “A Madea Family Funeral” earlier this year, he promised that it would be the final film in the franchise. However, that wasn’t the first time the mogul expressed a desire to bury the character, which has been a tremendous source of wealth for his growing empire. “Funeral,” which grossed close to $74 million on a budget of roughly $20 million, ranks as the second highest-grossing movie in the franchise, suggesting that there’s still very much an appetite for the character. So is Perry really committed to burying Madea for good?
“Look, as far as I’m concerned man, she’s done,” he said. “I’m 50 years old, and there’s so much more that I want to focus on. So you can mark my words, it’s time for her to go.”
However, he did tease interest in a “Madea Cinematic Universe” that would see secondary characters from the series go on their own adventures. And he’s said he was thrilled to be working in an increasingly diverse, inclusive, and content-hungry environment that permits him to even consider that possibility. But he was reticent to refer to the current spate of black film and television as a “renaissance.”
“Going back to the blaxploitation era, we’ve repeatedly seen this sudden thirst to tap into us, that happens about every seven to 10 years, before it fades,” Perry said. But, whether or not the “thirst” will be sustained, he said he was glad to be relieved of the pressure he’d been under to be “everything to all black people” for many years, as more African American creatives are given admission through Hollywood’s pearly gates. He name-checked Ava DuVernay, Donald Glover, Lena Waithe, Justin Simien and Issa Rae, as some of the rising stars he now considers as peers.
Looking ahead, Perry said he hoped that more African American creatives find ways to adopt his proprietorship mantra. “If I see more of us own what we produce, and I’m in any way responsible for that, then I feel I would’ve done something,” he said. “That’s what Oprah did for me. And if I can do that for other people behind me, then I’ve done all I want to do, because that is what’s going to change this entire industry.”
But Hollywood is just one piece of the equation. Given his oratorical skills and wealth, might there be a future in politics for Tyler Perry? “Never, ever going to happen in a billion years, buddy,” he said.
Tyler Perry and Nickelodeon are teaming on a new kids and family live-action series starring 10-year-old rapper Young Dylan. The news was revealed today to a surprised Young Dylan Dylan Gilmer on The Ellen DeGeneres Show you can watch the clip below.
Written by Perry, the project tells the story of a family whose world is turned upside down when their nephew, an aspiring hip-hop star Dylan, moves in unannounced.
“I'm excited to work with Brian and the team at Nickelodeon and find creative ways to reach new audiences,” said Perry. “I love creating comedy television and can't wait to work with the talented Young Dylan.”
“It's a thrill to bring this new series to Nickelodeon from the incredibly talented and prolific Tyler Perry, whose track record speaks for itself” added Nickelodeon President Brian Robbins. “Dylan is an incredibly talented 10-year-old who at heart is a relatable kid making his dreams happen. We know kids are going to love watching Dylan and we can't wait to introduce him and his new show to our audience.”
Nickelodeon's partnership with Tyler Perry Studios is part of Perry's long-term mega-deal with Viacom, producing original series for BET Networks and other Viacom networks, with exclusive licensing rights on this programming. Additionally, Tyler Perry Studios recently announced its joint venture with BET Networks for the new streaming video on demand service BET+, which launched on September 19. The SVOD service contains more than 1,000 hours of content, including exclusive new original programming, series, movies, and specials from BET Networks and creators, including Perry, Tracy Oliver, Will Packer, and others.
Born and raised in Annapolis, MD, Young Dylan is best known for his many appearances and performances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and at NBA All-Star Weekend. He also made a guest appearance on the revival of Nickelodeon's hit series, All That scheduled to air on Saturday, Oct. 12. Young Dylan has an overall talent deal with Telepictures, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Television.
Gilmer is repped by The Green Room and Chris Abramson at Felker Toczek Suddleson Abramson.
UPDATED, 11:05: BET said today that both its new Tyler Perry drama series The Oval and Sistas will premiere on Wednesday, October 23. Both had been slated to bow on October 9.
From left: Ed Quinn, Kron Moore, Paige Hurd and Daniel Croix Henderson in 'The Oval' BET
PREVIOUSLY, September 9: BET has set the premiere dates for Tyler Perry's new original drama series The Oval and Sistas, which will premiere back to back Wednesday, October 9 at 9 PM and 10 PM, respectively.
The Oval centers on a family placed in the White House by people of power while also highlighting the personal side and everyday lives of the staff who run the inner workings of the nation's most iconic residence. Ed Quinn, Kron Moore, Javon Johnson, Ptosha Storey, Vaughn Hebron, Teesha Renee, Paige Hurd, Daniel Croix Henderson, Lodric Collins, Ciera Payton, Walter Fauntleroy, Taja V. Simpson, Brad Benedict, Travis Cure and Matthew Law star.
From left: Ebony Obsidian, KJ Smith, Mignon Von and Novi Brown in 'Sistas' BET
Sistas revolves around a a group of single black females as they navigate their “complicated” love lives, careers and friendships through the ups-and-downs of living in a modern world. KJ Smith, Mignon Von, Ebony Obsidian, Novi Brown, DeVale Ellis, Chido Nwokocha, Anthony Dalton, Brian Jordan Jr and Kevin Walton star.
Perry writes, directs and executive produces both series, with Tyler Perry Studios' Michelle Sneed serving as executive producer on both.
The series are part of Perry's multi-year content partnership deal with Viacom that has in the pipeline another new original drama, a dramedy and a comedy series in addition to a live holiday-themed special.
Tyler Perry Gives Rousing Speech At BET Awards: “Own Your Way”
Apple, Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, have set RadicalMedia as creative and production partner on their previously announced documentary series about mental health for Apple TV+.
In addition, the principals announced three key members of the show's creative team: directors and executive producers Dawn Porter and Asif Kapadia, and showrunner and executive producer Kahane Cooperman. Along with Winfrey and Prince Harry, RadicalMedia's Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick will serve as executive producers on the series, which aims to dispel the stigma surrounding mental health.
While a premiere date for the mental health project has not yet been confirmed, Winfrey's involvement with Apple could offer the tech giant a way to stand out from the streaming pack.
Apple TV+ is launching November 1, less than two weeks before Disney+ hits the market. WarnerMedia's HBO Max and a to-be-named streaming effort from NBCUniversal are planned for next spring, part of a wave of efforts to offer alternatives to Netflix.
Winfrey appeared last March at Apple's initial tease for the streaming service, announcing she would be tackling mental health in one of her projects for Apple TV+. Prince Harry came aboard a short time later.
Porter is founder of the Emmy-nominated Gideon's Army, which won an award for editing at the 2013 Sundance FIlm Festival.
She has also directed the film Trapped and the four-part doc series Bobby Kennedy for President. Her other films include Spies of Mississippi and Rise: The Promise of My Brother's Keeper. and an upcoming one for CNN Films about Congressman John Lewis.
Kapadia won an Oscar for directing Amy, which recounted the story of singer Amy Winehouse using material from her personal archives.
He also directed Senna, which collected several awards in 2011. His latest film, Diego Maradona, was based on more than 500 hours of never-before-seen footage of the soccer star. It premiered at Cannes and will soon air in the U.S. on HBO.
Cooperman is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has also earned Emmy and Peabody awards for work including her longtime stint as co-executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Her film, Joe's Violin, about two strangers connected by a donated musical instrument, was nominated for the Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar in 2017.
Cooperman is directing and producing a feature documentary about kindness and decency in America with RadicalMedia's John Hoffman.
Previous series stints included serving as showrunner for The New Yorker Presents and showrunner and a director on Cold-Blooded.
In addition to the mental health series, Winfrey's overall arrangement with Apple encompasses feature documentary Toxic Labor, which examines sexual harassment in the workplace, and a new iteration of her book club. The club activation will result in interviews with authors being streamed to Apple stores and devices via Apple TV+.
Apple's docuseries about mental health, executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry, has found key members of its creative team.
Daily Show veteran Kahane Cooperman will serve as showrunner on the untitled series, and Dawn Porter Trapped, Gideon's Army and Asif Kapadia Amy, Senna will direct episodes. All three will serve as executive producers. Winfrey's Harpo Productions has also tapped RadicalMedia as its creative and production partner on the show; the company's Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick will also exec produce along with Winfrey and Prince Harry.
The docuseries, which will air on the Apple TV+ streaming platform that launches in November, aims to break down the stigma and shame that surrounds mental health. It was announced in March at Apple's unveiling of TV+, and Prince Harry, who has been an advocate for mental-health issues, joined Winfrey on the project shortly thereafter.
Cooperman was a co-executive producer of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, was director and executive producer of Sundance's four-hour doc Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders also from RadicalMedia and directed the Oscar-nominated short documentary Joe's Violin. She's currently at work on a feature doc about kindness and decency in America with RadicalMedia's John Hoffman.
Porter has directed and produced Gideon's Army for HBO, the Peabody Award-winning Trapped and RadicalMedia and Netflix's docuseries Bobby Kennedy for President. She's also working on a documentary about Congressman John Lewis for CNN Films.
Kapadia won an Oscar in 2016 for Amy, his documentary about singer Amy Winehouse, and earned a BAFTA for 2010's Senna, about Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. Diego Maradona, a portrait of the Argentine soccer legend, premieres Oct. 1 on HBO.
Apple TV+ is set to launch Nov. 1 with a handful of series, including the Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon drama The Morning Show, space-race drama For All Mankind and genre play See, starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. A premiere date for the mental-health docuseries hasn't been set.