Tyler Perry Explains Why It Was Actually A Good Thing That He Was An Outsider In Hollywood

Tyler Perry in Netflix's A Fall From Grace

Love or hate his work, there’s no doubt that Tyler Perry has made a major impact in Hollywood. He’s built his own studios in Atlanta, Georgia and brought a lot of industry there. He’s created a lot of content about people of color and those efforts have led him to reach billionaire status in recent months. He’s been successful, but he credits a lot of that success to having been an outsider in Hollywood.

If you know anything about Tyler Perry’s roots, you may know that he had a tough childhood. He left home and started his career in theater, creating traveling plays based around characters like his now-popular big screen character Madea. For a time he even lived out of his car, but eventually he caught the eye of Oprah Winfrey, who helped to really give him a foothold in showbiz.

In a lengthy profile with Forbes, Tyler Perry recalled how he got started and was often told he wasn’t doing things the correct way with his traveling shows and his penchant for doing much of the work writing, directing and starring in his own projects. He told the outlet:

You got to understand, I had no mentors. My father doesn’t know anything about business, and my uncles and mother, they know nothing about this. I didn’t go to business school. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned in progress.

And he’s learned from some major sources. First, there was Oprah Winfrey, who took an interest after his traveling plays. Then there was an assistant who connected him with Two and a Half Men’s Chuck Lorre, who tried to get him a pitch. No one bit, but Perry says he saw a dearth of content out there for people of color and so he rented a studio and just went for it.

There was about a 10-year period where everything went on a deep lull and there was nothing being made for people of color... The ignorance I had about Hollywood was so wonderful, looking back on it.

People don’t just make shows with no network attached, but Tyler Perry did. It was a gamble that paid off. House of Payne landed at the CW when that network needed new content. It did better than expected in the ratings, leading Tyler Perry to more work, then to the big screen, then to the fruition of his own studio ambitions. His notable film Diary of a Mad Black Woman reached theaters in 2005, shortly before House of Payne found network success.

Some of his movies, including the recent Netflix release A Fall From Grace are not particularly well-reviewed (though in the case of that movie, critics are at 17% while 52% of the audience liked it). Tyler Perry has also faced criticisms about how he approaches women in his storytelling and for contributing to stereotypes.

Regardless, his content is easily consumable and seen by a lot of people, as Tyler Perry himself announced 26 million households checked out the aforementioned film during its first week. The prolific creator also uses these opportunities to often bring new names into the limelight and he’s done a lot for the film business in Atlanta and for filmmakers of color in general, even having a hand in the making of Black Panther before its release. None of this would have been possible if he hadn’t been a little ignorant of how Hollywoood worked and just gone off and done his own thing.

These days, Tyler Perry has a slew of projects going strong. We'd be here all day if I named them all, but they include TV's Bruh and Ruthless. He's producing a filmed version of Tyler Perry's Madea's Farewell Play. He has a part in Wind River director Taylor Sheridan's upcoming movie Those Who Wish Me Dead. It doesn't seem like he'll be slowing down when it comes to making money and landing new business anytime soon.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.