Mabel "Madea" Simmons will be there. Just try to stop her!
Tyler Perry is host of the 2006 Black Movie Awards, airing at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, Oct. 18, on TNT. But don't be surprised when his alter ego -- the large, loud, proud Southern black woman known as Madea -- steals the show.
Perry, the prolific playwright/filmmaker/actor behind such hits as Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion, says that Madea won't be in the room when awards are handed out. Perry isn't doing the show in drag, after all.
But rest assured, Madea fans: She'll make her presence known during pre-taped scenes that pay twisted tribute to several classics of black cinema. "The opening of the show is the funniest thing that I've ever done," Perry says. "We salute several movies. We do What's Love Got to Do With It. I play Ike and Madea is Tina. We do Lady Sings the Blues. I'm Billy Dee Williams and Madea is Diana Ross. And Madea does The Color Purple as Celie [Whoopi Goldberg's character] and Sofia [Oprah Winfrey's] at the same time in the cornfield."
Madea as Tina Turner is a comedy idea worth Madea's considerable weight in gold. "The opening of this show is hilarious," Perry promises. "I've been telling everybody in my audience to be sure you see it from the very beginning."
When Perry was asked to host the ceremony, he wasn't keen on the idea at first because the gig doesn't exactly play to his strengths. "I've never hosted anything before," he says. "I'm not a standup comedian." But Perry signed on because he believes the Black Movie Awards serve a much-needed purpose. "I think it's very important for this type of show to exist," he says. "So many times, the incredible performances [of African-American actors] are overlooked by other awards shows. It's very important that we can recognize them."
This year's top movie nominees include Akeelah and the Bee and ATL, with four nominations each (including Outstanding Motion Picture). Perry's Madea's Family Reunion is nominated in three categories -- for outstanding picture, supporting actress (Lynn Whitfield) and screenwriting (Perry). Inside Man, Something New and Waist Deep are other triple nominees.
Also, actress Cicely Tyson and actor Laurence Fishburne will receive awards recognizing decades of impressive film work. Winfrey presents Tyson with the Distinguished Career Achievement Award; Angela Bassett presents Fishburne with the Excellence in Arts Award.
It will be particularly meaningful for Perry to see Tyson singled out. "I've had the pleasure of working with her [in Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion] and we've become friends," he says. "I just see this honor as long overdue for her. Her body of work speaks for itself, from Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman to so many other incredible, incredible performances." Perry says that everyone -- actors and non-actors alike -- could benefit from following her example. "There's no better way to show our young people that, when people have integrity in what they do, their careers last a long, long, long, long time."
By comparison, Perry's career arc is still in its infancy. But he has come so far already, overcoming an abuse-filled childhood, extreme poverty and homelessness. The secret to his success? "For me, from day one, [my philosophy] has been, 'Let me find a way.' If someone tells me no, I find a way to make it a yes." He is committed now to expressing this positive outlook in all of the work he creates. "When you're given a platform to make films or to write books, or even if you're a comedian, you should use it for positive, for good things, to uplift -- and not to tear down or to distort." That's not always easiest path to take in life, but Tyler Perry hasn't lost his way yet.