Tyler addresses his decision to fire 4 writers from his sitcom, House of Payne, with TP information site owner Yolanda Ro.
October 29, 2008
by Yolanda Ro
For the last month movie mogul Tyler Perry has been under heavy fire for terminating four writers on his TBS sitcom Tyler Perry's House of Payne. The WGAW filed a complaint on behalf of the writers who alleged that they were unjustly fired for seeking a union contract that would have help them secure health care benefits and residuals. [From The Tyler Perry Writers ]
His fans have been waiting some time now for further insight into the situation. Mr. Perry was kind enough to address this, and other issues, with me.
Tyler Perry: Hi, how are you?
Yolanda Ro: I'm fine Mr. Perry. And how are you?
Tyler Perry: Good...good.
Yolanda Ro: What are you able to say about this situation?
Tyler Perry: Well the unfortunate thing is I use to be able to talk and say what was on my mind. But I can't do that anymore because I have lawyers involved now--It's the most frustrating thing. One of the hardest things to do is keep your mouth shut when people are saying all kinds of lies about you; Being in my position people sometimes take shots at you. But I'm going to talk more about this [in the future] because the way I was attacked is really unfair and I'm frustrated by it.
Yolanda Ro: One question, that the readers are asking, is why wouldn't someone in your financial position, at the very least, provide the writers with health care insurance?
Tyler Perry: I don't want people to think I'm walking around with $300 million and won't give people health insurance. There are all these articles about me making $200 million from "House of Payne" but that's not true. I haven't gotten one dime off the show--not one thin dime. Nobody writes you a check for $200 million. TBS doesn't have a contract to write me a check for $200 million. It could take up to 5 years for "House of Payne" to make that amount of money. But the initial investment had to be made by me. Every dime that has been put into "House of Payne", to pay the actors and writers, have come from me doing plays and movies; from black folk who have been with me all the time. The writers knew that I even went into my own personal checking account and gave all 300 employees $1000 bonuses for Christmas.
This is what I was trying to get WGA to understand with the deal; I'm not Disney, and I'm not CNN. This is me, by myself. I'm one man with 300 employees. The deal they wanted me to sign was a deal I couldn't afford. And the moment I refused to sign, the very next day, there were all these articles printed about me being a "union-buster". The next day they were calling me racist and picketing outside the party. They waited right until the party to picket, thinking they had me over a barrel, and that I would cave in, but I don't give into extortion. If it had not been for the NAACP stepping in, things would have gotten really ugly. Originally WGA tried to get the NAACP on their side but it didn't work out that way.
Yolanda Ro: Did you ever promise the writers benefits, residuals, or union contracts once the show took off?
Tyler Perry: No. They were never promised anything. What was said to them is "here's the deal--The show is a non-union show". Each writer made six figures for less than nine months of work. Every time they wrote a script they received between $7,000-$10,000; In addition they were also receiving a paid salary by the week.
Furthermore, WGA did not call me, I called them. It was 'me' making that move. I called them 5 months ago to begin negotiating a deal. These writers clearly knew that. I have deals with every union except WGA and I was trying to get into WGA because I wanted better writers--and because I was working too hard. I had to outline the show, tell them what I wanted, give them ideas, and then rewrite the script. It was taking 16-18 hours for them to write the show. The actors were frustrated, the crew was frustrated, everybody was frustrated because we would go in to shoot the show, but the script was bad. So I made it through that first year but I told them " I can't do this anymore". After I began negotiations with WGA, I didn't threaten to fire them. I just told them they were going to have to get on their job and step up their game.
Yolanda Ro: Can you address the accusations that you are racist, and also the rumors that you replaced the four black writers with white writers?
Tyler Perry: That's not true. I let go of four writers in LA but I kept three writers in Atlanta--two are white and one is black. I hired four new black writers; One of them was Myra J from the Tom Joyner Show. When she came to work for me the union originally told her, since she hadn't done anything in four years, she could work for me. But once she came to work they began sending these harassing letters saying she had better not work for me.
I sit here and look at these people knowing that they've never been able to do anything...knowing that I gave them their first opportunity, and for these four black writers to call me racist...it's ridiculous.
Yolanda Ro: I came across an article today that said your workers are forced to call you Mr. Perry.
Tyler Perry: Nobody is forced to call me Mr. Perry. What that's about is, I'm 39, and I've got kids--who are 18 and 19--working for me. Now I'm from the school of "yes ma'am, no ma'am, yes sir, and no sir". You're not going to walk around calling me Tyler and I'm writing you a check. They have to show respect not just for me, but for people like Ruben Cannon who's 60 something.
Yolanda Ro: Absolutely. That's fair.
Tyler Perry: Exactly. That's exactly what it is. I'm trying to teach us, as a people, about respect because our children [this generation] don't know that. I don't have this crazy ego where everybody has to call me Mr. Perry, that's ridiculous--but I will probably send out an email after the election and after a deal is finalized through my lawyers.
Yolanda Ro: Well I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me so I can shed some light on this situation with the readers.
Tyler Perry: Absolutely. I can tell you: I appreciate a fan!