Alex Cross - Tyler Perry
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) © 2011 Summit Entertainment

In a total departure, Tyler Perry is now starring in Alex Cross, as James Patterson’s kickass homicide detective/psychologist. Taking over from Morgan Freeman, who played Cross in Along Came A Spider and Kiss the Girls, Perry is leaving the producing/writing/ directing behind to just concentrated on embodying the role.

Writer/producer/director/actor Tyler has carved out a unique career for himself with his popular movies from his first success, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, in which he portrayed the pot-smoking, loud-mouth grandmother, Madea, to his latest drama, Good Deeds.

In Alex Cross Cross meets his match in a serial killer named Picasso (Matthew Fox, Lost), but when the mission becomes personal, Cross is pushed to the edge of his moral limits.

This role in Alex Cross is quite a departure for you. What drew you to it?

Alex Cross - Tyler Perry, Edward Burns and John C McGinley
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry), Thomas Kane (Edward Burns) and Richard Brookwell (John C McGinley) © 2011 Summit Entertainment

When I first heard Alex Cross my ears perked up, then I heard Rob Cohen and they got a little higher, and I said, ‘I need to see what this is.’

When I read the script and saw James Patterson’s description of Alex, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that’s me.’ So it all came together for this moment to happen.

Was it hard for you not to be in charge of every aspect on this, like you are on all your movies?

What I know about me is that when you know how to lead, you also have to know how to follow. In this film I’m working with James Patterson, who created this brilliant  character, and Rob Cohen who is a brilliant director, and I had the opportunity to learn from both of them.

So for me it was about surrender and just being the character.

Can you talk about doing your fight sequence with Matthew, I hear you punched him by mistake?

Alex Cross - Carmen Ejogo and Tyler Perry
Maria Cross (Carmen Ejogo) and Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) © 2011 Summit Entertainment

Yeah, poor Matthew. It was a really bad moment. We rehearsed the fight sequences, we worked with the stunt people, we went over and over them.

We were on the catwalk for the scene in the Michigan theatre, and I kept feeling within myself that he was too close. I was afraid to completely let go, as I didn’t want to hurt him, but Rob kept pushing me and pushing me.

Finally I just let go, he was too close and the elbow came around and hit him in the temple. He spun around and I grabbed him, because I thought he was going over the catwalk. He said, ‘What happened?’

That was it for me, I had to leave the set after that because I didn’t want to be that committed to it. But he was a good sport about it. He didn’t turn around and kick me.

Were you ever afraid that your audience might not accept you as Alex Cross?

Alex Cross - Tyler Perry and Edward Burns
Alex Cross (Tyler Perry, l) and Thomas Kane (Edward Burns, r) © 2011 Summit Entertainment

The great thing about my audience is that even though there’s an association with me with the character Madea, there is also the association with me with Good Deeds and Why Did I Get Married?

They’ve seen me in other roles before and have supported them. I don’t think there is going to be any resistance to it, and I think they’ll accept it as a really good fun action thriller that takes you on a great ride.

Tyler was asked if he took anything from Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of the role. Click below to listen to his answer

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.