A-List TV stars talk about their motivations in new film Tyler Perry’s MEET THE PEEPLES, in theaters May 10
Tina Gordon Chism (ATL, Drumline) performed the tactical duties of writer-director in the family comedy, MEET THE PEEPLES. However, movie macho man Tyler Perry gets credit for doing the heavy lifting. PEEPLES is promoted as a Perry film, under his 34th Street banner, though he’s reported to have only sanctioned the film’s development.
PEEPLES is described thusly; Sparks fly when Wade Walker (Craig Robinson) crashes the preppy Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for their precious daughter Grace’s (Kerry Washington) hand in marriage. Wade might be a fish-out-of-water among this seemingly perfect East Coast clan, but he’s not about to let himself flounder. Instead, in a wild weekend of fun, dysfunction and hilarious surprises, Wade is about to discover there’s room for all kinds of Peeples in this family, no matter their differences.
Also guiding this Lionsgate PG-13 release are producers: Stephanie Allain (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), Paul Hall (For Colored Girls, Good Deeds) and Ozzie Areu (Meet the Browns, Madea Goes to Jail, just two among the slate of Perry features he’s been attached to since 2007).
Without question, Perry is a hands-on filmmaker; his footprint is massive and measurable with the ability to get a film made faster than most in Hollywood. PEEPLES trek to the cinema has been a two-year or so journey– prior to the success of Kerry Washington’s most talked about performance to date as hot leading lady in ABC’s Scandal — by some calculations, a fast turnaround in filmmaking.
Craig Washington has been a staple on NBC’s The Office for numerous seasons, seeing his role on the hit comedy continually expand, recurring in over 100 episodes since 2005. Both Washington and Robinson have impressive film roles to their credit and the union of their celebrity in PEEPLES was the subject of a lively roundtable conversation at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills to promote the film.
Besides working in your chosen profession, what was your attraction to WE THE PEEPLES?
Kerry Washington: (Looking adoringly toward Craig Robinson while responding to a room of reporters) Well, part of it is you’re looking at him.
Craig Robinson: (Blushing) that’s also my answer. Also, here was this writer turned first time director (Chism) who had written great movies, with a great spirit, telling me about the cast. Then, she said something about spanking Kerry Washington, and I said, “Yes.” (Laughter) It really felt like we’d be part of something special, something different and uplifting so it was ‘absolutely yes’ for me.
Washington reinforces: All of what Craig just said as well as, for me, doing a comedy. I love to be able to change it up in what I do (acting roles) and I’m really drawn to comedy. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to do it (comedy); I love the character (in this film). I love that she’s a successful, powerful, smart woman and I loved the idea of being able to do comedy with people like Craig and David Alan Grier (LITTLEMAN, TV’s In Living Color).
We get to hear you sing in this movie (as you’ve done on The Office), was that written into the script?
Robinson: It was not in the original script. My character was just a child therapist; once I got attached (to the film) Tina decided to make my character a musician who can teach kids through music or give them therapy through music. It’s happened throughout my career where music is my part in it. I started out playing and singing; doing comedy… it doesn’t surprise me when it comes along in a role.
Speaking of ABC’s Scandal, much has been said about your portrayal and the character’s on camera affair with President of the US. Would you clarify and/or elaborate?
Washington: I’ve been misquoted and misinterpreted a lot. What I said was, I probably would not have done the show if the President had been written as black; not because I think that it would have been bad to have a black president do the things he’s doing (on Scandal) but I think the show would have been great no matter what color the character was. But for me, personally, because I support the administration I would not have wanted to give an idea that what I was doing on a TV show was mirroring my actual work in the White House.
Have you been surprised by the enormous success of Scandal?
Washington: I’m always surprised that anything is a hit. You never know when you’re making a movie or a TV show or anything whether it’s going to resonate. You just try to do a good job and have fun with it; hope that people like it as much as you liked making it. Shonda (Rhimes,
Scandal’s creator) would kill me if I told you where it was going but it gets crazier…I mean, the last four episodes of the season are pretty intense and fantastic. The season was so shocking for me that I almost couldn’t get it out of my mouth at the table reading.
Your PEEPLES costar, Diahann Carroll, has some experience with memorable TV roles, too, a groundbreaking actor decades prior in TV’s Julia. Did the two of you trade war stories while working together? Washington: Scandal did not exist when we were shooting this movie. We shot this movie before we even shot the pilot of Scandal, before I knew that a script of Scandal existed. What was great was that in the journey of Scandal, because of this movie, from the beginning to now, I have had Diahann as a resource to learn from and to communicate with throughout the process. This movie gave me a real relationship with her; I’ve been able to share all of Scandal –this journey, this path with her– because of this movie.
Was there any time spent on set to enjoy girl talk?
Washington: We would have some lunches and there would be no boys at the table; just the girl cast with Diahann. She would talk about men and clothes and buying property and agents and all of it. We’d sit with bated breath waiting for her next piece of wisdom.