Tyler Perry

Tyler PerryTyler Perry interviewed by Joel Osteen


Tyler: It was a very difficult time. I was a child that was born to two wounded parents, and they were wounded children themselves. My mother was seventeen and my father was about nineteen when they got married, and I came along when she was 24 years old.

   There was a lot of pain in the house. There were a lot of arguments. He was very physically abusive and verbally abusive to the both of us. It was really a difficult and very hard time especially for a man child. I do not know what it is like for a little girl, but I am sure it is just as painful.

   But for a boy child, a man child, to watch his mother being beaten and belittled, it was really, really hard. So I went under the house and I built this little - put some wood up in between some of the pillars - and built this little safe place for me. I painted it robin egg blue. I found some paint somewhere.

   Painted it blue and I would sit in this room, and I would let my imagination take me to other places. I would just be somewhere running through grass and trees while I am listening to all of the pain and all the heartache up above me in the floorboard.

   So it was a very difficult time, but the beauty in that moment and I say this to people all the time, is that I know that all things work together for your good. When I am writing a script or a movie or writing the Have and Have Not’s or If Loving You Is Wrong or writing into these shows or movies, in my imagination, I go to a place where I am in that world. That was formed and born inside of all that pain.

   So the little boy's imagination is where the man goes now to feed his dreams. So it is a beautiful thing when you know that all things are going to work together for your good.

Joel: God was getting you prepared in the back there. We will jump around a little bit. Tyler, you graduated from high school. You had the dream for the play, but it was not easy and doors did not necessarily open. I love the thing about the hurricane in South Carolina. Can you share just some of that?

Tyler: I started doing this play after watching the Oprah Winfrey Show. She said it was cathartic to write things down. I did not know what cathartic meant so I had to go find a dictionary. So I am saying that high school.

   I found a dictionary and I started writing things down in this journal. I was using different characters names because if someone found it, I did not want them to know that I had been through the things that I was talking about. I was talking about adult survivors of child abuse at the time.

   So in 1993 or so, I moved to Atlanta. Moving '92 and '93, I decide to put the play up; work to save money. My tax returns from H&R Block did everything I could to put this show up. I spent all my money.

   There was a 200-seat theater. I thought we would do all of these different shows over the weekend and 1,200 people would show up, and only 30 did. So I lost everything I had. My car payment, everything was tied up in it. It was a very, very difficult time because I know I felt led to do this show about adult survivors of child abuse who had forgiven their abusers.

   Out of the 30 people, and I knew every one of them in the room, [laughter] there was somebody said, "This really touched me and I want to invest." That is how you know when God is doing something for you because He will put you on the path, and just when you think you are at the end, [applause] somebody or someone will show up and say, "Hey, here is another opportunity over here."

   So from about '93, '94, '95, '96, '97, we did this play once a year everywhere in these little small towns outside of Atlanta, and they never worked. They never worked. Every time I would go something, "What happened?"

   I would go get a job and after working on the job for a couple of weeks, I get a call saying, Hey Tyler, we want to try the play somewhere else." I would go to my boss and I say, "Listen, I need two weeks off to go do this play." He is like, "Man, you just been working here two weeks. How do you think you can get two weeks off?"

   I go back to my desk and I sit and I pray and I was like, "Okay, God. I know I just got this job. I know I just did the play, it did not work. I got another opportunity here. If this is You telling me make the play, what should I do?" I hear this voice say "Quit." Now I am not telling you to go quit your job, I am telling you my story.

   Quit with your job. Send me your bills. Say, "You told me to quit." No, no.

   That is not what I am saying. So there I was stepping out on faith, leaving a job that I knew that this money was going to come in from week to week to go out and do this play because I heard the voice of God.

   I remember every time I go out to do the show, it would not work. It was unsuccessful. My God, I know You told me to do this, and when I pray, I would hear nothing. That same voice that said "Quit," I heard nothing, which was a very difficult time for me.

   I remember the time that you are talking about was in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I had gotten another job because I had more jobs. Man, I had about twenty jobs during this time. I have got another job, asked the boss, he said no. I heard the voice, "Quit," I go out, do the show.

   I am driving there and there was a hurricane headed toward Spartanburg. I am like, "My God, I know You control the wind and the waves, but you told me to quit and now nobody is going to show up." So I lost everything. I was homeless, sleeping in my car, following God.

   When you follow God, sometimes things get tough. They get tight. But if you keep pushing just on the other side when you think it is the darkest, something miraculous will happen that will change your life. Something will open up that will blow your mind.

   So with 1998, I got an opportunity to do the show again. It was at the House of Blues. I was like, "I do not know. I am done." I am going to do like my mother said; my mother who loved me dearly, loved me dearly.

   We were doing the play at that Spartanburg trip, and I could not afford to pay the credit card because she had rented a van for us. That bill was $300. $300 to my mother was like 30 million.

   Let me tell you something. My mother loved me to death. Sweet, wonderful woman, but she would cuss you out and beat you up, and then prays for you as she takes you to the hospital. That is the kind of person she is, the person she was.

   So we were sitting in the house and she was saying, "Listen. I am tired of this. I am tired of you doing this play. Just stop it. Just stop it." I am telling you, crying about it. The woman loved me, loved me, and loved me more than anything. She said, "You know what, just give it up. Just go get you a job, working at the phone company. You are never going to make it with these plays. Just go get a job at the phone company."

   I was sitting there in tears when she was saying it to me. She turned around and she saw me because I was sitting behind her on the sofa. The blood drained from her face and she said, "Baby, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I did not know how important this was for you."

   But what I want you to understand is that I do not care how many people love you and encourage you or the ones that try to tear you down or destroy you. When God has a dream for you, it is your dream.

   There are people who love you who would think that they are saying the right things to you to try to protect you, or there are people that have been in your lives and watch you grow up. They do not know what God has put down inside of you because they think they are too familiar with you.

   But what you have to understand is when God has something for you, you have to go for it fully. So that is what I did. I did the show. I get this opportunity to do show in 1998. It is at the House of Blues. I walk in, and I am mad. I am angry because all those years, those seven years of me trying to get this play, nothing was happening.

   God would tell me to quit, then He would get me out, then He would leave me. You leave me out here by myself. God, where are You? You would not even talk to me during this dark time. So I was mad. I was done. I had went to get my application in South Central Bell like my mother said and go to work at the phone company.

   I wanted some benefits to get my teeth fixed. So there I am, 1998, get this opportunity at the House of Blues. I walk in and there are all these, they call it folk art, all over the walls. I am from New Orleans. I said, "That is Voodoo, and I am not performing here. Get it off the wall."

   So they told me the next day, well, House of Blues was pulling out. So House of Blues was gone. So the name of the place would return to its original name. It was a church. It was called The Tabernacle. So I was about to perform in a place called The Tabernacle.

   I go and I do the show and I am complaining all the way. I am there putting on my makeup, getting ready to play the old man Joe, and I got the attitude. I am just mad. I am upset. I am like, "I do not want to do this." I hear that voice, that one who told me to quit, say "Shut up."

   Let me tell you something. When God tell you to shut up, you sit around and, "What happened?" He said, "Get up and look out the window." I got up and looked out to this little, dusty window, and there was a line around the corner trying to get in the building.

   The place sold out over and over and over again. I said, "God, where were you in all those times? He said, "I was proving you to see that you would honor this, that you would do the right thing with it." Sometimes when you are not hearing from God, God is trying to see what you are going to do in the situation that you are in.

   It turned out to be an incredible moment that has taken me from that sold-out house all the way until every show that we have done. It has been incredible. It has been miraculous. It has been nothing but God, and I am grateful for it.

Joel: That is so awesome. Tyler, another important part of the story, jumps back there a little bit because your father did not treat you right, bitterness, anger. Can you tell about how something broke there when you--?

Tyler: What broke in the moment, if you wonder what happened from the time when I started doing these shows to the time when they started to take off? What broke in the moment? Well here I was with this script about adult survivors of child abuse whose parents had abused them. The characters in the show that I had written from my own mind had forgiven their abusers, but I had not forgiven my father.

   So one day we were on the phone before this show sold out, before everything changed. We are on the phone and I got a chance to just say everything that was on my mind because I was not the little boy anymore. I was a 6'6" man, and I was not afraid. I started saying everything that I needed to say to him. The things that came out of my mouth blew my mind, but at the end of it, what I heard was, "I forgive you."

   I said, "I forgive you." to him. Something shifted in me. Something shifted. Let me tell you something. Forgiveness is so incredibly powerful. Forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for you. There are people living their lives who done you wrong. They are happy walking down the street, not even thinking about you, but there you are holding on to unforgiveness.

   When I forgave this man, I found myself trying to-- I was lost for a second because my entire fuel was based on the negativity of not forgiving him, but once I forgave him I had to find a way to find another source of fuel. So the negativity and all the darkness that I have been through was the source. Now I needed a more positive source. Now I needed a good source or pure source.

   It is like taking a car that runs on diesel and putting regular gasoline in it, and then all of a sudden, you say, "Drive." Something is going to go wrong so you have to rework all the components inside of your mind to be able to understand how to function in positivity.

   So that shift for me was so incredible. Forgiveness did all of that for me. The minute I did that, the minute I started to function in doing the right thing and being positive, I went from nobody coming to the show to not having enough seats for the people to get into the places.

Joel: Wow.

Tyler's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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