Tyler Perry Urges Caution in Push for More Diversity in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES, CA. February 21, 2020: Tyler Perry at the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Ceremony honoring Dr Phil McGraw — Photo by Featureflash /Deposit Photos)

Following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, there was a racial awakening in the U.S. and calls for greater diversity in corporate hiring practices. That desire for change led to several new initiatives in Hollywood to amplify underrepresented voices and to create opportunities for people color.

During a Q&A Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, Tyler Perry praised efforts to increase diversity in the entertainment industry, but he cautioned against putting people in jobs “they’re not ready for.”

“Let me be very careful on how I say this, be diplomatic. I’m extremely excited for what’s happened with diversity and the choices and opportunities that we’re seeing for Black people for the first time, it is amazing,” Perry said, via Deadline. “But I worry because there is such a push for diversity and push for hiring people of color that I found situations that there are people being pushed into seats they’re not ready for.”

Related StoryNetflix Releases Tearful Trailer for Tyler Perry Drama ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ (Video)

The writer, producer and director, added that his Tyler Perry Studios helps prepare up-and-coming creators for careers in film and television.

“At Tyler Perry Studios, we train so many people, we’ve brought people in and they do an amazing job but as soon as people are trained and they know the job, they’re snatched up to go to some bigger production,” he said, before expressing his concerns about moving people along too quickly.

“What I don’t want to have is Black people in seats that we weren’t ready for, and then have people that are not Black that were moved out of seats… If we didn’t get qualifications, the teaching or the education to get there, then how are we given the seats so quickly? It’s my hope that in all of this change and this push for there to be more inclusion, we’re also providing time and training to make sure we can do a great job,” Perry stated.

Related StoryTyler Perry Says ‘A Bunch’ of Actors Declined Roles in His New Film ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’

The team behind Tyler Perry's A Jazzman's Blues attends the film's world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 11, 2022. (Credit: Netflix)
The team behind Tyler Perry’s A Jazzman’s Blues attends the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022. (Credit: Netflix)

Perry traveled to Toronto for Sunday’s premiere of his new film A Jazzman’s Blues, a period drama centering on a forbidden relationship between two young lovers in the 1940s deep South.

Solea Pfeiffer and Joshua Boone lead the cast as Bayou and Leanne, who are forced to stop seeing each other because of racism and class. Years later, Bayou becomes a successful jazz performer and Leanne marries another man. The pair cross paths again, reigniting their desire to be together while facing dangerous secrets from the past.

The film also stars Amirah Vann, Austin Scott, Milauna Jemai Jackson, Brent Antonello, Brad Benedict, Kario Marcel, Lana Young, and Ryan Eggold. The film features “Paper Airplanes,” an original song performed by Ruth B., along with songs arranged and produced by Terence Blanchard, music by Aaron Zigman and choreography by Debbie Allen.

Perry has said he wrote the script back in 1995, before his Madea stage plays and movies became massive hits. But it would take decades before the movie made it into production.

A Jazzman’s Blues begins streaming Sept. 23 on Netflix.

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