By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Thursday, August 18, 2016
Tyler Perry began creating TV shows a decade ago on Atlanta-based TBS with his comedy “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.” Over six years, TBS aired a whopping 254 episodes – more than “Friends” or “Seinfeld” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Since then, he created two more comedies for the network before moving to Oprah Winfrey’s OWN in 2013, which now airs four different Perry shows including the network’s hit soapy drama “The Haves and the Have Nots.”
TLC – ready to enter the scripted world after airing a steady diet of reality shows about polygamists, little people and families with lots of kids – wanted in on the Perry bandwagon.
Since TLC and OWN are part of the same Discovery family of cable networks, TLC was able to grab the very busy Perry. He came up with a relationship drama offering some soapy, sexy elements but imbued with a more cinematic feel than “The Haves and the Have Note.”
Perry, who surprised even the TLC publicists by showing up unannounced at a recent press conference for the show at the W Midtown, said he watched all the reality shows on TLC and wanted to take elements from those shows and wrap them in one drama.
The show starts out feeling a bit like “Scandal” meets “Sweet Home Alabama” meets Monica Lewinsky. Anna, played by Danielle Savre, is an intern for the White House who has an affair with the president. She is also hiding secrets from her poor childhood in Alabama. After a major controversy, she flees to her hometown and her estranged family.
Perry said he wanted to explore a person who tried to leave behind a traumatic past but was forced to face those people again. “She has this loving, crazy, insane family,” he said.
Cast admired Perry’s work ethic. “He’s the first one in and the last one to leave,” said Kelly Sullivan (“The Young and the Restless”), who plays Bonnie, a likely romantic rival to the lead. “He’s really just so present all the time. It does take a village ot make something like this but it’s the strength of the leader.”
“I called it actor’s boot camp,” said Ashley Love-Mills, who plays Anna’s best friend in D.C. “It was super intense and does so much fun watching Tyler on the set having the vision and knowing how to execute. it’s just insane.”
Alpha Trivette, a former B98.5 morning host, plays the ailing father of the lead male character played by a studly Brock O’Hurn. He said he loved how Perry does a prayer with the cast and crew every morning. The time he got to join in, he spoke about gratitude. “We’re all very thankful to be part of this,” he said.
“This show has elements of so many shows,” Trivette added. “It speaks to family and loyalty and betrayal and secrets… It’s what everybody deals with.” He also admires the realism of the dialogue.
Perry came up with the recurring First Lady character with Heather Locklear in mind. And much to his pleasure, she was available.
Eight episodes were commissioned in the spring, shot in just eight days in June and will debut Monday, August 22. To save time, they shot all scenes in the same location in a single day from eight different episodes. (Locklear did all her White House scenes in a single day.) This meant shooting things out of sequence. “It’s like challenge for me,” Sullivan said. “It’s terrifying. Many scenes, I’d say ‘Jesus take the wheel!’ ”
This was also his first series he shot at his new expansive studio at what was Fort McPherson.
“The sets are bigger. The whole world is bigger,” Perry said. “That’s because of Fort McPherson.”
“Too Close to Home,” 8 p.m., Monday for two-hour debut, August 22, TLC