Tyler Perry is undoubtedly a groundbreaking media mogul who transitioned from producing plays on the Chitlin Circuit into a studio-owning box office king. He’s also been criticized as a man who gained success through the reinforcement of negative Black stereotypes and alleged shady practices. One constant in the Madea creator’s history in Black Hollywood is his uncanny ability to recruit seemingly unknowns for his films and provide them with launching pads for their careers. Here are 11 actors/actresses who received their first major breakthrough Tyler Perry.
1) Tessa Thompson – For Colored Girls
Before Tessa Thompson became Hollywood royalty post Dear White People, she portrayed Lady In Purple in Perry’s cinematic adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s seminal work For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When The Rainbow Is Enuf. Now, she’s the leading lady in the Creed franchise as well as Marvel’s Thor franchise.
2) Idris Elba – Daddy’s Little Girls
Despite being well known for his time as Stringer Bell on The Wire, Idris Elba earned one of his first leading roles opposite Gabrielle Union through Tyler Perry’s most conceptually unique film Daddy’s Little Girls. Since then, Elba has gone on to be considered one of film’s biggest leading men.
3) Craig Robinson – Daddy’s Little Girls
Following notable television roles including The Office, Craig Robinson made his big screen debut during a comical scene in Daddy’s Little Girls. He went on to have a starring role in the romantic comedy Peeples with Kerry Washington.
4) China Anne McClain – Daddy’s Little Girls
China Anne McClain’s first role in a Perry film was in Madea’s Family Reunion. She went on to star alongside her sisters in Daddy’s Little Girls, with Elba and Gabrielle Union. She’s now a breakout star on The CW show, Black Lightning.
5) Mary J. Blige – I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Perry enlisted Mary J. Blige to not only star in I Can Do Bad All By Myself but, to perform the titular theme song. She’s since gone on to give an award-nominated performance in the Netflix film Mudbound.
6) Jill Scott – Why Did I Get Married?
Trying her hand in television and film in small rolls following her ongoing successful run in music, Jill Scott co-starred alongside an ensemble cast in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? Since then, the Philly native has starred in successful films including Baggage Claim and Get on Up.
7) Lamman Rucker – Why Did I Get Married?
Starring as Jill Scott’s new love interest in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and husband in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?, Lamman Rucker began his acting career acting in television series including All My Children and Law & Order alongside a few small feature film roles. Now he’s starring on OWN’s #1 show Greenleaf as Jacob Greenleaf.
8) Lance Gross – Meet The Browns
Getting his start on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, it made much sense for Lance Gross to make his film debut through Madea spinoff Meet The Browns. Now he’s starring on Perry’s The Paynes and in The Bobby Brown Story.
9) Teyana Taylor – Madea’s Big Happy Family
Despite coming into entertainment as a recording artists, Teyana Taylor had better success as an actress starring in the direct-to-dvd sequel to Stomp The Yard before her big screen debut in Madea’s Big Happy Family. She went on to star in VH1’s The Breaks, VH1/BET’s Hit the Floor and the Netfilx film, The After Party.
10) and 11) Tamela and David Mann – Meet The Browns
Tamela and David Mann both got their start working alongside Perry as far back as his theatrical plays. The two have starred together in various play-to-film adaptations but, Meet The Browns served as their breakout film alongside Angela Bassett. Since then, they’ve enjoyed multiple television spinoff as well as a reality television series inspired by their marriage.