Can Madea go mainstream? New film features primarily white cast

theGRIO REPORT - Tyler Perry is currently filming 'Madea's Witness Protection' with a primarily white cast, could this be his attempt to go mainstream?...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Tyler Perry is currently working on yet another film, Madea’s Witness Protection. This will be his fourth movie to hit theaters this year, but will be the first Madea film with a primarily white cast including Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Tom Arnold, Doris Roberts and Danielle Campbell.

According the Hollywood Reporter the film centers around Levy’s character, who is put in a witness protection program after his investment company goes belly up due to embezzling. He is forced to move from a wealthy Connecticut neighborhood to Madea’s home in the South. Richards (best known for Everybody Loves Raymond) is set to play Levy’s wife. Romeo Miller, who recently starred in Jumping the Broom, will play a man who believes Levy is responsible for his church’s investments being wiped out and wants to take the law into his own hands.

Marla Gibbs and Jon Amos will also star in the film. Gibbs will play Madea’s neighbor and Amos stars as Miller’s father.

Perry wrote the script, is the film’s director and will star as the gun-toting, bible quoting Madea character that his fans have come to love.

However, this will be the first time that a Madea movie will stray away from Perry’s normal formula of an all-black cast as he attempts to go mainstream with well-known white actors.

The For Colored Girls director featured the Academy Award winning actress Kathy Bates in the 2008 drama The Family That Preys in 2008, and cast Kim Kardashian in The Marriage Counselor which hits theaters in July.

As reported by the blog Shadow and Act, Madea’s Witness Protection will be Perry’s 14th feature film with Lionsgate in the last 7 years, with his films grossing a sum total of nearly $600 million domestically.

Perry is arguably one of the most financially successful film director’s of the past decade, sitting comfortably at the top of Forbes’ as the highest paid man in entertainment, boasting an annual salary of $130 million. And his Madea character has largely contributed to his box office success. So one might ask why would Perry change the formula of his success by casting white actors? And could this new shift ultimately hurt the Tyler Perry brand?

Perry has accumulated his fortune making films targeting the African-American church-going audience, and maybe he seeks to challenge himself and make Caucasian moviegoers familiar with his work.

But this is all a bit ironic considering the 42-year-old director recently said that “movies starring an all African-American casts are on the verge of becoming extinct.”

Perry has employed some of black Hollywood’s elite in his previous Madea films, including Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Lynn Whitfield, Blair Underwood, Boris Kodjoe, Derek Luke, and Loretta Devine. But with the casting of his most recent Madea film, Perry is proving that all African-American casts might indeed be on the verge of extinction.

With four films scheduled to be released this year including Good Deeds, The Marriage Counselor, I, Alex Cross, and Madea’s Witness Protection, Perry will be able to gauge whether going mainstream is profitable or if he should just go ‘back to black.’

For more entertainment news follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter at @WitherspoonC