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Tyler Perry is ready for fans to see a new side of his repertoire.
PEOPLE has the exclusive first look at the writer/director's new coming-of-age period drama A Jazzman's Blues, which debuts on Netflix Sept. 23.
Set in the 1940s deep South, actors Joshua Boone and Solea Pfeiffer play star-crossed lovers Bayou and Leanne, whose forbidden love is the backdrop for decades of secrets and lies being uncovered.
"I wrote it in 1995. It was the first screenplay I ever wrote," Perry, 52, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "The two characters are just trying to find their own way in the world. Initially, I wanted to play the lead role of Bayou, but that was 1995 — I aged out."
The Hollywood mogul is in a much different place in life and his career than when he originally wrote A Jazzman's Blues, making the project even more personal for Perry.
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"I was in Atlanta struggling to make it. I was hungry, sleeping on my cousin's couch, eventually getting put out and being homeless. I was trying to get my first play off the ground, and this screenplay just poured out of me," he recalls. "I held onto it for all of these years."
The upcoming film also stars Amirah Vann, Austin Scott, Milauna Jemai Jackson, Brent Antonello, Brad Benedict, Kario Marcel, Lana Young and Ryan Eggold. There's an original song performed by Ruth B., songs arranged and produced by Terence Blanchard, music by Aaron Zigman and choreography by Debbie Allen.
Perry agrees this film is a departure from his past movies, but he looks forward to proving wrong those naysayers who doubted he could deliver a hit with critics: "Everyone has their team, and these teams don't necessarily understand the power of my audience and what I bring. This is a much broader film. I can't wait for all the people who turned it down to see it. It's just going to be really, really special."
A Jazzman's Blues is on Netflix Sept. 23.