×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tyler Perry, Jeremy Zimmer, Tim Armstrong Talk #MeToo, Diversity, and Success at Milken Conference

Tyler Perry surprised the audience at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday with a candid thought about one of his signature characters, the cantankerous Madea.

Perry spoke alongside UTA chief Jeremy Zimmer and Oath CEO Tim Armstrong on a panel focused on what it takes to build a successful business and healthy company culture. Perry told moderator Gayle King, co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” that success can have some downsides. He admitted he has grown tired of donning the gray-haired wig and flower-print dress to play Madea, the character that fueled his early success as an auteur.

“The minute (audiences) stop coming I’m killing that bitch,” Perry confessed. He joked that he would have made different choices as a young man, had he known he’d still be playing Madea 25 years later. “Why can’t I be like Black Panther or something?”

The wide-ranging hour-long conversation among the foursome touched on the impact of the #MeToo movement, efforts to foster diversity in their organizations and the qualities that they look for when interviewing job candidates.

Armstrong said he has made a point of giving “tougher feedback overall” to women who work for Oath, a content unit of Verizon, based on feedback he’s received from women on the thorny subject of why it is harder for women to rise through the ranks in corporate settings.

“Women will say we don’t get as much coaching at work as other people. Men are afraid to give us feedback,” he said. Armstrong added that the focus on gender equality issues has made him “really attuned to getting women in the room and really coaching them.”

Talent agencies have been at the center of the #MeToo reckoning in Hollywood because of their role as talent reps and matchmakers for employment deals. Zimmer said UTA leaders have sought to be mindful of the potential for “unconscious bias” to color decisions. “We’re trying to be as aggressive as we can about changing the lens that we look through on so many decisions,” he said. “We’re looking very hard at changing the balance in terms of diversity.”

King offered the suggestion that men in the workplace should think before they speak. “If it’s not something you’d say in front of your mother, your wife, your daughter or your girlfriend, you probably don’t want to say it,” she said. She also noted: “It’s probably not a good idea to have a meeting and take out your penis.”

King alluded to the firing of Charlie Rose from “CBS This Morning” last November by commenting that she never thought her show would be “part of this story.” At the same time, she said there needs to be appropriate care in handling of sexual harassment allegations. “I think we have to be very careful — there has to be due process for all involved,” she said, nothing that accusations can be a “death sentence” for men.

Perry noted that he is usually a hands-on director or producer on his projects, likening it to a “mom and pop operation” albeit on a large scale. That gives him good visibility into working conditions. He said the goal is to “make sure you foster a safe environment” and have the procedures in place for people to come forward with problems.

On the question of gender, racial and ethnic diversity, Armstrong said he is increasingly bowing out of meetings with outside entities if he finds there is no diversity at the table. “I just show up and if the meeting doesn’t have any diversity I say ‘The meeting is not happening,’ ” he said.

Perry joked that the level of diversity at his sprawling Tyler Perry Studios operation in Atlanta is so great that he needs to implement “a not-so-much inclusion rider. We’ve got everything there. It’s really, really great.”

Among other highlights from the discussion:

  • Zimmer disclosed that he left college about halfway through his sophomore year. “It was a mutual decision,” he joked.
  • Armstrong said all Oath employees are asked to come up with a three-word personal oath that they live by. His is “never give up.”
  • King told the crowd that she periodically calls Perry with “questions and concerns” about his movies. “And his response will be ‘It opened at No. 1. Goodbye.” Perry added that living in Atlanta keeps him grounded and close to his fan base. And they’re not shy about giving him feedback to his face. “They’ll tell me ‘Your last movie sucked but we’re going to hang in with you.’ “
  • Perry advised job-seekers to pay attention to their personal social media profiles and what their posts say about them. He has nixed hires after finding questionable material on Facebook and Instagram. “If you’ve got ‘cocaine’ written all over your Facebook, it might be something you want to pay attention to. And I did.”

POPULAR ON VARIETY.COM:

More Digital

  • Genius Spars With Google Over Lyric

    Genius Accuses Google of Scraping Song Lyrics, Music Data Company Hits Back

    Lyrics annotation service Genius.com has accused Google of scraping its site and stealing its content, the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend. However, a lyrics data provider at the center of the controversy claimed on Monday that those allegations were without merit. The Journal reported that Genius had been complaining to Google about the alleged [...]

  • littlstar ps4 app

    Littlstar Expands Beyond VR With New PS4 App, Signs Up 30,000 Paying Subscribers (EXCLUSIVE)

    A&E-backed immersive content aggregator Littlstar is expanding beyond virtual reality (VR): The New York-based startup launched a dedicated PlayStation4 app this week, giving users of Sony’s game console access to their personal media libraries, as well as both traditional and 360-degree video content from a variety of publishers. Littlstar also announced that it signed up [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Production

    'Game of Thrones,' Netflix VFX Among Those to Be Featured in SIGGRAPH Production Talks

    VFX pros behind the final season of “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster film “Avengers: Endgame,” Pixar’s upcoming “Toy Story 4,” last year’s Oscar-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Netflix series, including “Stranger Things,” and more will give SIGGRAPH 2019 attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their work during the conference’s Production Sessions. There will even be a [...]

  • Patrick Drahi

    Altice's Patrick Drahi to Acquire Sotheby's Auction House for $3.7 Billion

    Patrick Drahi, the owner of the telecom group Altice, is on track to purchase Sotheby’s, the high-profile auction house, for $3.7 billion. The acquisition would turn Sotheby’s into a privately owned concern after 31 years as a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange. Drahi said the acquisition had “no capital link with Altice [...]

  • Soundgarden’s Immersive 'Artists Den' Experience Premieres

    Soundgarden’s Immersive 'Artists Den' Experience Premieres This Week (Exclusive Preview)

    There’s no question that the posthumous release is the most difficult to get right: Human beings are unpredictable, and trying to guess what a person’s intentions might have been is an unhill (if not a losing) battle. Yet posthumous releases ranging from Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” to recent Prince and Jimi Hendrix collections prove [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson Skyscraper

    People Really Want The Rock as the Voice of Their Smart Speaker

    Maybe Google was onto something when it used John Legend as the voice of its smart speakers: Nearly 1 in 3 participants in a recent Adobe smart speaker survey said that they want a celebrity as the voice of their AI assistant. Participants of the Adobe Analytics June 2019 Voice Report also had some clear [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content