Opening in theaters today is Tyler Perry’s new movie, Madea’s Witness Protection. I know what you’re thinking: another Madea movie? But please, who can get enough Madea? In this movie we find out even more about Madea’s checkered past. Did you know Madea used to be a stripper? Perry takes a swing at Wall Street and the Bernie Madoff’s of the world in this clash-of-cultures comedy starring Perry as Brian, an FBI agent sent in to clean up the mess after a massive Ponzi scheme collapse. He also stars as Uncle Joe, a man who may or may not have fathered a child with Doris Roberts’ (Grandma’s Boy) character. And of course as he also stars as Aunt Madea, a woman helping Eugene Levy’s (American Pie, The Man) Wall Street patsy, George Needleman, hide out from angry Ponzi scheme victims. Also starring in the film are Romeo Miller (Honey, Jumping the Broom), Marla Gibbs (227, The Meteor Man), Denise Richards (Wild Things, Starship Troopers), and Tom Arnold (True Lies, Soul Plane) as a sleazy, Bernie Madoff-like businessman.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Romeo Miller (previously Lil’ Romeo) to talk about Madea’s Witness Protection. The actor, who plays the hoodwinked son of a preacher, talks about his new film, working with Tyler Perry, being the son of Master P, and juggling being a CEO, an actor, and a musician with going to business school and playing on the basketball team.
Here’s what the multi-talented actor had to say:
Latino Review: This is your first Tyler Perry movie. How did you become involved in this film?
Romeo Miller: Tyler had contacted me and asked if I wanted a lead role. It was one of those opportunities where it’s a blessing. I always wanted to work with Tyler, being from New Orleans. I’m from New Orleans. It was one of those things. How do you say no? It was a great script and I feel this movie is the best Madea movie yet.
Your dad in this film is a pastor, played by John Amos. Can you tell me a little about the message that he’s trying to teach you in the film?
Miller: In this movie I’m holding a big secret from my dad. He invested a lot of money to me and I screwed up bad. I’m trying to make it better and I think that a lot of kids can relate to that, not wanting to let their parents down. John Amos’s character in the movie shows me that he loves me regardless, nobody’s perfect. I’m trying to make things better. I don’t know if it’s the right way or doing the right things. I actually try to carjack Madea in the movie. As it turns out that wasn’t a good idea. But at the end of the day this movie shows that everybody goes through tough times. Everybody has bad days. You’ve just got to wake up the next day and it will get better.
This movie, like many Tyler Perry movies is a comedy with a message. What do you think was his message in this film?
Miller: I think one of the big themes in this is the whole fish out of the pond thing. Moving this random family in with Madea. Culturally it’s a shock. They are used to living one way and then and Madea is used to living another way. It shows that in the end of the day everybody is human. We come from different places. You may be white, you may be black, you may be orange or purple or zebra-striped or whatever you are, at the end of the day you’re human. We all have the same common goal in life and that is to be happy. This movie definitely shows that through these struggling times in life. Through the bad times, through the differences, at the end of the day we’re all going through the same journey, it just looks a little bit different.
Does Tyler keep the Madea outfit on while he’s directing? What’s he like as a director?
Miller: Tyler was the greatest to work for. You kind of get spoiled working with him because he knocks it out so fast. He has this process that he goes by and a schedule that a lot of people in Hollywood haven’t picked up on because he mastered it. He’s the director, the writer, the everything. When he’s in character he’s still directing the movie and that’s just hilarious, you try not to laugh while he’s filming when he’s in Madea character. It’s the funniest thing. He’ll be in the Madea voice and then all of a sudden in his own deep voice he’ll say, ‘cut’. You’re like, ‘what the hell was that?’ It’s definitely an experience. It’s like you’re watching the Madea movie. It’s like I wasn’t even acting, I was just watching a movie sometimes.
Tyler speaks highly of your performance in this film. Has he mentioned any specific upcoming projects that he wants you to work on?
Miller: We definitely built a great friendship from this movie. I loved working with him. There may be some things in the future. We haven’t really talked about it yet but I think there will definitely be something out there that we’ll collaborate on again. You know how Will Smith and Martin Lawrence had Bad Boys; we may do the Madea version so you never know.
Your dad put out some pretty amazing albums back in the day: Ice Cream Man, Ghetto D. What was it like growing up under Master P’s roof?
Miller: It’s crazy because to me he’s just my dad but now looking back on it, it’s like damn this was my pops? I’d be on the stage with all the soldiers, and Snoop Dog, and my pops. It was very surreal. For me it helped though because I was able to see the business side of it. A lot of kids look up to someone like my dad and they only see from the outside. They don’t see all the work it takes to put in. For me it was definitely beneficial for my career just growing up with him because I saw all the work he was putting in when other people just saw the videos, and the movies, etcetera. It definitely made my view of the entertainment industry a lot better.
You’re the CEO of No Limit, you’re in business school, you’re on the basketball team, you’re recording music, you’re acting, how do you juggle all these things?
Miller: I’ll sleep when I’m dead. The first thing when playing college basketball is that they made all the college athletes understand time management, because just playing basketball and trying to do your schoolwork is a juggling act; it’s crazy. We had to go through these time management classes to learn how to do this and to do that and stay prepared. For me, I had to do that with everything, with the music, the acting. I’m going to time manage everything. For me it’s just a passion. If you love doing something the time doesn’t matter at all. When you really love something that’s what pushes you. You see that with Tyler, working with him. He wears many hats, but he loves doing this. It’s the fans. It’s the fans that inspire us. I know my fans inspire me to want to take it to a whole other level.
What’s most important to you right now: running a multi-million dollar company, acting, or your music?
Miller: All three but for me it’s No Limit. I like doing everything. That’s what my dad did. He never just thought as a rapper. He thought as a mogul. He wanted to run his business. He was in every meeting, behind every decision. Why can’t you do everything? You shoot for the moon and you may land on a few stars.
What are some upcoming projects that you’re working on?
Miller: I’m working on another movie but I can’t talk about it yet. I’m the president of No Limit Forever now. My new single with my dad is called “On the Bubble”. I’ll be premiering it Thursday on BET so I got my pops out of the bat cave. He’s on my new single. My new mixtape that’s coming out is called Inception. It’s the best mixtape, best music I’ve made. I actually just released a comic book called “The Drem”. It’s this magical, romantic love story about two kids growing up in a post-apocalyptic world. I think this generation is really going to like it. It’s like Spider-Man meets Twilight. Just a lot of fun adventures. So I’m continuing to do a little bit of everything.