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Interview with Tyler Perry, writer/director/star, and Eugene Levy, Doris Roberts, Romeo Miller, Denise Richards, Tom Arnold, Marla Gibbs and John Amos, stars of Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection

Lionsgate releases Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection nationwide on June 29th, 2012.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Tyler, how did the idea of a Ponzi scheme in Madeaís Witness Protection come to you?

Tyler Perry: I was sitting at dinner with a friend and they were saying that the best punishment for Bernie Madoff was to have him move in with Madea. I thought that was funny, so I started writing the movie, and thatís where the whole process started. I thought, ďWhoís the best person that I can get to play someone close to this guy? ďI thought, ďOf course, Eugene Levy,Ē who does an amazing job. (laughs) So thatís where it all started for me. As far as the dynamic of drawing on my own experiences, I drew from my mother. God rest her soul, if we put her in a five star hotel, as we did once, or if you put her on an airplane and put her through security, you would have all of those scenes. If you put her at a dinner table with a bunch of white people, you would have a lot of things that we have in Madeaís Witness Protection.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What are some of the funniest moments you while on set?

Eugene Levy: For me, and I know for Denise [Richards], the funniest parts of the movie were being there for Tylerís close-ups as Madea. When he isolates himself in a close-up, you do a scene, and thatís one thing. Everybody is doing the scene as scripted, more or less, because everyoneís got cues, and knows when to come in, and when not to come in, but when the camera goes in on a close-up, he just goes crazy. He just starts improvising and riffing in character.

Romeo Miller: Iím definitely going to have to agree. That scene when we were trying to convince Madea to go to New York. I think I had to pinch myself not to laugh.

Denise Richards: I didnít want to screw up his coverage, so the three of us would look at each other, and then look away. We would start laughing.

TP: And then I would start laughing.

Doris Roberts: I had a wonderful time, because he wrote a character that had slight dementia, so that gave me the opportunity to be very naughty. The other thing was, we had this Jewish family going to church, and behaving as if we were black.

Tom Arnold: Iíd like to say one thing about Tyler as a director. You go into these things, and we didnít know each other, and I wasnít very familiar with his work. But I know who the star of the movie is, obviously. But I felt like he wanted at least me, and Iím sure everybody, after you do your take, heíll stand next to the camera, egging you on. He wants you to come up with something better. Itís not about doing your lines. Heís literally cheering you. I thought that was a pretty amazing thing. You donít see that often.

Marla Gibbs: I love being anywhere now. I love being in this film because I think Tylerís not only a great director, heís also a spiritual person. Heís hired so many people, and he doesnít hire just one persuasion. I think he understands that weíre all one. This represents us as one. Itís a wonderful cast, and itís diversified, but underneath, weíre all one. We all had the same experiences and aspirations.

NYC MOVIE GURU: John, given your background as a comedic actor, was it hard just to be a straight preacher?

John Amos: It wasnít much of a departure from some of the other serious roles Iíve had, like Percy Fitzwallace on ĎThe West Wing.í That was sort of a serious role. But I do a lot of stage work. I think stage is my favorite medium. Iíve apologized to Tyler because the only direction he gave me that I remember that was constructive criticism was that I was going to blow Romeoís ears out. I was projecting a little bit too loud. I only had the one day, and we hadnít established a chemistry that you might get if youíre there for a longer period. But this young man, Romeo, has one heck of a future in front of him. Itís always a joy for me to see younger talent coming along.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn a comedy into a classic? EL: There are all kinds of successful comedies. Youíve got Airplane, youíve got junk comedies, and theyíre hysterical. But if youíre not emotionally involved in the characters, then the movie ends when the jokes stop. So for me, everything has to be grounded. The characters have to be grounded and the story has to be grounded in truth. If that happens to me, thatís the most successful kind of comedy. You can take your comedy as far as you want to take it. You can put the camera on yourself, and just go, but youíve got to make sure that everything around those moments is rock solid, and are embedded in concrete, firmly, firmly grounded. Then, you feel for the characters, and youíre invested in the story, and to me, thatís the most successful kinds of comedy. Madea's Witness Protection certainly has that. You can kind of go as far as you want comedically, but still the moments are kind of grounded in a truth.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Tyler, between acting, directing and producing, is there one role you enjoy the most? Where do you go from here?

TP:I donít know where Madea goes from here. You know, I was thinking about having her go to the White House, and babysit Sasha and Malia. (laughs) See, you laugh, it sounds like a good movie, right? Whatever Iím doing at the time is what I enjoy the most, but if Iím acting, if Iím doing Madea, everyone on set is on pins and needles. The lighting, the director of photography, the grip, the gaffers, theyíre all like, okay, heís going to get dressed, letís be ready. They know once I get in the costume, I want to take it off. I can not take it off fast enough, between the wig and the make-up. All of that stuff bothers me, but what I love about it is the end result.

DR: You give something I donít remember getting in the 50 years that Iíve been in the business, and thatís total respect. Itís extraordinary when you get that, because youíre loved, and you get his attention. You want to give the best you can.

JA: Tyler has the talent to do that---to give respect to other actors. Plus, heís developed a knack for delivering a message thatís uplifting and comical. Thatís what separates you from the legions of wannabes.

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