Being Tyler Perry

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A Universal Story

"I'm not surprised," Perry said, "because I've always thought I was just telling a universal story. For years we as African-American people have had to go to the movies and never see our faces, so I just thought what does this mean: cross over? If you can cross over one way can't you cross over the other way too? So I just thought if I stayed true to what I was doing, audiences -- no matter what race -- would find it and appreciate it."

He's got a schedule of touring plays, films and TV shows worked out through 2009, possibly into 2010. He remains driven even with millions in the bank, and he has just opened a 75,000 square foot studio so he can shoot all his projects in his beloved adopted home, Atlanta.

"Even at this age, I worry about having to go back to my parents house for some reason," Perry told us, "as well as I remember being in school and getting straight A's and not getting attention, and getting straight F's and not getting any attention, and so I think I've learned how to rechannel my own energy to drive myself in the things that I do to make sure that things are successful."

And how successful is he? According to figures his company has compiled, his plays have grossed $100 million since 1998. He structured a deal with TBS for his new sit-com "House of Payne" that will generate $200 million in revenue.

According to independent tallies, Perry's first two movies -- "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea's Family Reunion" -- made for about $5 million and $6 million each, and grossed about $110 million at the box office.

Not Seeking Approval

Only once during our interview did he express anger, and that was at the black theater elite, some of who have dismissed his work.

"My work has been frowned upon by a lot of the African-American theater companies. But I think my shows, because they generate so much income, that they could actually finance some of the other shows, some of the August Wilson shows, some of the great playwrights of our time." As well as introduce his audience to a different type of theater experience, he said.

But he's not seeking the validation of anyone except his fans. They know what they're getting when they go see a Tyler Perry production. After all, it's more than just his name -- it's his brand.

"For me the Tyler Perry brand is good family wholesome entertainment. It's things you can take your entire family to," he said. "It's about life lessons, it's faith based, it's about God, it's about love, it's about hope, forgiveness, all of those things encompass and make up a brand."

"Daddy's Little Girls," Tyler Perry's latest, has scored big at the box office since its Valentine's Day release, hauling in $18.6 million last weekend. Distributed by Lionsgate, the film cost less than $10 million to make.

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