Ace movie producer Tyler Perry may be wrapping up the role of the world’s favourite granny, Madea, which he plays himself. Madea has been cracking up audiences since 1999, but in Perry’s new book, Madea barely gets a mention.
That’s because “Higher Is Waiting” isn’t a celebrity tell-all. In fact, it’s not even a memoir, but a collection of spiritual lessons that the prolific actor/writer/producer/director cultivated over his 48 years. Perry discussed his new book with Michael Strahan at the Gramercy Theatre on Tuesday, the day the book was released.
“[With] everything that’s going on in the country… I’m so glad the book is coming at this time,” Perry tells The Post. “I wanted to let people know that if you’re living in a place that is dark, and you’re looking for colour, you can reach higher because higher is waiting. That’s what happened in my own life.”
The darkness in Perry’s life came early on. Growing up in poverty in New Orleans, he was beaten bloody by his alcoholic father, Emmitt, and saw his mother beaten by him, too. At 16, Emmitt Junior changed his name to Tyler to distance himself from his abuser. Years later, he took a DNA test and discovered that Emmitt wasn’t even his biological father.
Initially, Perry’s determination in life was fueled by rage against the man who hurt him, but says his Christian faith allowed him to forgive.
“I realized that I had to let go of the pain,” he says. “The most difficult part was trying to switch my source of fuel from the negative to something positive. Once I learned how to do that, I was able to move forward.”
Now his troubled childhood reminds him of what kind of father he wants to be to Aman, the nearly 3-year-old son he shares with longtime girlfriend Gelila Bekele.
“My answers to fatherhood were in the opposite of what he did,” says Perry. “So I shower my son with love and hugs and do all I can to make sure he [knows] he’s a beautiful, emotional being that has been given to me as a gift to nurture.”
Perry also continues to nurture his entertainment empire, most recently with last month’s release of “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.” The movies he’s directed and produced have grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide, yet critics have rarely been kind.
“The older I get, the less I care,” he says. “Because what is important — and I never, ever lost sight of — is seeing the reaction from the people and what it does for them in their lives. If I start to forget who I’m speaking to, trying to please someone to get a good review, then I’m going to completely miss the mark.”
His next film, out in March, is “Acrimony,” a sexy thriller starring Taraji P. Henson. He’s also playing Colin Powell in “Backseat,” the upcoming Dick Cheney film, starring Christian Bale as the former VP. As for his most famous character: She’ll make her 11th theatrical film appearance in “A Madea Family Funeral,” out in August.
Perry hopes he can eventually hang up the character’s wig for good. “I’m determined to not be her age playing her,” he says. “The minute people stop coming, that broad’s gone, man!” [NYPOST.COM]