The media mogul's philanthropy and hard work through his charitable foundation, The Perry Foundation, have earned him a special Emmy, which he will receive at next month's ceremony. ET's Nischelle Turner spoke with the 50-year-old star about receiving the honor, as well as how his late mother, Willie Maxine Perry, inspires his charitable spirit.
"That's the DNA of my mother. My mother was just such a kind woman," Perry boasts, adding that he especially tries to give back around her birthday in February and around the holidays. "I'm thinking of her because I know that she would be smiling from heaven. So that's definitely that part of my DNA."
"I realize that people aren't out there struggling because they want to. There are people that just need a hand up and that little bit of motivation can take them a long way," he notes. "I'll never forget being in the grocery store, in Winn-Dixie in Atlanta, trying to pay for some food and couldn't pay for it. I was at Kroger. I couldn't pay for it. There was a woman behind me who gave me the money to get the food that I needed. Never knew her again. But that little act of kindness made me feel like I could go on, so that's what those moments are about for me. Just making people feel like they can go on."
Perry and his foundation will be receiving the TV Academy's Governors Award during the 72nd Emmy Awards telecast on Sept. 20. He is being recognized for his achievements in TV, as well as his commitment "to offering opportunities to marginalized communities through personal and The Perry Foundation programs of inclusion, engagement, employment and other philanthropic initiatives," per the TV Academy.
"For the Governors to even consider me for it and to know that they were watching and paying attention, that was really, really powerful. I was blown away by it," Perry expresses. "When they said I'm getting that award and it's about philanthropy and it's about the contributions to television, I think about all the people who work for me."
Perry and his whole team, meanwhile, continue to work amid the coronavirus pandemic at his Tyler Perry Studios. He's taken every precaution at his massive Atlanta space to keep his productions safe.
Perry created a 30-page set of safety guidelines, turning his studios into "Camp Quarantine." He was able to shoot full seasons of BET's Sistas and The Oval in just two weeks.
"As I'm directing, I'm editing. So I know I have it, I know if I have the shots," he explains of his process. "I got an amazing team, the actors are ready to go. They've had their scripts for months. They don't miss a line. It's pretty amazing."
However, he did have to deal with a Plan B after two of his main stars on The Oval tested positive for COVID-19.
"I was scrambling trying to figure out how do I write around them, knowing that I had two people who were positive," he shares, adding that, thankfully, all went well.
Perry fans will get to enjoy a Perry production at the end of this month with Madea's Farewell Play on BET+.
"You're gonna get so much laughter and that's what we need right now and that's the only thing that makes me wanna keep her going a little longer is because we need so much laughter," Perry says. "We're dealing with a pandemic, we're dealing with crazy politics, we're dealing with all this sadness in the world, so it makes me wanna shake the dust off and pull out of that box and send her back to work."
While Perry might be ready to say goodbye to Madea, he knows how much fans love her.
"I just finished a tour last year, biggest tour that I've ever done. And I'm like, I'm at the end of this, arenas are packed with people, so it's like, OK, people still wanna see her," he adds. "The joy and the laughter that she brings is important to me, so if that's what it's gonna be, we'll see."
Madea's Farewell Play will stream Aug. 27 on BET+.