Tyler Perry sat down with Chris Wallace for an interview about the filmmaker’s new movie A Jazzman’s Blues.
Wallace, who was previously with Fox News, has a new show on CNN and HBO Max called Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace. For this weekend’s premiere, Wallace asked Perry about Spike Lee’s 2009 criticism that the filmmaker’s “Madea” character promotes negative stereotypes.
“When Madea first started, first came out, Spike lee called it ‘coonery and buffoonery.’ And over the years, there have been a number of people who say that you’re playing with negative stereotypes of Black men and Black women,” Wallace said via TMZ. “How do you respond?”
Perry responded by saying he’s heard it all before.
Related Story: Tyler Perry Reveals How He Ended Feud With Spike Lee
“There’s a certain part of our society, especially Black people in the culture, that they look down on certain things within the culture,” he replied. “For me, I love the movies that I’ve done because they are the people that I grew up with that I represent and they, my mother would take me in the projects with her on the weekends, she played cards with these women. Most of them have 12th grade education, but their stories and how much they loved each other and how when they get sad about something, another would come in and make a joke. I’m five years old on the floor with my matchbox cards. I was in a masterclass for my life. So when someone says you’re harkening back to a point of our life that we don’t want to talk about it, we don’t want the world to see you’re dismissing the stories of millions and millions of Black people.”
Perry added that his work “resonates” with people who’ve had similar experiences.
“But it also goes back to the Harlem Renaissance and Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston was a new version of the ‘Darkie.’ Langston was northern, very sophisticated, Zora Neale from the South. Her character spoke in a southern dialect,” he continued. “So this is a conversation that’s been going on long before Spike Lee and Tyler Perry. It is what it is. But what is important to me is that I’m honoring the people that came up and taught and made me who I am. Their stories deserve to be told too.”
Wallace was referring to a 2009 interview Spike Lee did with Black Enterprise, and said it was time for Black filmmakers to evolve.
“I know it’s making a lot of money, breaking records, but we can do better,” Lee said to media personality Ed Gordon.
Perry responded to the criticism, by telling reporters on the red carpet that Lee and other critics could “go straight to hell.”
The two filmmakers later put their differences aside. In 2019, Perry welcomed Lee to the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Perry even named a soundstage after Lee at the sprawling 330-acre facility, as previously reported.
In an interview at the time, Perry explained why he ended his feud with the Do The Right Thing director.
“I don’t care if you have beef with somebody,” Perry said. “The truth is you can’t deny what he has done in the film industry and how he has been on the forefront to help me and everybody else to get to the places that we are.”
Perry’s new film A Jazzman’s Blues is a departure from his previous comedies. The Netflix drama follows a forbidden relationship in the 1940s deep South between two young lovers.
The filmmaker has said he wrote the script back in 1995, before his Madea stage plays and movies became hits.
The film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 11, and began streaming on Sept. 23.