Tyler Perry is an expert at creating successful television shows raking in record numbers for The Have and Have Nots and If Loving You Is Wrong on OWN. With his recent acquirement of Fort McPherson, now Tyler Perry Studios, in Atlanta,Ga., a new world is at his disposal. The studio is an upgrade fitting for his latest project on TLC Too Close To Home that takes the successful writer and director from the Southside of Atlanta to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“When you see it, you see that it looks really different. The sets are bigger; the whole world is bigger. A lot of that is afforded to Fort McPherson. So when the Haves and Have Nots comes back next year and If Loving You is Wrong comes back those are going to look different,” Perry says. “Everything was shot here at Fort McPherson. The offices are at Fort McPherson, The White House is at Fort McPherson…. we don’t leave the lot. When we’re on the street, we’re out there shooting in front of the green screen.”
The show follows an ambitious young woman named Anna, played by Danielle Savre, who finds herself on the wrong side of The President’s bed resulting in a political scandal. It’s there her world falls apart and the real story begins. Perry says he interested in exploring how her character handles the dynamic shift.
“It’s a basic fish out of water story. It’s about this girl who has left behind all the trauma of her past and pretending to be somebody else and she finds herself in a situation where her character can’t keep her because of where she comes from, all she’s done, what she’s been through and how ambitious she is,” Perry explains, “So I wanted to know what happens if people really got to that level and had to go back to where they came from. She’s got this loving, crazy, insane family full of colorful people in her background. I wanted to explore that world to see what that’s like.”
Too Close to Home was written specifically for TLC and is the only scripted drama in the network’s line-up. TLC is home to more than five popular reality shows including Cake Boss, Love at First Swipe, Sister Wives, Say Yes to The Dress, and Long Island Medium. Perry says he spent hours researching each show to complete the script.
“I said let me take elements from all these shows and put them together in one show, so that this particular audience for TLC, that loves all of these types of shows, can get all of this in one program,” Perry says. “I’m excited to work with TLC. Discovery is part of TLC and it is also a part of OWN. She (Oprah) seen it; she’s excited about it, so we’re cross promoting on both networks, TLC and OWN, to make sure everybody gets a chance to see this.”
What his fans and those new to Perry’s work are witnessing is Perry expanding his brand to a wider audience. His strategy is directing his first predominantly white cast that includes the iconic Heather Locklear, Kelly Sullivan, formerly of General Hospital and Young and The Restless, and a storyline involving the most powerful man in the United States. Savre says Too Close to Home sets itself apart because many people can relate to the small town girl with big dreams.
“I would say I don’t think there’s anything on television like this and in this setting. Certainly there are things based in Washington D.C., there’s Scandal and Homeland, but certainly nothing in a trailer park in Happy, Alabama. I haven’t seen anything like that,” Savre continues. “As you can see he’s taking what a filming experience can be and changing things….revolutionizing things.”
The series was shot out of sequence which took Sullivan by surprise who is accustomed to soap operas shot in sequence. On a Tyler Perry set everything moves extremely fast and many of the cast members watched in amazement as Perry brought the story to life.
“To work with somebody with so much creativity and talent, leading and directing, he wrote everything involved. It was breathtaking to see and to be a part of it,” Brock O’Hurn admits. “In my personal experience I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m sitting here in absolute awe of what just happened.”