Tyler Perry says he is retiring Madea, the feisty, foul-mouthed grandma that launched his career and made him millions.
The Southern matriarch – long played by Perry in a grey wig, pearls and women’s clothing – will meet her end next year, the actor and film-maker said.
Perry, 49, joked that it was time for him “to kill that old” lady. “I’m tired, man,” Perry said. “I just don’t want to be her age, playing her.”
Perry isn’t the only one who is “tired” of Madea. The character, whose moniker is short for “mother dear”, is undoubtedly Perry’s most famous. But Madea – with her crude language and penchant for physical attacks – has long drawn criticism for perpetuating damaging stereotypes of African-Americans.
Perry first introduced Madea in I Can Do Bad All by Myself, one of dozens of stage plays he presented across the US in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The character had already made Perry millions on the urban theatre circuit when he brought her to the big screen in 2005 with the film adaptation of another play, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which made more than $50 million at the box office, launching Madea (and Perry) into mainstream fame.
Madea would go on to appear in a sequel, Madea’s Family Reunion, and eight other films, including Madea Goes to Jail and two Halloween-themed movies. Perry said he is also embarking on a farewell stage tour, but Madea will make her last big screen appearance in next year’s Madea: A Family Funeral.
Judging by the trailer, the funeral does not appear to be Madea’s, but you never know.
The Madea films have featured Perry in other roles as some of the character’s male relatives. In a 2012 interview Perry said he drew inspiration from watching Eddie Murphy play multiple characters – including the Klump family matriarch – in the Nutty Professor franchise.
He has said he based the Madea character on women that were influential in his life, particularly his aunt and mother.
“She would beat the hell out of you, but make sure the ambulance got there in time to make sure they could set your arm back. Because the love was there inside all of it,” Perry said.
“I know it sounds really strange, but that’s the old-school mentality. That’s why I think the character is so popular, because a lot of people miss that type of grandmother, everybody is so worried about being politically correct that she’s no longer around.”
One of Perry’s most prominent critics has been Spike Lee. The film-maker made thinly veiled references to Perry’s work, which he called “coonery buffoonery” in a 2009 interview.
“I know it’s making a lot of money and breaking records, but we can do better,” said Lee.