I sat in the green room waiting for actor and director Tyler Perry to arrive backstage at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center for the Colors of Conversation event during the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival. Before he hit the stage for the panel, there was only a short window to interview him about his new project, A Jazzman’s Blues, a script he had written in the 1990s.
Many know him from the Medea movies, which some think has limited his cinematic scope in terms of what he can do, but Perry is out to prove the naysayers wrong. “Filming this was very much like, ‘I know something you don’t know,” he said. “For my whole career, people would say that Madea is all I can do. Now, 26 years later, I have The Jazzman’s Blues.”
It’s an idea that he couldn’t shake. Imagine what it’s like to hold on to an idea and then finally be able to execute said idea all these years later. According to Pretty, right here, right now, is the best time to present his story to the world. “At this time in America, t1=here’s an assault on our history. I feel wonderful that I could do that right now.”
The Jazzman’s Blues follows Bayou (Joshua Boone), a singer from the deep south who falls in love with Leanne (Solea Pfeiffer) and follows the group through forty years of secrets and lies. The director pulled all the stops by hiring legendary dancer/actress Debbie Allen to choreograph and Terrance Blanchard to arrange and produce the music. When describing the emotional trajectory of the main character from the beginning to the end of the film, the director was very passionate about displaying all of the hardships and emotions that come with being a Black man in the deep south.
“[Bayou] entire arc is about the emotions, love, anger, and the frustration most of us carry throughout life at some point or another. Joshua Boone does an amazing job at delivering a strong performance. Watching him be able to express all of those different emotions and get to this reunion of sorts is extremely powerful to watch.”
Perry grew up in the deep south, in rural Louisiana, which Jazz was an influence on him. This experience gave him a special connection to the material. “Jazz was very much the soundtrack of my life,” he said. Many of the pillars of the music genre that inspired his upbringing have music featured in the film. “Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington, and all these incredible, amazing voices inspire me.”
As our time together drew to a close, I had to ask Perry if he planned to work on other projects. A Jazzman’s Blues exists outside of the Medeaverse and anything else he’s done until now. However, he understands that his recent filmography shouldn’t be ignored, as it helped him get to where he is. “The Madea films were for my target, my audience. I made sure to serve the niche, which put me in a position where I could take the time to write and execute other stories.”
As I pressed him a bit more about what we can expect from future Tyler Perry, you’d be surprised as to what he’s up to. “The next film I’ve just written is a World War II movie. I’ll be playing with space and bigger sets for sure.”
There is no release date for A Jazzman’s Blues (which will stream to Netflix). Also, there are no specific details on the WWII film just yet. However, he did announce during the Colors of Conversation event that the film would debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022.