Tyler Perry has become a name synonymous with African-American drama and comedy. Made famous for playing the Madea character in many of his movies, Perry is one of Hollywood’s most successful male actors of African descent. However, Perry isn’t all about comedy but has used the character, as well as his life, to be an inspiration to many.
In the competitive Hollywood film industry, Perry has successfully carved a niche for himself as a producer, director, and film studio founder. An all-round talent, Perry has credits in stage, film, and television. Taking a journey through his life and career, here are 8 things you didn’t know about Tyler Perry.
Tyler Perry Had A Name Change To Distance Himself From His Father
Tyler Perry was born Emmitt Perry Jr. to a carpenter, Emmitt Perry Sr., and a preschool teacher, Willie Maxine Perry. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 13, 1969. Perry has three siblings who were all raised as Christians by their mother. She ensured they attended church every Sunday. Recalling his childhood as a “living hell,” Perry’s parents had a strained and abusive marriage. As a result, Perry suffered depression in his teen years.
Watching his father’s maltreatment of his mother and family made Perry resent him. Named after his father, Perry wanted to disassociate himself from him as much as possible. As such, at 16, he summoned courage and legally changed his name to Tyler Perry. Much to his relief, a later DNA test he carried revealed the man he had known as his father, Emmitt Perry Sr., wasn’t his biological father.
He Was Molested As A Child
Besides growing up in a home where he witnessed his father physically abuse his mother, Tyler Perry was molested before he became a teenager. Before Perry turned 10, he had been molested by three men. At age 10, one of his mother’s friends also molested him. Perry later learned that his father molested a friend of his.
How Tyler Perry Got Inspired To Become A Writer
With Tyler Perry’s childhood experiences, he carried a lot of weight in his heart. In his early 20s, Perry secured a job and was working an office job. One day in 1991, he stumbled on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where they were discussing the therapeutic effects of expressing oneself through writing. He decided to write letters to himself about his life experiences, which helped him let go of much of his anger and resentments.
Tyler Perry’s Early Acting Career
Tyler Perry had written several letters to himself to help him heal. He kept these letters close to his heart. Perry had always had a thing for the performing arts, so when he got the idea to stage a play, it was a dream come true. Using his self-addressed letters as references for a script, Perry used his life savings to stage a play. This became the musical I Know I’ve Been Changed. However, things didn’t exactly go as he had planned. While there was no doubt he had the creative genius to write a compelling stage story, he had little to no experience in marketing and business. His debut play failed to attract meaningful audiences, causing Perry to lose all his investments and life savings.
Tyler Perry’s Successful Stage Career
For the unversed, Tyler Perry had a successful career as a stage actor before making his on-screen debut. With all his savings gone on what was considered a failure, Perry worked several off jobs to make ends meet. He had to live in his car at some point, since he couldn’t afford a home. However, through the years, Perry kept working on redefining himself and his craft. Much wiser, and with several revisions to the original I Know I’ve Been Changed script, he restaged the play in 1998.
A living proof that time, determination, and faith in God can change situations, Perry’s plays soon became a hit amongst African-American audiences. Besides I Know I’ve Been Changed, Perry wrote and staged several other plays. A 2005 Forbes report estimated that Perry has sold over $100 million in tickets for his shows and performs 300 live shows yearly to an average weekly audience of 35,000. This excludes the $20 million he made from the play’s merchandise and an additional $30 from sales of the play’s videos.
Tyler Perry’s Work In Film And Television
As an actor, Tyler Perry made his on-screen debut in 2005. He portrayed three characters from his stage plays, Madea, Joe, and Brian, in Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005). Although he wasn’t the movie’s director, he wrote and co-produced it with Reuben Cannon. Since then, Perry has starred in at least one film every year. These include films he produced/directed and others he didn’t. In television, Perry made his debut in 2007 playing Madea in the self-produced sitcom House of Payne (2007–2012; 2020-present). However, House of Payne, Love Thy Neighbor (2013–2017), and the narrator of The Passion: New Orleans (2016) are Perry’s only acting roles on television.
He’s The Owner And Founder Of Tyler Perry Studios
Tyler Perry founded the film production studios in 2006. Tyler Perry Studios is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and has 34 Street Films and BET+ as its subsidiaries. The studio was moved to a permanent site in 2019 in southwest Atlanta. Perry had purchased 330 acres of the former army post, Fort McPherson, for $30 million in 2015 and spent an additional $250 million to turn it into a world-class studio. Tyler Perry Studios has 13 Soundstages, all named after prominent African-American entertainers.
It also has several permanent sets and structures, which include a replica of the White House, luxury hotel lobby, motel, farmhouse, bank, county jail, baseball fields, Airplane, etc. With the quality of sets and structures in the studios, it has been used to produce several other popular films. These include Zombieland: Double Tap (2015), Coming 2 America (2021), Red Notice (2021), Hawkeye (2021), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), and Blade (2025).
Tyler Perry Is A Billionaire
Anyone who has watched Tyler Perry’s success story through the years knows it was only a matter of time before he crossed the billionaire mark. According to a report by Forbes, Perry was already raking in more than $1.4 billion in pretax income since as far back as 2005. Perry has long stood out from other entertainers by doing something most of them dream about – owning and controlling everything.
He writes, directs, and produces his own films in his own production studio. In a Forbes interview, he said, “I own the lights. I own the sets…. So that’s where the difference is. Because I own everything, my returns are higher.” Although he had no formal business education and had to learn business through progress, many of Tyler Perry’s business sense (including ownership) were impressed on him by his friend and now business partner, Oprah Winfrey.
Tell us what's wrong with this post? How could we improve it? :)
Let us improve this post!