It's hard work having this much fun.
Tyler Perry is the director, writer and star of Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, which comes out in theaters Friday, Oct. 20. Boo 2 is a sequel to last year's surprise Halloween hit, Boo. (And a side note: Boo was almost a dare of sorts from comedian Chris Rock, when the possibility of such a movie — because Madea has been to a family reunion, in jail and in witness protection — was joked about during his movie Top Five.)
It wasn't a laughing matter to Perry, who knows a good idea when he hears one. Boo became one of the highest-grossing Tyler Perry-labeled films.
Perry also recognizes a star when he sees one.
Just a peek at the cast list for some of his past output is a look at Emmy and Oscar nominees and winners of today. He might as well add "astronomer" to his resume.
"I'm so excited for all of them. I mean, you can go down the list," he said during an interview earlier this month at the Ritz-Carlton in Uptown Dallas.
And he does: "There's Kerry Washington before Scandal, and Taraji [P. Henson] before Empire and Idris [Elba] before he blew up to be who he is. Viola Davis before How to Get Away With Murder. All that makes me feel great because they all came through. I don't think I had anything to do with their success, but having to work with them early on, I feel really good about that."
That kind of legacy would be good enough for any Hollywood mogul, but Perry's done himself one better by making movies across all genres. He hadn't tried to create a horror spoof, until Boo.
"We are having fun," he says, adding that there's lots of ad-lib when he and regular Perry players Cassi Davis (House of Payne) and Patrice Lovely (Love Thy Neighbor) get in a room. "When we put the costumes on, these people just show up and say all kinds of things and it's so funny."
Perry plays almost-but-not-quite grandmother figure Madea, who is at the heart of this sequel and so many others, and Madea's brother, Joe. Davis plays Bam and Lovely plays mealy-mouthed Hattie. The quartet often finds itself at odds with Joe's son, Brian (also played by Perry), and with each other.
But the crew is ride-or-die.
This is almost an even dozen for theatrical releases featuring Madea.
In Boo 2, they find themselves headed to a lake with a deadly reputation to find Brian's daughter, who went to the isolated spot for a fraternity party. They find themselves stalked by chainsaw-wielding and dirty white dress-wearing, Ring-like stalkers.
A lot of it will seem familiar. It's a spoof; it should evoke memories of B slasher movies. But Perry's intent wasn't to break new ground. He just wanted to make people laugh. He took Boo 2 out for a spin around the country, stopping at Cinemark West Plano. It was an uncharacteristic move.
"I wanted to bring them to the audience," he says of the movie screenings. "In L.A., what they do is they get a bunch of critics in a room to come and watch the movie. I'm like, "No, I'm gonna bring it to the people and let them judge.'"
Just call it a victory lap, because let's be honest, we know it's not a farewell tour.
Perry has too many irons in the fire for that. There are his TV productions, including The Haves and the Have Nots and If Loving You Is Wrong on OWN and Too Close to Home on TLC. And there are his other Madea-less films, including the upcoming Acrimony that stars Henson.
And then there is Tyler Perry, actor (Gone Girl, Alex Cross, Star Trek). There's also that just-announced role as Gen. Colin Powell in an upcoming biopic about former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Even with roles like that, he states no preference: "Whatever I'm doing at the time, I'm really enjoying."
Why box himself in when there are other Madea movies to make? That includes A Madea Family Funeral, which is slated for next year.
Perry has faced criticism from different quarters about his films playing low and playing broad, and doing a good bit of it in a dress. But, with Madea, is he also telling the stories of the women he knows?
"For the first few years, I didn't notice it until I went back looking at all of my work," he says. "I was talking to my mother — I was raised by my mother and my two sisters — and me being the youngest boy at the time I watched them go through hell. So a lot of the things that I was talking about in these movies, I realized I could just remove these characters and put her in and me watching the things I did, I was talking to her. So, you definitely nailed it."
And, before we get too serious about universal messages, societal acceptance and, at some point, art is art, wait one minute.
Madea always gets the lion's share, but Joe and his foul mouth are responsible for some of the biggest laughs in Boo 2. Might there be another story to tell?
"I think it's coming," Perry says, and smiles big. "Joe is going to have his own moment. Joe is going to Vegas or something."
For fans, that's something to look forward to. But with all his projects, that probably won't be too soon. Or will it?
"I don't cross-pollinate," he says of his writing process. "Once I'm done with one season of one show, I can go on to the next. What bothers me, though, is when one bunch of characters start pushing into my head when the others are still talking and then it takes me a couple of weeks to really get them out of my head. So I have to finish writing, take a couple of weeks break before I can start the others.
"If you look at all the shows, they're all very, very different."
But there are at least two things they have in common. That's the music, which he's been writing with Elvin Ross for 20 years, since the stage plays.
And his name above the title. And for most, that's just fine.