If there’s one thing the cast and crew of the upcoming “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples” can agree was remarkable, it was the chance to work with acting icon Diahann Carroll. The movie centers around Craig Robinson‘s Wade Walker, as he tries to impress his girlfriend’s (Kerry Washington) seemingly perfect family, the Peeples, by making a surprise appearance at their Hamptons home.
When it began to snow on day one of the production, first-time director Tina Gordon Chism was faced with difficulties she didn’t expect, as they were scheduled to film outdoors. Luckily, those first scenes also featured Carroll. “Diahann Carroll, out of the blue, says ‘I would like to make a speech,'” Chism says, “She made this speech about African-American imagery in Hollywood and how she was so proud to be in a comedy and to be able to play with the new generation of actors.”
Chism says the words from Carroll were exactly what she needed, “It calmed me.” “That was surreal,” Robinson remembers, calling the moment “beautiful.”
Carroll has a long acting history, beginning in the 1950s. She also holds the distinction of starring in the first TV program to center on an African-American character in a non-stereotypical role. In “Julia,” Carroll played a widowed single mother and nurse. The series ran three seasons, from 1968-1971, on NBC.
The female members of the cast had another memorable moment with the actress. In what Washington describes as a lunch with “no boys allowed,” Carroll would “talk about men, and clothes, and buying property and agents.” S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Washington’s mother in the movie, remembers the lunch well, “She held court and told us all of her business in hopes that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes.”
In her role as Nana Peeples, Carroll works along side Melvin Van Peebles, who plays her husband. Van Peebles, an accomplished independent filmmaker dating back to the 1960s, and Carroll together made for an inspiring combination for a cast familiar with both of their work.
“These people are icons and this is our vocation,” co-star Malcolm Barrett says, “So to be standing next to these people who reinvented the genre in so many different ways is … anything I would say would be an understatement.” Washington echoes the thought, “They kind of blessed the film by starting off with us.”
“I was definitely impressed when I walked on the set with everyone, not just the actors,” Carroll says. She wasn’t aware when she arrived that a female was directing the movie, but was pleasantly surprised to find Chism in charge.
Still, through decades of movies and television, one event in Carroll’s life stands out as what she thinks her true legacy is. “One thing that stands out is having my baby,” she says, “Having a baby is a real legacy and the responsibility that comes with it is like nothing you’ll ever encounter.”
“Tyler Perry Presents Peeples” will be in theaters May 10. Check out the trailer below: