Directors on Directors: Chinonye Chukwu + Tyler Perry


by Angelique Jackson | Variety

While Chinonye Chukwu was filming “Till” — which tells the story of Mamie Till-Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice following the lynching of her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till — she spotted someone she didn’t recognize visiting with the film’s producer and star Whoopi Goldberg on the Atlanta set. “I see this tall man. I was like, ‘Who is this?’” Chukwu recalls. The mysterious visitor was Tyler Perry.

“I came in to support,” Perry explains as the two filmmakers sit down. “I just wanted to let you and Whoopi and everybody else know that anything I could do, I was there 100%. Atlanta’s a little bit of my town.”

The “Till” production office had been set up at Tyler Perry Studios, which was “glorious,” Chukwu says before asking the million-dollar question: “I look at you and the legacy that you built for yourself, and I look at the studio, at you as a filmmaker, at you as a businessman. How do you think the industry and your relationship to the industry has changed since ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman?’”

“I think it started to open up doors for other people of color to tell their stories,” says Perry, who recently directed “A Jazzman’s Blues,” a love story with dire consequences that’s based on his first screenplay, written 27 years ago. “Seeing people like you getting opportunities that probably wouldn’t have happened 15, 20 years ago — certainly not 30 years ago, when I started — and it not seeming like, ‘Oh, my God, a Black woman’s directing now!’ It seems like, ‘A Black woman’s directing.’ It’s been a wonderful journey to watch.”