Dear Culture

If Panama was in Tyler Perry’s writers’ room

Episode 76

Kelly Rowland enters Tyler Perry’s world in the Netflix legal drama, “Mea Culpa” and as a Black movie fanatic, Panama Jackson is excited to see if it delivers the crazy and unexpected ride Perry has promised. In true Perry fashion, the film’s title is a play on words, incorporating the first name of Rowland’s character. This got Panama’s creative juices flowing, and he’s offering up several film ideas with the same play on words for Perry’s consideration.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 15: (L-R) Trevante Rhodes, Kelly Rowland, and Tyler Perry attends Tyler Perry’s Mea Culpa Premiere at The Paris Theatre on February 15, 2024. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Netflix)


[00:00:00] Panama Jackson: You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. What’s going on, everybody? Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by, and about the culture here on theGrio Black Podcast Network. I’m your host, Panama Jackson, and today we’re gonna have fun. And do you know why we’re gonna have fun?

[00:00:16] Because one of my favorite things on earth is upon us. A new Tyler Perry movie. On February 23rd, Tyler Perry is dropping a film called Mea Culpa. Now, this is not Tyler Perry apologizing for all of the shenanigans he has brought to us. No. This is the title of an actual film. And I gotta tell you, I’m excited.

[00:00:39] It stars Kelly Rowland as a lawyer. Let me say that again. It stars Kelly Rowland as a lawyer. Now I’m only saying that not because Kelly Rowland won’t make a fine lawyer. I’m sure she will. It’s because Tyler Perry’s relationship with the legal process in films is always a bit sketchy. For instance, back in 2020, he dropped A Fall from Grace, and the legal scenes in that film were so nonsensical that I’m sure actual lawyers heads blew up while watching this movie.

[00:01:15] This is why I’m excited. It also stars Travante Rhodes and a litany of other Black people that you’ve seen from that thing at the place at the time. Black people. It’s gonna be all kind of Black people. Now, listen. I love Tyler Perry movies. I know that sounds crazy coming from me because, you know, I probably fancy myself as a bit of a art, Black art film snob, but I’m not.

[00:01:35] At all. Like, I watch all the Tubi movies. Good ones, bad ones. It doesn’t matter. I watch all Black cinema. That means I watch all Tyler Perry movies. And when this movie dropped. When Mea Culpa when the trailer for Mea Culpa dropped, I immediately said one thing to myself. I said Panama I bet Kelly Rowland’s name is gonna be Mea and sure enough.

[00:01:56] Her name is Mea.

[00:01:57] Mea Culpa: Mr. Malloy. This is Mea Harper I’d like to meet with you to discuss your case.

[00:02:01] Panama Jackson: Do you know why I said to myself? Kelly Rowland’s name is going to be Mea because Tyler Perry loves to do this thing where he takes like a phrase or an idiom or something like that and turns it into like takes the one of the words that could be a name and makes it the name of a character, right?

[00:02:17] So in A Fall From Grace, the main character who’s in prison, who’s telling her story to one of the lawyers trying to get out, Grace. Good deeds. The main character, Tyler Perry, Wesley Deeds, who was like a fifth generation, uh, Harvard educated, something or other, some ridiculous thing that, that, that Tyler Perry had to put in it to prove to everybody that this man was highly educated in all the, all the things.

[00:02:41] A family that prays. It’s not praise, P R A Y, it’s P R E Y. A family that prays on each other. They needed prayer. The whole family needed prayer. Everybody did. But, you see where I’m going with this, right? So, because I’m such a generous soul, and because I love Tyler Perry movies, and because I want more of them, I’m not one of those people that wants less.

[00:03:03] I want more, more, more. I was like, what if I were to come up with some film options, some ideas, Perhaps that I could share with Tyler Perry for films that he could make that follow the same naming convention as something like Mea Culpa, which has a character named Mea or good deeds that has a character named Wesley deeds.

[00:03:25] You get where I’m going with this. Um, I’m rooting for everybody Black. This is a fact. Shouts out to Issa Rae. And since I’m doing that, I want Tyler to win. So I want more of these films that I want to watch. So this is why I’m offering my services to Tyler Perry free of charge. I don’t know who owns the IP.

[00:03:45] Once this goes live, I’m assuming that belongs to Byron. Um, but Tyler Perry was honored by Byron Allen at the, the first Grio Awards. So maybe there’s some synergy here. You listen, I, I ain’t want to gossip. So you heard that from me. I’m just saying maybe we need to slide Tyler Perry a couple of these ideas is all I’m saying.

[00:04:06] I’m saying it’s possible. So here’s some ideas for some films that I think Tyler Perry could make that follow a similar naming convention that I think you and I would enjoy. Uh, I’m really, I really enjoy some of these things, by the way. I just, I just want you all to know that. So let’s start with my first one.

[00:04:25] Give Me Liberty. Now you might be familiar with the phrase, give me liberty or give me death, which was. Said by I believe this is Patrick Henry right around the time of the American Revolution Uh, don’t quote me on that. But some white man said that in a time long, long ago. In our version of Give Me Liberty though, Liberty is the name of a young precocious Black child who happens to be an UNO prodigy.

[00:04:53] Now, her parents, the Bells, right? Her name is Liberty Bell, right? The Bell family. are going through some things, financial, they having all kinds of problems. So the Bells are going through a divorce. You know who gets caught up in the middle? Liberty. Give me Liberty. They’re fighting a custody battle for Liberty.

[00:05:13] Except, they find out that Liberty is an UNO prodigy. And she starts breaking in the dough. So the, the actual, like, custody battle really ramps up because both parents are trying to control the funds, right? So they have to Fight amongst each other and then the judges get involved. We got more legal wrangling from Tyler Perry, right?

[00:05:32] So who knows where this can go? There might be, I don’t know. Maybe Judge Maybeline had already been in here. Maybe we can get our own Ebony K. Williams in a Tyler Perry movie as one of the judges. Wink, nod, boom. Anyway, because Give Me Liberty is about freedom, suddenly the family, they realize that they’re better together than apart and they realize that they can liberate the world.

[00:05:59] UNO, but they can only do that as a family. So they got to stay married, right? So the end of the movie will be some kind of montage of people in countries all around the world playing UNO. Um, you remember Malcolm X when at the end of everybody was like, I am Malcolm X.

[00:06:14] Malcom X Movie: I am Malcolm X.

[00:06:18] Panama Jackson: Everybody can say, I play UNO, and you have children in Cambodia, Mexico, Miami, uh, Nova Scotia, Accra, Lagos, Pretoria.

[00:06:33] I mean literally the possibilities are endless. So Give Me Liberty. I think this, I think this has, think searching for Bobby Fischer meets Black Panther. I don’t know how that works, but I think we can make that work. Let’s roll with that one. Alright, here’s another one, here’s another one. So, if give me liberty doesn’t quite cook, I got another option.

[00:06:51] Give me, uh, the second one is called Blessing in Disguise. So, obviously, blessing in disguise is one of those things where you find out that something that you didn’t think was helpful for you ends up being helpful for you. That’s the blessing in disguise. We got a character named Blessing. All right. Uh, it’s a psychological thriller.

[00:07:11] Okay. So I’m going to have to read some of this because when I wrote this down, I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited about what I came up with that I even I, I just, I gotta, I gotta share with you all this way. So a psychological thriller about a girl named Blessing who went missing. But she really didn’t.

[00:07:28] She put on a mask and walked the streets of, I don’t know, Topeka, alone at night keeping up with the news clippings about people trying to find her. When people get close to finding her, she goes into their homes and kills them, kinda like Pennywise on some like IT stuff. But one detective, we’ll call him Norwood Jones, refuses to give up on the case even though everybody who tries to find her ends up dead.

[00:07:49] Eventually, Blessing comes clean to him after she tries to kill him with a loaf of bread and cyanide laced cheese at a local diner. I don’t know where this one is going, but I think the family will be reunited one day. This we can workshop. Tyler, holla at me, but Blessing in Disguise is a perfect title for a Tyler Perry film.

[00:08:08] But this third one, y’all, this the one. This the one. Call it The Gift of Gab. Now, when you think the words gift of Gab, you think somebody who could talk, talk. No, no, no, not in Tyler Perry universe. The gift of Gab, this stars a woman named Gabrielle. Gab. Now, how crazy would it be if this was played by Gabrielle Union, who has been in Tyler Perry movies.

[00:08:38] She was in Daddy’s Little Girls. Uh, great film. Also some, uh, legal shenanigans that really needed some work in that movie. Anyway. So this is about a woman named Gabrielle who can’t find love or searching for love in all the wrong places. She’s almost ready to give up until she ends up meeting the man of her dreams.

[00:08:59] A rich, super educated nuclear physicist and pediatrician who loves kids and volunteering. And for the sake of continuity in Tyler Perry’s universe, we’ll give him a nice wig, perhaps with some cornrows, or a nice bob, kind of a C, I don’t know. We can, we can work on the wig situation later. But he harbors a deep, dark secret.

[00:09:23] He’s obsessed with wrapping paper.

[00:09:29] I wrote that. The Gift of Gab, Gift Wrapping Paper, Gabrielle, ooh, child. Um, one night while they were asleep, he wraps Gabrielle up and puts a bow on her. So he wraps her up while she’s sleeping. Can you imagine how crazy it’d be to wake up just being wrapped up in wrapping paper? And then he kidnaps her effectively and keeps her bound until her brother, who we’re gonna call Jesse, comes in and kills him.

[00:09:57] He finds his sister wrapped up in Christmas wrapping paper, but takes her to safety. This film is almost over y’all, this is not the end of the movie. Uh, Gabrielle never meets another suitor on the site that she met this first dude on, Blackfolkshang. com, which I don’t think is a real thing, I didn’t look that up.

[00:10:15] Because she doesn’t have to. She never needs to find another suitor. Why Rick Fox? Rick Fox moves in next door, they fall in love and get married. I, I mean, what, we got Rick Fox. Rick Fox in another Tyler Perry movie. You remember he was in Meet the Browns with Angela Bassett when she was playing like a 20 some year old single mother who had like an 18 year old kid?

[00:10:46] Listen, I’m really liking where that one’s going. I feel like Gift of the Gab, Gift, the Gift of Gab is the winner here, just off title alone. Alright, now I have this last movie. I don’t love it as much as the other ones, but I still think it’s good. Let’s see where this one goes. I call it Over the Moon, right?

[00:11:03] So over the moon, that’s just an idiom, another one we got, but let’s see where I take over the moon. A young woman is obsessed with her ex lover, Michael Moon. Over the moon, or is she? I think not, she’s obsessed, right? She makes his life hell. It’s like Obsessed meets Acrimony. And if you’ve seen acrimony, it was a lot of acrimoniousness in that film.

[00:11:28] Acrimony: You know me. You know, I can be the devil.

[00:11:33] Panama Jackson: So Michael is a very nice guy who just wants to live his life He moves 3, 000 miles away from his from his ex who I don’t actually have her name. Bet we don’t even give her a name. She just like Ralph Ellison. She’s like the invisible woman. She’s just always there making his life hell, but we don’t actually have a name for it.

[00:11:52] She’s the subconscious, right? Deep. You gotta be deep with it. Um, she finds him anyway, while he’s at a drug store buying cold medicine, right? So she rolls up on him, but is she there? Is she not? Is it a figment of his imagination? I don’t know. There’s going to be a lot of running in this movie. Somebody’s going to have to die.

[00:12:08] Maybe it will be Michael, but if he dies, we can’t kill him too early. He got to die at the end. Just like in Menace Society, remember where Kane dies at the end of the movie, but he’s still doing the voiceover where he tells us it’s too late because he’s dead now?

[00:12:21] Menace to Society: I done too much to turn back. And I done too much to go on.

[00:12:27] Panama Jackson: Very meta. Very meta. You know what I’m saying? Like, Michael’s dead but doing a voiceover and he’s speaking to us from his worst decisions. I like this. I like where this is going. Um, I like it. I think we can make this one work. So Over the Moon, I didn’t love it at first, but as I talked through it more all in Tyler Perry is some ideas for you.

[00:12:49] I think these can rock. I really like the Gift of Gab when holla at me. I will happily you write all your scripts mad quick. I’ll bust out a whole two hour movie if you give me 36 hours and a couple energy drinks. I got you bro. Uh, so yeah. Mea Culpa, February 23rd. Panama Jackson, got a bunch of other options for you all.

[00:13:13] For after February 23rd, and hopefully we can get this done. So Tyler Perry, holla at me. And thank you to everybody for listening to Dear Culture, which is an original podcast of theGrio Black Podcast Network. It is produced by Sasha Armstrong, edited by Geoffrey Trudeau. And Regina Griffin is our Director of Podcasts.

[00:13:31] Uh, again, my name is Panama Jackson. Thank you for listening. Have a Black one.

[00:13:50] Writing Black Podcast: We started this podcast to talk about not just what Black writers write about, but how. Well, personally, it’s on my bucket list to have one of my books banned. I know that’s probably bad, but I think spicy. They were yelling N word, go home. And I was looking around for the N word because I knew it couldn’t be me because I was a queen.

[00:14:09] But I’m telling people to quit this mentality of identifying ourselves by our work to start to live our lives. And to redefine the whole concept of how we work and where we work and why we work in the first place.

[00:14:26] My biggest strength throughout, throughout my career has been having incredible mentors and specifically Black women. I’ve been writing poetry since I was like eight. You know, I’ve been reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and so forth and so on since I was like a little kid. Like the banjo.

[00:14:42] Was Blackity Black, right? For many, many, many years. Everybody knew. Cause sometimes I’m just doing some Sam s that cause I just want to do it. Our honor to be here. Thank you for doing the work that you’re doing. Keep shining bright. And we, and like you said, we gonna keep Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.