Tyler Perry knows Cicely Tyson’s worth.
The actor/filmmaker chatted with AARP The Magazine for its August/September cover story, where he revealed he once paid Tyson, who died last year at age 96, “a million dollars” for a single day of work on his 2007 movie Why Did I Get Married?.
“This woman had done so many amazing things, but she wasn’t well compensated for it,” he said. “She made $6,000 for Sounder, you know? I wanted to make sure she knew that there were people who valued her.”
Perry, 52, also said he “loved working with Tyson” on 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,” he shared.
Tyson and Perry worked together on several films beginning with 2005’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman as well as Why Did I Get Married?, Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010).
After Tyson’s death, Perry dedicated a heartfelt tribute to the screen legend on Instagram. “My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next,” he wrote in part. “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.”
“Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen,” he added. “Every time we would talk I would ask, ‘How are you?’ and you would say, ‘I’m still here. He must have something he wants me to do.’ Well, I think it’s safe to say you have done all you were put here to do, and we are all better for it.”
Tyson’s career spanned more than 60 years. With more than 95 credits to her name, she never tired of entertaining audiences, becoming famous for playing resilient, strong Black women.
During his AARP The Magazine interview, Perry also reflected on his own struggles, including how he once “spent all [his] money” to produce a play that “didn’t work.”
“After that, I tried again — many, many times — to produce the play,” he recalled. “I would get different jobs between those times, but I’d quit to work on the play, and I ended up homeless. For three months, I lived in a Geo Metro that I was hiding from the repo man.”