It's well known Tyler Perry is one of the most successful filmmakers working today.
What doesn't get as many headlines is how often he gives back to his community. Not to mention that, despite his critical rep as making primarily zany comedies featuring his iconic “Madea” character, the man really knows his movie history.
“I’ve never said this publicly,” Perry said, “but I took care of Ms. Tyson for the last 15 years of her life. She was a proud woman, and the only reason I mention this is because she wrote it in her book. This woman had done so many amazing things, but she wasn't well compensated for it. She made $6,000 for ‘Sounder,’ you know? I wanted to make sure she knew that there were people who valued her."
“Sounder” was a 1971 Depression-era drama that is widely considered one of the first big hit Hollywood films that featured a nearly all-black cast. Tyson starred in the film which happened right around the apex of her career.
It wasn’t the first such groundbreaking work for Tyson, who’s career started in the 1950s, and across 95 acting credits was filled with artistically and politically challenging roles that made her an icon within the Black community. Along the way she garnered numerous awards, culminating in a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015.
It was a small role towards the end of her life though that showed the depths of Perry’s respect for Tyson’s distinguished career. In 2007, Perry paid Tyson one million dollars for one day of work on his film, “Why Did I Get Married?”
"It makes me feel great that I was in a position to give this incredible woman some security in her latter years," said the actor/director.
As People reported, Perry was able to land spots for Tyson in a number of his films, beginning with 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," as well as "Madea's Family Reunion," and "Why Did I Get Married Too?"
Upon Tyson's passing in 2021 at the age of 96, Perry posted a loving tribute on Instagram. Next to a nice picture of the two laughing and hugging, Perry wrote in part, "My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next. To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence."