Here's why Tyler Perry won't play Madea anymore

We caught our first glimpse of Mabel Earlene "Madea" Simmons on the famed Chitlin' Circuit stage play, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" (1999), according to Fox. The brainchild of actor, filmmaker, and playwright Tyler Perry, Madea is the fast-talking, no-nonsense-having grandmother, who has a thing for colorful frocks and even more colorful language. Her tough love approach means she's not afraid to bust out with her weapon of choice, ranging from a chainsaw in Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) to a pot and a skillet in Madea's Family Reunion (2006). But it was the juxtaposition between her tendency to take the law into her own hands and her nurturing side that compelled fans to head out to Perry's shows in droves. 

By the time Madea made her big screen debut in 2005, Perry's alter ego had become a household name. The subsequent films, such as Madea's Witness Protection and Madea Goes to Jail, to name a few, garnered sales of "over $500 million worldwide," according to Variety. However, after years of donning the character's gray wig, printed mumus, a cigarette in his right hand and a pistol in the other, Perry decided that in 2019, Madea, the self-proclaimed "thug," would have her final curtain call. 

Why would he abandon the character after 11 installments of the Madea films? Heller! We need answers!

Here's why Tyler Perry won't play Madea anymore.

He was 'tired'

Madea, whose moniker is short for mother dear, is an endearing character that has captured fans' hearts worldwide. But while we were all laughing every time Madea shouted, "Hallelujr!," Perry was working on ideas on how he could bring the character to an end — and he wasn't keeping his plans a huge secret, either.

Perry appeared on Bevy Smith's Bevelations SiriusXM show in October 2018, and not only did he share that 2019's A Madea Family Funeral would be the 11th and final installment of the Madea films, but he also promised to go on one final farewell tour and bring a stage play rendition of the movie to the masses.

So what's up with the abrupt end? Well, it was no hasty decision. Perry said, "It's time for me to kill that old b***h, I'm tired, man."

According to the multi-faceted entertainer, it had a lot to do with his age, which we'll get to in a bit…

Getting into character took its toll

The aforementioned 2018 interview on Bevelations wasn't the first time Perry mentioned he wanted to see Madea meet her maker. On a promotional tour of the 2009 film Madea Goes to Jail, and despite Deadline reporting the movie made $41.1 million during its opening weekend, Perry told Today, "I would love to see Madea die a slow death in the next film." Whaaaat?

It wasn't that he hated the character, per se. It was just that it took a lot of effort for Perry to stuff his six-foot-five-inch frame into his Madea costume — a process he described as a "nightmare."

"It's all one suit that I'm zipped into, so it's all heavy," he said. "The hips are heavy. And the more I sweat, the heavier it gets. I see why women have back problems who have large breasts. Holding those things upright can be tough."

Were his fans sick of her?

While promoting A Madea Christmas (2013), Perry told Today, "As long as people want to see her, she'll be around," before adding, "But the minute they stop coming, that broad's going to die a quick death!" There he goes with the whole death talk again. Sheesh.

Following that interview, more Madea films were released, but ticket sales were nothing to rave about. Forbes reported that A Madea Christmas only raked in $16.01 million during its opening weekend in 2013. Now, of course, we're not talking pennies here, but when compared to 2009's Madea Goes to Jail, which brought in $41.03 during its opening weekend, the decline in moviegoers' interest was evident.

Perry take a hiatus from the character from 2014 to 2016, only to return with Boo! A Madea Halloween, which made $28.5 million its opening weekend, and Boo 2! A Madea Halloween in 2017 that clocked in at $21.23 million. The final installment, 2019's release of A Madea Funeral, brought in $27.05 million its opening weekend, according to Forbes.

Those numbers are nothing to sulk over, but it was clear that the people had spoken. The character's popularity had dwindled down over the years. We can't really fault Perry for finally putting her to rest … for now, at least.

A milestone birthday led to a change of heart

In a 2018 interview with the Bevelations Sirius XM show, Tyler Perry revealed he shot A Madea Family Funeral "two years ago," but he wanted to stagger the release in between the Boo! films and the film he directed, Acrimony (2018). When A Madea Family Funeral finally hit the box office in 2019, it debuted the same year as his milestone birthday, and with it came his desire to shake things up. "I'll be 50 this year and I'm just at a place in my life where this next 50 I want to do things differently," he told CNN.

He also felt he had outgrown the character, so to speak. While chatting with Essence, the interviewer brought up the "kinder, gentler Madea in Madea's Witness Protection." Perry blamed the change in the character's personality on him "getting old." He even admitted that he had done away with some of Madea's most memorable props, including her trusted pistol. "I stopped using the gun a while back when I realized how many children were paying attention to it. But she's getting older that's all that is," he said.

In other words, he had grown up and grown out of playing the gun-toting grandma. 

He has different goals

Although he is well-known for his installment of Madea dramedies, when he was asked about his career goals, Tyler Perry said suiting up to play Madea wasn't one of them. During a 2009 chat with The Hollywood Reporter, the writer-actor-director said that in the next five or 10 years, he would like to own his own network that focuses on inspiring people. He, in fact, was inspired by Oprah Winfrey who, at the time, was launching her OWN network.

He didn't fail to mention Madea, though, but even way back then, the writing was on the wall in terms of the character's fate. "I'd like to continue to grow this brand while at the same time have an actual acting career outside of Madea," he said.

While his own network may still be in the works as of this writing, he has had the opportunity to link up with Winfrey on multiple occasions, on many projects outside the Madea-sphere, including in 2009 when they teamed up to provide promotional assistance for the film Precious, according to Mercury News. And in 2012, Oprah.com reported that he signed a multi-year partnership with the mogul's OWN network to bring scripted programs to the station. 

His critics weren't amused

While Tyler Perry's fans were laughing at the character Madea, and Perry was laughing all the way to the bank, his critics weren't amused by the character. At. All. Director Spike Lee (pictured, right) told Ed Gordon on Our World that "a lot of stuff that's on today is c*****y buffonery." He then went on to say that while he commends Perry for his success, he feel that "the imagery [portrayed in Perry's work] is troubling." Perry addressed Lee's remarks during a press conference as reported by Box Office Magazine (via The Hollywood Reporter). "Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that," he said.

Acclaimed scholar Donald Bogle expressed a similar sentiment, saying the Madea character promoted racist undertones. "If a white director put out this product, the black audience would be appalled," Bogle said, via Entertainment Weekly.

Once Perry announced he would be retiring Madea in 2018, Bethonie Butler of the The Washington Post thought her demise, along with the negative connotations that came along with her, was for the best. "Madea — with her crude language and penchant for physical attacks — has long drawn criticism for perpetuating damaging stereotypes of African Americans," Butler wrote.

Was his health at risk?

Tyler Perry works tirelessly to make his dreams come true. He told Variety, "All parts of my brain are working all the time," he added, "I don't even understand how to not do it. I don't know how to go halfway. I'm all in." The publication noted how "fast" he works, including "writing 22 episodes of a show in two weeks or filming 70 pages of a script in one day." This type of work schedule has the ability to make anyone crash and burn at some point, and that's exactly what happened to Perry at one point in his life.

Perry's mom fell ill in 2009 (she passed away in December of that same year at the age of 64, according to AJC). Perry told Essence that during that dark period of his life, he resorted to drinking every night to help him fall asleep. His drink of choice? Cognac. "I'd have me a nice big glass of Hennessy and I would sleep through the night," he said. Thankfully, he was able to kick his vice in the rear after President Barack Obama visited his Atlanta-based film studio. "I don't know what happened there, but when he came everything became clear. I just kind of came out of a haze," he said.

Now that he has Madea in his rearview mirror (for now), it takes a load off of his hectic schedule and will hopefully allow him to continue focusing on his health.

Some good news for Madea fans

Those of you who are sad to see Madea go, there's no need to weep. Despite the morbid title of the movie A Madea Family Funeral, this isn't necessarily the end of her era. Spoiler alert: despite the aforementioned interviews where Tyler Perry admitted he wanted to kill her off, the matriarch of the film doesn't die in the 11th installment. "No, you can't kill her. I mean, that's like killing Rocky. Don't kill him," Perry told CNN.

So what's next? Well, Perry created the final movie in a way that welcomed the possibility of Madea making a return to the big screen. "I left the door open because I don't want people to have a finality that she's gone," he said. "That final thing, she's dead and gone, don't want that."

There you have it. Perry was tired of the character and wanted her dead, but deep down inside, he loves the vindictive yet lovable Madea just as much as we do. 

On that note, we have no idea what the future may hold, but don't count Madea out just yet.