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, topped 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.
This week’s installment of Pop & Circumstance is heavy on the reality TV, since the summertime seems to carry an inordinate number of these programs. It makes sense. Reality shows are cheap to produce, and not as many people are watching during the summer months anyway, so the networks can get away with a little more mediocrity. Ah, but the mediocrity is often so addictive.
So maybe it’s a moral failing in me, but one episode and I’m already hooked on the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Pray for me, y’all. It’s an incredibly demeaning show — I know. The catfights between African American women, the incessant bling, the reinforcement of the stereotype that the only way black folks can become successful is through sports or music careers … I know all this. But it’s so delicious.
Thursday night season two premiered and out of the gate there was drama. But this time it wasn’t the bickering of the housewives that caused a stir. It was newly divorced cast member Sheree Whitfield’s fight with her “Independence Party” planner Anthony that lit up the screen. After failing to follow through on a few grand plans that would place Sheree at the center of attention for her event — because after all, it’s all about Sheree –the housewife “went Cleveland” on Anthony in a screaming match that forced colleagues of the party planner to hold him back while cameras rolled on the disintegration of his business. When all was said and done, Sheree asked, “What happened to customer service?” Classic.
The rest of the housewives, including new cast member singer/songwriter Kandi Burruss, seem to have matured a bit, finding some reconciliation from the drama that aired last November. But if Bravo’s teaser for future episodes is any indication, the peace is short-lived. I will say that the missing moral anchor of DeShawn Snow is palpable. She was the wife of retired NBA player Eric Snow who reportedly pursued a Master of Divinity and was not asked back for the new season because she was “too human for a circus show.” I miss those beats the camera used to take on Snow’s blank face each time Kim or NeNe would say something outrageous. It’s probably for the best though. She was too classy for this show. But apparently, I’m not. I’ll keep watching.
What do you think of the new season of Real Housewives of Atlanta? Will you watch?
Black Women Want Roses, Too
I haven’t watched an episode of ABC’s The Bachelor since season one when Trista Rehn was rejected by Alex Michel, and then went on to star in her own reality romance spin-off The Bachelorette. Back then the rose ceremonies were intense. I used to huddle around a small television set with my college girlfriends holding our breath as if peace in the Middle East was on the line while the roses were doled out . So when the most recent season of The Bachelorette ended on Monday, with 29-year-old interior designer Jillian Harris choosing Ed Swiderski, I missed it. But I did read Rachel Skirritt’s review of the show over at TheRoot.com and that got me thinking. Why do I no longer care about The Bachelor/Bachelorette phenomenon?
Skirritt, who has also fallen out of love with reality romance, noted that in 18 combined seasons of the shows, there has never been a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color. She writes, “Why is it that if an African American wants to humiliate him or herself on national TV in search of a mate, the only options are I Love New York or For the Love of Ray J? Are we not suitable for major networks?” Arguing that since Black women are the most unlikely to marry in our culture (the latest studies say that nearly 45 percent of black women have never been married versus 23 percent of their white counterparts), she posits that a season dedicated to this often woefully single demographic would score big numbers in Nielsen ratings. It might also lead to greater success in the relationships since due to the statistical challenges of finding the one, black women presumably have more urgency to get hitched.
While I agree that all races should have an equal opportunity to sign up for a chance to compete for love, and likely lose anyway (since less than 1 percent of past couples have actually married), I’m not sure a Black Bachelorette is the solution. There’s enough competition for romance among African American women without turning it into prime-time entertainment. And if the discussions I have with my single girlfriends are at all telling, there are some deep wounds unique to black women concerning the scarcity of men that might only be aggravated by a television show.
What do you think? Do black women need to get a rose too?
A Bigger and Better Bachelor?
Big girls want love too, or at least that’s the message Fox is trying to get across with its new reality show More to Love. The show,which features full-figured contestants vying for love, premiered last week to mixed reviews. Hosted by plus-size model Emme, the show aims to prove that love comes in all shapes and sizes. Much like ABC’s The Bachelor, the premise centers on the drama between approximately 20 voluptuous women as they compete for the affection of one successful bachelor. According to the Kansas City Star, this season’s bachelor is Luke Conley, a real estate investor who claims to be a Christian. While getting cozy on a sofa after private spa treatments, Conley tells one woman, “I am who I am because of my relationship with the Lord. I pray every day, and I read the Bible … to me, God is a third person in the room.” He then proceeds to make out with said woman. Maybe God stepped out for a bathroom break.
We’re not sure how “Christian” it is, but executive producer Mike Fleiss hopes the show will be inspirational to viewers by showcasing people who have truly struggled on the dating scene. “ABC’s The Bachelor is about beautiful people living a beautiful life and hopefully finding a beautiful love,” he says. “This show is like a sporting event. You’re rooting for someone to find love.”
Decide for yourself if it’s worth watching. You can catch the next episode on Fox this Tuesday night at 9PM ET/PT.
First Look: ‘I Can Do Bad All By Myself’
Tyler Perry notoriously refuses to play by Hollywood rules. It’s often been reported how he personally fronts the money for his films, allowing him primary creative control, and how he generally refuses to screen his movies for critics as is custom for most major studios. So the early trailers of his new film, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, are all likely we have until the movie hits theaters on September 11th.
The film stars Taraji P. Henson as April, a heavy-drinking nightclub singer, who is forced to reevaluate her life when placed in charge of her delinquent 16-year-old niece and two nephews. Faced with the choice of continuing her troubled ways with a married boyfriend, or exploring new possibilities with Sandino, a handsome Mexican immigrant living in her basement apartment, April is challenged to open her heart and move on from the past. As is characteristic of all Perry films, I Can Do Bad All By Myself shows the struggle of letting go of past hurts while learning to accept and pursue a new life with family, faith, and true love. The film also stars Perry (as Madea), and features musical performances from Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, and Marvin Winans.
Check out this trailer and let us know what you think.