Since her big-screen introduction in Tyler Perry’s 2005 debut feature, Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman , unstoppable matriarch Mabel “Madea” Simmons has sparked a multi-million dollar film franchise and established Perry as the founder of an entertainment empire that also extends to television, publishing and live theater. With a fervent following that began with her appearances in a series of Perry’s stage plays, Madea has gone to jail, survived a family reunion, celebrated Christmas and more in a wildly popular series of groundbreaking movies.
While Perry has showcased his most popular creation in more than a dozen raucous and emotional stage and screen comedies, he never intended to cast her in a Halloween film. “Ghosts and goblins — that’s just not my thing,” says the director, producer, writer and star of the blockbuster franchise. “Then Lionsgate called me and said, ‘In his film Top Five , Chris Rock made a joke about a movie called Boo! A Madea Halloween. Have you ever thought about doing a Halloween movie?’”
Before committing to the concept, Perry knew he had to create a story that worked for him as a filmmaker, and for Madea as a character. “So I came up with an idea I thought would be hysterical and wouldn’t take Madea too far out of her lane,” he says. “This is not your typical Halloween movie — there are so many pee-your-pants moments. Anyone who sees this movie should bring Depends.”
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween heralds a fresh turn in the Tyler Perry/Madea franchise: a movie that blends Perry’s distinctive humor with elements of horror. As the film begins, divorced dad Brian (played by Perry) must leave his rebellious teen daughter Tiffany home alone on Halloween. He enlists his aunt Madea, Uncle Joe (both also played by Perry), and friends Hattie and Aunt Bam to keep an eye on her.
Determined to meet her girlfriends at a nearby frat party, Tiffany tricks her four gullible chaperones with a frighteningly realistic ghost story that convinces them to stay in their rooms so she can sneak out. All hell and hilarity break loose when Madea, Hattie and Aunt Bam crash the party to bring their baby girl home. And when the women call the cops to break up the Halloween rager, the brothers of Beta Psi Alpha dress as ghosts and ghouls to terrorize them. But of course, the boys soon learn that they are messing with the wrong woman.
“This is a whole new side of Madea because audiences don’t think of her as someone who gets scared,” says Perry. “Watching Madea running from ghosts had everyone on set cracking up. They chase her right into a church — a place she swore she’d never go unless they had a smoking section!”
As always, Madea makes herself the center of the action with her outrageously outspoken attitude and unconventional take on family values, but the film’s core drama is centered on the conflict between Madea’s straight-laced lawyer nephew Brian and his 17-year-old daughter Tiffany, played by “The X Factor” finalist Diamond White. “Tiffany seemed like a spicier version of myself, which was such fun to play,” says White. “She’s kind of a bratty kid, but her attitude comes from a place of deep hurt following her parents’ divorce.”
Her parents’ split caused Tiffany to lose respect for her dad, who’s still learning how to be a single parent. “She’s a typical teenager going through growing pains,” according to Perry. “She finds herself in some really hot water and it takes Madea to straighten her out.”
Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween marks the first film in which fan favorites Hattie, Aunt Bam and Madea all team up for a wild and weird adventure, tracking down Tiffany while fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists and misbehaving teens. “Putting these three characters together is just a triangle of laughs that does not stop,” says Perry.
Aunt Bam, played by Cassi Davis ( Madea’s Neighbors from Hell , Madea’s Big Happy Family ) is Madea’s guileless, pot-smoking cousin. “Aunt Bam is recovering from hip surgery,” explains Davis. “She spends much of the movie flashing her medical marijuana card and swiping candy from the neighborhood kids — her favorite Halloween activity.”
The film, she says, is a hilarious culture clash between generations. “It’s youth versus old school,” says Davis. “Sure, they have time on their side, but wisdom will win every time. So young people — let’s give it up and turn up!”
Played by Patrice Lovely (“Love Thy Neighbor”), Hattie is full of what the actress calls “constructive criticism.” “She gives good advice,” says Lovely. “People don’t take it, but she keeps giving it anyway.”
Lovely says audiences will be drawn to a Halloween film that combines scares with family-friendly humor. “Laughter is good medicine and we put it to effective use in this film,” she says. “There’s so much gut-busting humor that people are going to be healed. I laughed my way through the entire script, thinking ‘There must be something wrong with this man for his mind to be able to produce this kind of humor.’”
Perry’s renowned talent for improvisation infected the entire cast, inspiring outbursts of uncontrollable laughter and retakes during shooting. Davis sees Perry’s improv less as being less about acting and more about experiencing the situation through his character’s eyes. “When he goes off script, he’s not so much ad-libbing as much he is staying true to Madea, Joe or Brian in that moment,” she explains. “He knows these characters so well. We just follow his lead.”
Maintaining a straight face was particularly challenging for White, who had to perform with multiple Tyler Perrys. “There’s a hilarious scene where Tyler plays both Brian and Madea,” she remembers. “It was almost impossible not to break character and ruin it.”
Bella Thorne ( Blended ; Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day ), who plays Tiffany’s party-girl friend Rain, was thrilled that Perry was open to suggestions when it came to her interpretation of the role. “He said, ‘Bella, you can do whatever you want,” she recalls. “‘If I love it, amazing, we’ll put it in. And if I don’t, we’ll try something else.’”
For Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween , Perry added a new element to the film by casting several social-media stars as the fraternity brothers. “I researched social-media influencers and found some really great actors that I believed could expand into other platforms,” he says. “I wanted to bring in
kids, because they love Halloween. When we mix in Madea and her fan base, it feels like two worlds colliding in fish-out-of-water madness.”
YouTube star Yousef Erakat, who plays fraternity president and party boy Jonathan, says Perry has created something unique. “This movie is setting new rules for the entertainment industry,” says Erakat. “Regardless of what platform we started out in, we’re all performers showcasing our talents in a powerhouse film. The merging of digital talent with traditional legends will pay off in a big way for audiences and new artists.”
For Instagram star Brock O’Hurn (TV’s “Too Close to Home”), who plays toga-wearing frat boy Horse, the film was like an acting and improv boot camp. “Watching how master comedians feed off each other was the ultimate training ground for me,” he says.
Younger performers and veterans came together to create a spirit of community that shines through on screen. “On set, we really bridged the gap between our generations in a wonderful way,” says Davis. “The cast comes from a variety ethnicities, ages and backgrounds, and Tyler brought us together to create something very special.”
Unlike a typical movie set, Perry shoots his films with a three-camera set-up similar to a sitcom, allowing him to avoid filming the same scene over and over again from different angles. “With comedy, if you keep doing the same joke take after take, it kills the humor,” says Thorne. “With Tyler, you never have that problem because the one-liners feel fresh.”
As with all of the Madea films, Perry directed in full Madea get-up, jumping quickly between his roles in front of and behind the camera. “It’s difficult approaching an actor and trying to get them to take me seriously when I’m in costume,” admits Perry. “I’m 6-foot-6, with those breasts hanging out and butt pads knocking things over while I’m trying set up shots, but by the grace of God, actors find a way to give me what I’m asking for.”
The Madea regalia helps Perry get into character quickly. “When I put on that costume and wig, Madea just shows up,” he says. “It’s pretty hot under all that, so I’m going to get it done and get the hell out of that suit. But while we’re shooting, I just let go and have fun.”
Madea’s continuing appeal relies on the fact that she’s a familiar type to many of the films’ fans. “Everyone has a Madea in their family,” says Perry. “She’s from that old-school mentality where you just say what’s on your mind. There are certain people who come along and grab you, and you just gravitate toward them — no matter how insane they are.”
And, says Perry, that’s truer than ever in the latest chapter in his groundbreaking franchise. “I’m so proud of this one. It’s the funniest Madea movie yet!”
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