In “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples,” first time director Tina Gordon Chism takes the reigns, with Tyler Perry taking on the role of producer. The movie stars Craig Robinson (“The Office”) as a man who heads to the Hamptons, trying to impress the far-too-perfect family of his girlfriend (Kerry Washington), headed by a federal judge (David Alan Grier).
It’s a new turf for Perry, who writes and directs most movies that have his name attached to them. However, it’s also a new world for Chism, who hadn’t written comedy before “Peeples.” Her previous credits include the screenplays for “Drumline” and “ATL.” As with most creative ideas, though, the story of “Peeples” is rooted in a previous experience.
“The setup for [the movie] was personal,” Chism says, “I was dating a guy who’s really perfect, and then I went home to his family who’s really, really perfect. And I thought ‘How am I ever going to fit in?'” Though she obviously can’t name the family, Chism says the father who inspired Judge Virgil Peeples (Grier) is an accomplished and powerful.
As for what drew the actors to the project, Chism’s previous work was a big motivating factor. “[Tina] had written these great movies and she this spirit about her,” he says before jokingly adding, “Then she said something about spanking Kerry Washington and I said ‘yes.'”
Washington was glad the part would allow her to be funny, saying, “I’m really drawn to comedy and I don’t have a lot of opportunities to do it.” The cast surrounding her certainly didn’t hurt, as she goes on to say, “I loved the idea of doing comedy with people like Craig Robinson and David Alan Grier. It’s like getting paid to go to comedy school.”
There was also a bit of reality to the script for Washington. “My family actually used to rent homes in Sag Harbor [the film’s setting] when I was a kid,” the “Scandal” star says, “I like that there was a historical significance that there had been black families in the Hamptons traditionally, for decades, and that it honors that.”
For his part, Grier was excited to work with Washington again after they appeared together on Broadway, but also cites Chism’s previous writing as good motivation to take the role. Still, he jokes, “I can only speak for myself, but the pay is always wonderful.”
While the film does focus on a prominent black family, the cast is quick to note that any nationality could be placed in the story and it would work just as well, with Washington noting, “You could see the same movie being made with a Latino family or an Asian-American family, or a white family.”
Filming in a small town helped the cast grow close enough to play a convincing family, as they ended up spending a lot of time together. Washington says that instead of trailers, the cast had bedrooms upstairs in the mansion where the majority of the movie was filmed. She also adds, “Even when we were off work we were all at the same little hotel in Connecticut hanging out at the bar together.”
One member of the family oversaw everything from a distance, and that was Perry. As a producer, Chism says Perry only visited the set a couple of times. “He really wanted to stay out of it and let my sensibility comes through,” she explains, “I think he was curious about it and interested in it, and he didn’t want to tamper with it,” adding, ” He wanted to preserve the voice of the Peeples.”
“Tyler Perry presents Peeples” is in theaters May 10. Check out a trailer below.