The results are in, and Tyler Perry has done it again. This past weekend I Can Do Bad All By Myself, the latest release from the Atlanta filmmaker,the box office, bringing in over $24 million. This is the second-highest grossing opening week for Perry, following his last hit film, Madea Goes to Jail.
Starring Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson, the film centers on Henson as April — a boozy nightclub singer forced to reevaluate her dead-end lifestyle when her delinquent niece and nephews show up at her doorstep. Henson’s stellar performance is accented by appearances from Adam Rodriguez, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, and noteworthy newcomer Hope Olaide Wilson.
Also making his major motion picture debut is Pastor Marvin Winans, who captured Tyler Perry’s attention after the filmmaker listened to “Just Don’t Wanna Know” from Winans’ latest album, Alone But Not Alone. The pastor of the Perfecting Church in Detroit appears in the film as April’s minister to deliver a stirring musical performance and gospel message. (You can view a brief clip of Pastor Winans’s message here).
On the day of the film’s release, we spoke with Pastor Winans about his experience on the set of I Can Do Bad All By Myself, and why he’s not apologizing if the movie feels too preachy.
URBAN FAITH: What was it like working with Tyler Perry?
PASTOR MARVIN WINANS: Tyler Perry was a joy to work with. He was professional; he was exact; he was just phenomenal. I think his genius is underrated, and he does it all: directs, understands the lighting, understands what he wants on camera, and he’s able to give direction to the point where people can follow it. It really was a professional pleasure.
What was it like to act in a film for the first time?
It’s not anything I’m pursuing full time. [He chuckles.] But it was fun. I was playing a pastor, so it wasn’t that far a reach. The difficulty is trying not to act — that was the thing I learned. Just be true to the scene.
Perry gave you permission to write your own sermon to deliver in the movie. How did you choose your message, knowing you had the opportunity to deliver this sermon before an international audience of believers and non-believers?
I chose the message by looking at the script and really understanding the character. This person, April, was not inherently evil or inherently selfish. She had some experiences in her life that made her and shaped her anger and bitterness and her unwillingness to trust. I tried to find the right scripture to prescribe the right antidote that would relieve her fears. That’s what the gospel does if we find the right message.
As preachers, our job is to find the right message because it’s all in the Bible; it’s right there. Every human emotion, every experience good bad and ugly is right there. If we study the Word and pray, we can find the answer for every ill.
The sermon you preach is called “Value Added,” and as I listened to it I actually forgot that I was sitting in a theater; it feels more like church. It really speaks strongly to April’s situation.
“Value Added” was a message that I first preached about a year ago now. It deals with the Parable of the Lost Coin. Understanding that even though the coin is lost, it has not lost its value, just its usefulness. So if you find it, it still has the same amount of value. And, in the film, April was worth saving, because she had a good heart. She still had value. She had just strayed from the truth because of things out of her control.
Many faith-based movies sometimes come across as preachy or heavy-handed. In your experience, what’s the best way to deliver a “Christian” message without making it too preachy?
I really don’t get that. In my experience and history as a songwriter, I simply write what happened. I am unashamed to use the name of Jesus. It’s like asking a rock ‘n’ roll group not be so “rock ‘n’ rollish.” And when it comes to the church and the gospel, I really get passionate and disturbed by the idea that we somehow need to change the message. Why should I not be who I am?
Too preachy? Well, I’m a preacher. It’s too churchy. Well, it’s about church. When you’re in the church, you’re not exempt from life. And that’s the reason kudos are due to Tyler Perry, because his characters experience life and yet the church is there.
I don’t think the world understands that if I remove the element of the gospel from gospel music, or if I remove the element of the gospel from faith-based films, then it’s simply what everyone else is doing. I wish the world, the general public, would get passed the “everyone gets to be very upfront and out there except the church.” For some reason, we’re expected to muzzle and cover our message and be very covert while the rest of the world gets to be overt. I think Tyler is very out front about church, and I think that’s part of his success.
What do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing the film?
That it’s okay to trust again; that it’s okay to love again; that it’s okay to hope.
UrbanFaith would love to hear what you think of I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Chime in below and let us know if you’ve seen the film.