Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry 'Get Married' A New Jack artist of many trades, actor/director Tyler Perry became famous for cross-dressing as the ghetto, gun-toting Madea character. But in his latest flick, "Why Did I Get Married?," he plays one half of four black couples who go on a vacation that turns into a nightmare. Farai Chideya talks to Perry and the film's star, Janet Jackson.
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Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry 'Get Married'

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Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry 'Get Married'

Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry 'Get Married'

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(Soundbite of song, "That's the Way Love Goes")

Ms. JANET JACKSON (Actress; Singer): (Singing) That's the way love goes.


"Why Did I Get Married?"

It might be the title of your own sob song, but it's also the name of Tyler Perry's brand new-play-turned-major motion picture. A New Jack artist of many trades, Perry became famous for cross-dressing as the ghetto, gun-toting Madea character from his plays and movies. But in this latest flick, he plays a bougie husband - just one of a member of four black couples who go on a vacation that turns into a nightmare.

In "Why Did I Get Married?," Perry is joined by a big cast of stars, including the multi-talented Janet Jackson. I recently got a chance to sit down with Jackson and Perry to talk about their new venture.

First, I asked if Tyler fans used to seeing him in a dress were ready for his new role.

Mr. TYLER PERRY (Actor; Playwright): You can't judge me too early here. If you look at Madea, and if you look at, you know, some of the early stuff, it's specific. It is a specific way of storytelling. It's one side of the way I tell stories. And then you look at "Daddy's Little Girls" or "Why Did I Get Married?" is another way of storytelling.

So I know that I'm growing as a director. But in my storytelling, I mean, I've got a story about a Holocaust survivor and a jazz singer in 1947 that is very rich and that was written 15 years ago. So I have a lot of different ways of telling stories. I'm just showing some other sides of what I can do, I think. I'm all speak up.

Ms. JACKSON: No, you - if anything, it's I probably need to speak up.

Mr. PERRY: No, we're all good. This is NPR. You don't speak loudly on NPR.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Are you afraid of losing some of the audiences who liked your earlier work where it was somewhat broader comedy, more ruckus?

Mr. PERRY: Not at all. Because what I found about my audience over the years and being on the road with them is they're very sophisticated. And they can follow through a lot of things and what will be with me through a lot of things. So I'm not - I'll be more concerned when I do the "Jazz Man" piece than I am right now. But no, I absolutely think they'll be there.

CHIDEYA: So Janet, your character is a professor. She is - on the surface -absolutely perfect.

(Soundbite of movie, "Why Did I Get Married?")

Ms. JACKSON: (As Patricia) If you're not going to be honest with your husband, then who are you going to be vulnerable with? You?

Unidentified Woman: (As character) You.

Ms. JACKSON: (As Patricia) This is the reason why they're so upset at you, because you haven't been truthful with them. Tell them how you want them to hold you at night and how you're afraid for them to leave you. Tell them what you tell me all the time. Tell them the truth. Tell them what you're feeling.

Unidentified Woman: (As character) Whew. She makes me sick.

CHIDEYA: She's got a lot under the surface. How do you relate to her in ways that are similar and different from who you are as a person?

Ms. JACKSON: I think in the ways that are similar, as she is a professor and everyone comes to her for all the answers. And that definitely is something that I can relate to in my own life with, you know, my group of friends or even family. And - but yet not really wanting to look in her own backyard with the issues that are going on. And that's something that I used to do a lot of in the past.

CHIDEYA: And why did you do this movie? I understand that you had to make a decision really fast. And it was something that clearly was a priority for you. Why this movie? Why now?

Ms. JACKSON: Well, there were a couple of things. I was dying to do something that was an ensemble.

Mr. PERRY: She did it because of me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Absolutely.

Mr. PERRY: No, no, no.

Ms. JACKSON: No, but we did want to walk together. That is true. And we finally got the thing - we've got the opportunity too but I was hoping to do something that had an - that was an ensemble piece. And I didn't have a lot of time to dedicate being a lead role to by working in my other job. And then I fell in love with this script. When I first read it, I thought, oh, my God. And this is so deep. And it had its funny bits to it, its funny parts to it. And I fell in love with the character. And I so badly wanted to do it and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it as I was going on tour at the time and had a show to do. And we worked it all out and I'm very happy that we did.

CHIDEYA: I love the way you said my other job. As if, you know, you work in as a cashier or something.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. JACKSON: Well, I'm not a multi-tasker in the entireness that we talk about it. So that was my other fear - of my off days being able to go to rehearsal and be with the band and dancers for eight-plus hours and then dedicate all of myself to the film when I needed to be there. So...

Mr. PERRY: I'm working on that bet. I want her to be there. I want her to start to multitask because then we'd be seeing a lot more Janet. And we love her death that we want to see more.

CHIDEYA: Well, there were so many people who would, you know, give their left arm to be in a movie like this. How did you choose the cast that you chose for this ensemble piece, Tyler?

Mr. PERRY: You know what I do? I surrender it. After it's written, I surrender it. I said, okay, you know, I give it Reuben Cannon who's produced - who's been in casting for years and we go from there. And we, you know, start thinking of who - we brainstorm. Who do we see? And when we hear a name that's right, it's instant. It's automatic. It's very rare that a name will come up and we'll hire them and they'd be wrong. I haven't had that experience yet. It's always about surrendering the piece to who would - who supposed to have it.

CHIDEYA: Terry, how is he like you? How is he not like...

Mr. PERRY: That's me.

CHIDEYA: That's you.

Mr. PERRY: That's me. Terry's a little more patient than I am, though. But that's me. Yeah, that's me. Because if she was doing that to me, we - tarrying away three months. But...

CHIDEYA: By she, you mean Terry's wife who...

Mr. PERRY: Diane played by Sharon Leal.

CHIDEYA: Right. Who is not...

Mr. PERRY: Very business.

CHIDEYA: Lack of consort, I believe, is the phrase.

Mr. PERRY: Yeah, that's a good one. She's very, very busy and - but the real reason, as I was watching the movie and I just figured this out as I was watching the movie. The real reason why she didn't want to sleep with her husband is because the question of why isn't she getting pregnant would come up. And which is one of the secrets that was revealed at the table there.

(Soundbite of movie, "Why Did I Get Married?")

Mr. PERRY: (As Terry) What the hell are you talking about to not knock yourself. You're (Unintelligible) sides and you didn't even tell me. You don't think I'm selfish?

Ms. SHARON LEAL (Actress): (As Diane) Look, this is my body, okay? You don't have to carry a child. I do. You don't have to miss work. I do.

Mr. PERRY: (As Terry) Diane, when you get married, you give up the I's for us, okay? You don't make those kinds of decisions without talking to me. What the hell am I doing? I don't even know why I'm having this argument with you. I'm tire of arguing about the same damn thing with you. It's clear to me - one thing very clear. You don't want to be married.

Ms. LEAL: (As Diane) I'll tell you what this is about. My entire career is going way better than yours. And you're having some testosterone issues and you can't deal with it.

CHIDEYA: Now, Janet, what do did this teach you about marriage? And would you be more likely to tie the knot with your longtime love, Jermaine Dupree, after doing this role or not so much?

Ms. JACKSON: I still have the same views on love, I suppose. For my - and it really comes from - I am stuttering, right? - and it really comes from, I guess, being married twice and being divorce twice. For myself, I don't need the piece of paper. I just - it's about the spiritual connection and having our own vows.

CHIDEYA: Tyler, what about you? Is this going to make you more into commitment or just like oh, no, no, no.

Mr. PERRY: I asked Oprah to marry me yesterday and I told her I wouldn't need a pre-nup. She said, let's do it, but then, you know, afterwards, I got a call from Stedman so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PERRY: ...it's not going to happen. But, you know, on a serious note, I want to be married one day. I mean, no rush. You know, I'm only 38. People think that - some people think that's old. But, you know, David Letterman had a kid at 6,020.

CHIDEYA: Hey, I'm 38. I'm down with 38.

Mr. PERRY: Yeah. I understand it.

CHIDEYA: Now, there is, to me, this real sweetness, and this - I don't know if you agree with this - but this desire to say black love is alive. Was that one of your intents with the movie?

Mr. PERRY: You know, I love the way that people are rallying behind the movie. But I think they just think it's about love. It's about people, period. You know? That not only is black love alive but all of us are alive. You know, all family is important, you know. And I think as people are watching the movie -whatever your race - if you give it a chance, if there's a universal thing that's running all the way through it that people will understand.

CHIDEYA: Janet, you're nodding. What about this whole - many people have said that black love, in particular, is embattled and it's very difficult to survive in the modern era where people feel as if it's almost impossible to keep a marriage alive or even a relationship.

Ms. JACKSON: You know, I have this - I feel like Tyler about this. I was nodding my head because I don't like to see this just black love but to see it as all love. And I think there are all different races that have issues. And I don't like to just look at it as black love. You know, everybody has problems.

(Soundbite of movie, "Why Did I Get Married?")

Unidentified man #1: (As Character) Tell everyone to listen, man. I keep trying to tell your brothers about the 80-20 rule.

Unidentified man #2: (As Character) The what?

Unidentified man #1: (As Character) The 80-20 rule. In most cases, in marriage, you're only going to get 80 percent of what you need. That's it. No more, no less. Most of the times, 80 percent. Now, here comes this woman, offering 20 percent. Now, 20 percent looks real good when you ain't getting it. But the problem is you're going to leave 80 thinking you're getting something better and you end up with 20.

Unidentified man #2: (As Character) That makes perfect sense to me.

CHIDEYA: So before we let you guys go, I want to ask you about the future. Janet, you are, as Tyler would put it, an aspiring multi-tasker perhaps?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: You - and to me, you seem perfectly busy but...

Ms. JACKSON: Well, if he is my professor then I know I did well.


Mr. PERRY: I may get her to have two things at once. Not maybe three or four but two.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: So Janet, what do you see ahead?

Ms. JACKSON: An album in the future. More films. And the most in the midst of writing a book on my journeys with my weight - my weight loss, my weight gain. And where it truly comes from - in my soul and nutrition.

Mr. PERRY: I know that that's going to be awesome. That is going to be amazing.

Ms. JACKSON: Thank you.

Mr. PERRY: Yeah. Yeah. That you would even open up to share that.

Ms. JACKSON: I, you know, I like helping people in any way that I can. And a lot of people have asked me about it. So I don't mind sharing with them if it helps someone else, I'm really happy to share.

Mr. PERRY: That's great.

CHIDEYA: That's powerful. Tyler, you are a mogul. What about you? What do you see in the next few years?

Ms. JACKSON: He's got this. He's got that. He's got the other.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PERRY: You know, I'm working towards owning a network that is positive and inspiring and reinforcing to anybody who wanted it so. That's what I like to eventually end up. It's where I'd like to end up.

CHIDEYA: One more thing - and again for both of you. I'll start with you, Tyler. What makes you pick yourself up if and when you fail at anything?

Mr. PERRY: For me, and there has been - I haven't had a lot of failure but I have had a lot of things that I thought were failure. But as I looked back on it now, it was preparing me for this position. But for me, it's a lot of prayer and just knowing that God has brought me to a place in my life where I am supposed to keep going no matter what. And that's what I do. I keep going. I say that to anybody no matter what - no matter what disappointment, no matter what is going on. Just keep moving. Life changes. It gets better.


Ms. JACKSON: I think something that's very important for myself is not being afraid to fail. And that there's always - not to be so cliche-ish - but there are always is light at the end of the tunnel. There's always another door that is going to open. And I'm a very good believer in prayer.

CHIDEYA: Well, Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry, it's been a delight.

Mr. PERRY: Thank you, NPR. We really appreciate it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Writer and director Tyler Perry stars along with Janet Jackson in the film "Why Did I Get Married?" The movie hits theaters today.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: That's NEWS & NOTES. To listen to the show or subscribe to our podcast, visit our Web site, nprnewsandnotes.org. No spaces, just nprnewsandnotes.org. To join the conversation or sign up for our newsletter, visit our blog at nprnewsandviews.org.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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