TODAY

Thursday, July 31

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Humor Me Podcast #1: Kelsie Huff A Mini MALL »

Theater Tue May 22 2012

Interview with Singer/Actress Cheryl Pepsii Riley

Whenever you hear the name "Madea," the hilarious, no-nonsense, advice-giving matriarch in Tyler Perry's plays, you immediately think of--Tyler Perry; however, when it comes to his productions, there is definitely another name you should also know: Cheryl Pepsii Riley. Here, the New York-born singer and actress, who co-stars alongside Perry in Tyler Perry's Madea Gets A Job, discusses messages, music and of course, Madea.

C PEP RILEY.jpg

Cheryl Pepsii Riley; photo: Steven Williams.

You're coming to town this week for Tyler Perry's Madea Gets A Job--how has the tour been going so far?

It's been wonderful; actually we were there at the beginning of the tour a couple of months ago and we're coming back. Chicago has always been so good to Tyler Perry; you guys always come out and support.

You share a long working history with Perry and are a staple in his plays--how did your relationship with him initially come about?

I've been doing plays for over 20 years and I started doing this genre of theater in 1991. At the time, the only secular artists who were doing gospel plays were myself and [the late] David Peaston, who knew Tyler from his very first show. We went to Atlanta and David said, "Tyler Perry wants to meet you." And I met him and he called for me to do a couple of shows but I wasn't available because I was doing other shows. We finally got a chance to work together in [his stage play] Madea's Class Reunion and we've been working together ever since.

You've been there since the beginning with him, with a firsthand look along the way at how his career has exploded into this huge brand--what has it been like to witness it all unfold?

We talk about that so much. When I first started with him, we were mostly doing regular theater. And we were always at the Regal Theater [in Chicago]--we loved the Regal, by the way, and it's sad that it's not there anymore because there's so much history. But we did Madea Goes to Jail there and I started seeing his audience change; before then, he didn't have the TV shows or the movies, so to be there and witness how hard he's worked to grow his empire has been amazing.

Your amazing singing is an integral part of his shows and you've even contributed to the soundtracks for some of his feature films; musically, do you contribute in other ways, like songwriting or song selection?

In his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, I sung a lot and then there's one song in that film, a cover of Joan Osborne's "What If God Was One of Us," which is a song I've been doing forever because I love it and I have my own interpretation of it. I've done a lot of voiceover things for him, too--in Diary of a Mad Black Woman and again in I Can Do Bad All By Myself--where [actress] Taraji P. Henson is singing--that's me. I haven't done any writing, but he has these ideas of what he wants to do and we make it happen.

Carla Montgomery, your character in Perry's latest stage play, is the head administrator of a home for seniors, which of course means you'll come in contact with Madea. Are there any one-on-one scenes? If so, what's it like? I'm sure it leaves the door open for plenty of ad-libbing...

Oh yes there will be ad-libs--most of those scenes come from ad-libs after a while. There is a one-on-one scene with him and it's really something because when he's in that Madea "thing," he's in that Madea thing. You can almost forget that it's Tyler because he's way in [that] mode, but because I've worked with him for so long, I know what questions to ask. You learn how to feed off each other and I know what points he likes to get across because that's what's so huge for him. Whenever I'm in a scene with him and I know there are certain points he wants to get to the audience, I know what to say. Of course we have our script, but there are things along the way when you say, "Okay, he wants to get this out," so I feed that to him.

How would you say this role differs from the other roles you've played in his productions?

Carla is a lot like me, actually, but when the show first started, she was very different from me: She was very stern, very disrespectful and [straight] to the point. She just had a job to do and the compassion that I would have, was not there. Tyler is not used to me being like that and I think that even for him, it was hard to see me be so 'hard', so we softened her a little bit and gave her a little more compassion.

With your solid resume as a mainstay in Perry's plays, are there any plans for you as far as any of his future big screen projects are concerned?

I don't know--we don't' talk about that. I have had other opportunities come to me--for film and television--which I am looking forward to venturing into. I know that it is definitely in my future because it's kind of a natural progression, but I don't know if the first time you see me on the big screen will be through one of his vehicles or another one. But you will see me on the big screen.

Let's talk about your singing and your music; most recently, you released "Let Me Be Me"--tell us about that project. Also, are you working on new music?

I am. We released "Let It Be Me" independently a little bit ago, so we have those in the trunk of the car sometimes! [Laughs]. But I'm really proud of that project because I hadn't done one in a long time because I've been kind of jaded by the music industry to some degree.

To "some degree?" How so?

I had been on major record labels since the beginning of my career--just the politics of it all... Working through a [major] record label, I was told I should do more of a "Mary J. Blige" kind of thing because that's what "my people" want to hear. I'm not just R&B; I'm jazz, I'm gospel, alternative and funk. Don't limit me and my culture because we listen to everything. But little by little, people would tell me, "You need to do another record." As time went on and you get through some real life experiences, I had stuff to say and things I wanted to get off my chest and "Let Me Be Me" was born from that. I said I wouldn't do another record, but now, I'm back. I've been working on some more stuff; because it's a form of my purpose--to touch people whatever way I can.

Speaking of "purpose," Tyler Perry is well-known for infusing inspirational or motivational messages in his work; what message do you think the audience will take away from this play?

Respect and love each other--especially the elders in your lives. Also, there's a part in the show at the end where Tyler speaks about something that I think will hit home for a lot of people: When you stop trying to control everything and let things be, whatever needs to be done, will be done.

~*~

Tyler Perry's Madea Gets A Job runs Thursday through Sunday, May 24-27 at the Arie Crown Theater, 2301 South Lake Shore Dr.; show times vary. Tickets are $25-$90 and are available at the box office or online. For more information, call 800-745-3000.

 

Lo / May 22, 2012 5:37 PM

Great interview! As usual!

Add a Comment




Please enter the letter f in the field below:



Live Comment Preview


Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="http://blahblahblah.com">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Feature Mon Jun 09 2014

I Grew Up in a Big Ol' Gay Disco: an Interview with Oli Rodriguez

By H. Melt

Oli Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist working in film, photography, and performance. H. Melt sat down with him to find out more about his relationship to Chicago, the city's queer history, and how it impacts his artmaking.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jul 25 2014

Hercules, Lucy, A Most Wanted Man, I Origins, And So It Goes, Happy Christmas, Magic in the Moonlight, Under the Electric Sky & Closed Curtain

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

 

Events

Thu Jul 31 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Thu Jul 31 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Thu Jul 31 2014
Fiesta Del Sol @ Pilsen Neighborhood

Thu Jul 31 2014
School of Rock Allstars @ Beat Kitchen

Fri Aug 1 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Fri Aug 1 2014
A Black Harvest Film Festival Opening Night @ Siskel Center

Fri Aug 1 2014
Amber Ginsburg & Katie Hargrave @ Roman Susan Gallery

Fri Aug 1 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Sat Aug 2 2014
You're Being Ridiculous @ Mary's Attic

Sat Aug 2 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Sat Aug 2 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Sat Aug 2 2014
Fiesta Del Sol

Sun Aug 3 2014
Great Midwest Uke Fest @ Chief O'Neill's

Sun Aug 3 2014
The Stylish Sip & Swap Soiree

Sun Aug 3 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Sun Aug 3 2014
American Graffiti & Car Show @ Portage Theater

Sun Aug 3 2014
Fiesta Del Sol

Mon Aug 4 2014
Impress These Apes @ ComedySportz

Mon Aug 4 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Tue Aug 5 2014
Chicago French Film Festival

Wed Aug 6 2014
Monty Python Live @ Music Box


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15

Newsletter

Sign up for our free email newsletter I Star Chi and get a weekly round-up of the best of Gapers Block, plus our picks for must-do events each weekend!

istarchi

Preferred format    Preferred format