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Madea’s Big Happy Family – The cast on their dysfunctional characters

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Madea's Big Happy Family - Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis, Natalie Desselle Reid and Shannon Kane
Shirley (Loretta Devine), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid) and Kimberly (Shannon Kane) © 2011 Tyler Perry Studios

In the new movie Madea’s Big Happy Family, the God-fearing, loud-mouth grandmother (played by Tyler Perry) is brought in to help the dysfunctional family of a dying woman, Shirley (Loretta Devine), whose only wish is for them to get together for a meal.

David Mann and his wife Tamela are back as Madea’s ex-boyfriend and their daughter, and Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss, Cassi Davis, Isaiah Mustafa and Lauren London join the cast as members of the family, and their significant others, in need of help.

Can you tell us a little about your characters?

Madea's Big Happy Family - Cassi Davis, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Shannon Kane and Isaiah Mustafa
Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), Byron (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss), Kimberly (Shannon Kane) and Calvin (Isaiah Mustafa) © 2011 Tyler Perry Studios

Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss: I’m playing a character named Byron and Bryon is a level-headed young man, was kind of raw back in his early days, because he sold drugs and he had to do whatever he had to do to take care of his girl and take care of his kid.

He went to jail for two years, got out, so now his whole thing is to turn around his life, to do the right thing and get back on track, take care of his son, live right and he just wants to go through life without any drama.

Lauren London: I play Renee and she’s Byron’s girlfriend. She’s money hungry, she’s all about self and all about trying to entice him and get him to go left and not right. So I think Renee’s a part of Byron’s lesson in his story.

Cassi Davis: I’m Aunt Bam. She loves family, she loves people, loves laughter, loves Madea. She and Madea actually grew up together like distant cousins. Really not kin, but you hung around each other and you grew up in the same neighborhood, so it’s just like, ‘This is my cousin.’

Isaiah Mustafa: I’m Calvin, I’m Shirley’s daughter’s Kim’s husband. Calvin is probably the best husband that a woman could ever want, but she’s got some marital problems. He’s a support, he wants to help out Kimberly because he sees that there’s a growing rift between her and her mother, and he wants to pull everybody together and be the best son-in-law that he could possibly be.

David Mann: I’m Mr. Brown, and what is he like? He’s a nice, smart, well-dressed (he laughs). I’m basically Madea’s ex-man from a long time ago, and Madea and I share a daughter, Cora. Mr. Brown thinks he’s dying, so of course Madea in her own special way is trying to comfort him by slapping him. How do you go slap somebody to comfort him? But that’s Madea’s own special way of telling me everything’s going to be alright.

Tamela, I read that you didn’t want David to kiss you on the set because you were playing father and daughter, do you get that much into character?

Madea's Big Happy Family - David Mann and Tamela Mann
Brown (David Mann) and Cora (Tamela Mann) © 2011 Tyler Perry Studios

Tamela Mann: That’s right. I do [get into character] and I don’t want him touching me when he’s my daddy. He was trying to be nasty.

David Mann: We’ve been married 23 years! I forget some times. I see it and I what to touch.

What’s Cora and Mr. Brown’s relationship like?

David Mann: Cora brings a lot of glue and encouragement, which is Tamela Mann in a way. She keeps me and Madea from killing each other. If Cora wasn’t there, Madea and I would probably just do each other in every movie.

What’s it like working with Tyler

Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss: I looked forward to the days when I had to go one-on-one with him when he plays Madea. But he does it so fast that you really don’t get a chance to get into it, because the thing about Mr. Perry is the fact that he knows what he wants. I remember the first time we shot, first time I met Madea, I got in the car and in two takes it was done.

Cassi Davis: If Madea is in a scene and Tyler is directing, it’s the craziest thing to watch, because Madea will talk and then Tyler will say, ‘Okay, let me see that again. Everybody ready? Go.’ And then he pops back into Madea.

Lauren London: It’s been an honor and a dream-come-true to work with Tyler. He moves fast, he knows what he wants and he allowed us to trust our instincts, and as an actor you really don’t want any more than that.

Isaiah Mustafa: It took intense concentration because I was trying my best not to laugh. Working with Tyler is great because you have freedom to do what you need to do with your character, but then if it’s getting a little too far out there he’ll pull you in and make sure he’ll walk you down the right path.

David Mann: I like it because he allows room for you to grow the character and do the improv. A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to separate the character from the director, because being a director you want to do everything right, and our movies and shows are based on not doing everything right.

So Tyler can separate the two and how to get that right shot and get that right moment and still not make it so perfect that it’s stiff and uptight. That’s why I love working with him.

How close are you to your characters?

Madea's Big Happy Family -Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Isaiah Mustafa and Rodney Perry
Byron (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss), Calvin (Isaiah Mustafa) and Harold (Rodney Perry) © 2011 Tyler Perry Studios

David Mann: Not at all.

Tamela Mann: Tamela and Cora are one and the same.

Isaiah Mustafa: I don’t think I’ve ever been yelled at by a woman like [Kimberly yells at Calvin in this], by my sisters, yes, but not by a woman that I wasn’t related to.

Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss: I’ve never been in jail before, so I’m definitely far from Byron.

Lauren London: And I make my own money.

Cassi Davis: And I’m not 72!