Tyler Perry: ‘I Used to Be Afraid to Open My Kitchen Cabinets’

Movie Talk
Tyler Perry, Charlie Chaplin
Tyler Perry, Charlie Chaplin

Writer-actor-producer-director Tyler Perry is perhaps best known for playing larger-than-life elderly woman, Madea. The comedy film series that revolves around Perry dressed in drag remains popular after five films (and another on the way).

But Perry's knack for sharing laughs in adulthood came from his experience of a painful childhood. Before his career began, he simply wrote as a means of therapy — which blossomed into his first musical, "I Know I've Been Changed." And the rest is history.

The 43-year-old has been open for years about the abuse he suffered while growing up in Louisiana, but on Monday Perry shared a personal story that further illustrated his rough upbringing.

Perry sent a message to his fans titled, "I Used To Be Afraid To Open My Kitchen Cabinets." In the letter he said, "When I was a little boy I wouldn't dare take a glass out of the cabinet and drink from it without washing it first. The roaches had crawled all over them and the rats would leave droppings all around them. It was bad."

Perry went on to describe mice that would jump out of drawers, rats "bigger than shoes" that would scurry around, and "roaches [were] everywhere."

Perry said as a child he was especially afraid to to go to the kitchen at night. "It was scary," he recalled. ".. From a boy to a man I carried some of that fear with me," he explained.

[Related: Kim Fields talks 'What To Expect,' Tyler Perry]

But something shifted for Perry recently. He realized one day as he got a glass from his cabinet, filled it with water, and drank it, that he is no longer afraid of what might be lurking in his kitchen. "It brought tears to my eyes," he confessed.

The move from tragedy to comedy evokes one of film's first comedians — Charlie Chaplin.

Like Perry, Chaplin grew up in poverty. And Chaplin, who once said, "Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot," knows all too well from first hand experience.

During the late 1800s in London, Chaplin was sent to a workhouse for the poor at the age of seven and was later moved to a school for destitute children. Before he was even a teenager, Chaplin's mother was committed to a mental institution and his father, an alcoholic, died from cirrhosis of the liver. He later described his childhood as "a forlorn existence."

[Related: Tyler Perry thanks firefighters who battled studio blaze]

Chaplin often spoke about finding comedy through pain: "Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain;" and "To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!"

With the Madea series and his other comedies, that's exactly what Perry has done. "Everyone can relate to love, hurt, pain, learning how to forgive," Perry once said.

Watch 'Madea's Witness Protection' Trailer:

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