It took over two decades for Tyler Perry to bring his period melodrama, A Jazzman's Blues, to the screen — and the beloved entertainer and media mogul wouldn't have had it any other way.
Set against the backdrop of the 1940s, A Jazzman's Blues (out Friday on Netflix) tells a tale of forbidden love and family drama unraveling over decades in the Deep South.
Perry began the script — the first that he'd ever written — in the late '90s, embarking on what would become a 27-year journey to bring it to the screen. But before that, he had to build his empire.
Courtesy of TIFF Solea Pfeiffer and Joshua Boone in 'A Jazzman's Blues'
"I knew that I had to be intentional in everything that I was doing," Perry said while visiting PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly's studio at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month (above). "I was building a studio, I was building a company. I had to have all these shows that I knew my audience wanted to see. And for many years, I always wanted to do this [film]."
"We talked about doing this over 20 years ago, Debbie [Allen, choreographer for the film] and I, but I knew that I had a goal to reach," Perry said. "Once I reached that goal and found a place where I was secure, I felt like, you know, let me go back and do some of the things that I love. Jazzman was at the top of that list."
The result is a movie centered on "youthful joy and pure love," adds co-star Solea Pfeiffer, who plays one of the plot's star-crossed lovers opposite Joshua Boone. There was once a time when a younger Perry envisioned himself in the Boone role, and while taking on the part could have been daunting, Boone says Perry's faith in him only revitalized him.
Jace Downs/NETFLIX Joshua Boone in 'A Jazzman's Blues'
"For him to say yes to me, I felt his trust," Boone says. "Not only that, but I feel like I have a lot to give, that I want to give, to this work. For him to say yes, it only charged me up. It gave me more confidence. It was a blessing to work with him."
Despite the film's heavy subject matter, Perry called the experience the most fun he's had on set. "This was the labor of love — this was the thing I held onto for all those years," Perry said. "And getting a chance to work with all of these incredibly talented people and this cast, I thought, 'Okay, this could not have come together any other way other than divine order. So I was very happy every day. "
Watch EW and PEOPLE's full interview with Perry and the cast of A Jazzman's Blues in the video above.