Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “The Family That Preys”

April 8, 2013  |  
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Source: Lionsgate

When it comes to Tyler Perry films, The Family That Preys is one of, if not my all time favorite. It stars some A-list actors, the story is complex without leaving any loose ends and it was one of the few Tyler Perry movies that wasn’t based off of his stage plays. If you’ve seen the movie, I doubt you’ve forgotten the plot or that pivotal moment with Sanaa Lathan and Rockmond Dunbar over that counter top. You remember, but check out these behind the scenes secrets.

Source: Lionsgate

White Folks

Unlike the rest of Tyler Perry’s films, this one featured a diverse cast…in other words there were white folks involved. A complete step away from his usual work, many wondered why he was switching up. Others, specifically at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, wondered why this was Tyler’s first time he’d written about white folks. This is what he had to say.

“I never knew any white people! Really and truly. I grew up in New Orleans. I went to an all-black school. I lived in an all-black neighborhood. I never knew one white person. Not one. I moved here to Atlanta and for 15 years, I didn’t know any white people. Now I’m living in a world where I’m meeting all kinds of people. I’m a student of life. So I’m writing from other perspectives. Now I look at a situation and say, ‘Oh, this is how this person lives.'”

Source: Lionsgate

The critics

As you know the critics, professional and amateur alike, don’t review Perry’s films very highly. Though they still felt there were holes critics, across the board, agreed that the film showed his growth. Here’s what one critic from the New York Daily News had this to say.

Perry’s notoriously overstuffed plots have sometimes been top-heavy, but this movie, like Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters, hangs on an elegant structure that doesn’t feel forced. Perry’s skills as a director have improved as his casts have gotten better, and he gives the lovely Woodard one of her most satisfying roles . . . By melding the pleasures of 1950s-style melodrama . . . with equal-gender, African-American-aimed plots, Perry has found success in a niche only he now occupies. And by adding Christian tenets and modern issues . . . Perry shows he knows what his audience wants. First and foremost, that’s a smart, satisfying movie experience, which Family is.

Source: Lionsgate

Cole Hauser on Tyler Perry

Just like Tyler didn’t know any white people, Cole Hauser didn’t know Tyler Perry. Once he heard about the project, he had to do some research about his work. He recognized that this film didn’t exactly fit in with the canon of his work and wanted to have a conversation with him. Once he spoke to him, he was on board. He especially liked that Tyler was open and willing to make a couple of changes to the character.


Source: Lionsgate

The Swirl

As you can imagine, folks were a bit fascinated by the interracial relationship between Hauser and Lathan. Hauser spoke about the relationship explaining that for their characters, race was not a factor.

“I never look at her and see a black woman and she didn’t look at me and see a white man. It was two [characters] who were attracted to each other by sex, or lust, or by love and you leave it up to the audience to decide that. We just looked at it and said, ‘How can we make this as realistic as possible?’ I hope we’ve done that.”

I’d have to agree. Andrea, Sanaa’s character, would have chased the money regardless.

Source: Lionsgate

Sanaa on her character Andrea

Though the audience was quick to judge Sanaa’s character as “bad,” Lathan didn’t necessarily see it that way.

“She’s a woman who is…I would call her a climber. You’re not supposed to judge your characters. She has her reasons. She’s not happy with the life she comes from and she’s trying to get to a better life for herself.”

Source: Lionsgate

Sanaa on Alfre Woodard

Sanaa was particularly excited at the opportunity to work with Alfre Woodard again. You may remember that the two worked together as mother and daughter in Love and Basketball, Something New and then a third time in The Family That Preys. Here’s what Sanaa had to say about her on-screen mom:

“Alfre…It’s such a treat. I take it as kind of like a master class. To be able to work with her, this is third time…and she’s so… She’s just… she’s just a master at what she does. And she is open to talking about it and just also talking about just being a woman and being married and having a family, all the things that we as young women go through. It’s nice to have mentors. So it’s kind of like coming to summer camp where you get to have a great mentor and I get to pick her brain and it’s great.”

Source: Tumblr

That slap?!

I don’t know about you but that slap looked real to me. In another interview with Movie Web, Taraji and Sanaa discuss the interaction and whether it was real or not.

Interviewer: Did they put you on a tred thing? Cuz it looked like you were going over.

Sanaa: You know I’m a method actress, so he just slapped the bleep out me.

Interviewer: Really?

Sanaa: And I went flying.

Taraji: Out of her…out of her stunt woman.

Sanaa: Hello!

Taraji: Sanaa likes to do all of her stunts

Sanaa: Yeah, no.

I still can’t quite tell. Either way, Sanaa responded to how audiences may have perceived the outright domestic violence. This is what she told USDA2Day:

“It is politically incorrect. It’s wrong and yet these are flawed characters and it’s a filmmakers right to put in things we don’t agree with. It’s about telling a story. Yes, I think it’s wrong that Chris was wrong in hitting me, but I hear in the screening they were cheering.

Source: Lionsgate

Rockmond Dunbar on the slap

Even though Rockmond wasn’t on the receiving end of the abuse, he still had issues with it and how it would appear on screen. He explained his apprehension to EurWeb:

“It’s one of those situations you have to handle very, very delicately because you don’t know how it’s going play, you don’t know how it’s going to end up coming out,” Dunbar said of doing the scene. “A black woman being hit by a black man on screen? I was scared. I didn’t know how it was going to turn out. I told myself, ‘This is not something that you want to turn out bad, so just commit to it and hopefully Tyler will make the right decision when it gets to the editing room, and he did.”


Source: Lionsgate

How he was able to do it?

Though Rockmond admitted that he was nervous about slapping a woman, he told Eurweb that he was able to use his recent divorce as a source of inspiration.
“I just went through that whole situation with my ex-wife,” he said. “I’m newly divorced, so I had a lot to pull from. Even the similarities of her cheating for such a long time, was something I just went through unknowingly. I have common sense, I love women. It was just that similarity to have your heart on your sleeve.”


Source: Lionsgate

I Hope You Dance

During Tyler’s internal struggle Tyler heard Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” and it encouraged him. Which is why he choose to have Gladys Knight remake the song for the end of the film. Gladys did her thing with this song. If you don’t remember quite how she did it, here’s this little audio slideshow to refresh your memory.

Source: Lionsgate

Where this movie came from?

In yet another Movie Web interview, the interviewer asked Tyler how he comes up with his projects. Here’s how Tyler explained the concept for this film.

“It’s just whatever I feel like I want to do next, like what feels right to me, whatever’s going on in my life. At the time, with this I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay on the front side of the business. So I started asking myself are you living or are you existing? And that’s where this film came from. And the “preys” reference, so many people prey on each other in this business–for me.”

Source: Lionsgate

Kathy Bates on Alfre Woodard

In an interview with Movie Web, Kathy Bates describes working with Alfre Woodard.

“I’d always wanted to work with Alfre. We’d hugged each other, over the years, at so many different events and functions and said, “oh let’s do something together.” When the opportunity came to work with her I really jumped at it. I would say Alfre is the main reason I did the film because I think she’s such an incredible actress and a wonderful human being and a great activist and I admire her so terribly much. Working with her on this film was such a joy.”

Source: Lionsgate

 Tyler loves the ladies

All of the ladies on set explained that Tyler treated them like royalty on set. They’d often return to their dressing rooms and even the hotels where they were staying while filming to floral arrangements. Alfre Woodard said it was like making a movie with a big brother. Taraji and Sanaa said that knowing how much they were appreciated made them what to work harder to live up to Tyler’s standards.

Source: Lionsgate


Despite the fact that many regard this movie as Tyler’s best, commercially it was one of Tyler’s lowest grossing films. It earned $37,105,289 domestically. It earned just a little bit more money than Daddy’s Little Girls, which was his worst grossing film. Perhaps a story that didn’t just involve black people with his usual themes alienated some of his loyal audience. Who knows. Either way, we hope Tyler can get back to movies something like this.

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  • Markitha

    Sooo….I don’t get it. Did Sanaa actually get slapped or no?

  • Love Horne

    I really did love this one, it was well done and it was beautiful. I watch TP movies because it is nice to see black people doing more than getting arrested or rolling their necks and cursing. I like that in his movies opposed to main stream movies black people do things like buy coffee, listen to classical music, go to restaurants…etc..normal human things…with white directors you don’t see that!

    I am a domestic violence advocate and work on empowerment campaigns BUT i will admit when I saw that slap I didn’t oppose it vehemently, I am ashamed of that because a part of me felt like she asked for it. Sometimes we women push and push and push and try to break a man, I know it is not a reason to ever lift your hand to a woman, anyone else feel that?

    ……I liked that this movie made me think about relationships and how we take people for granted!
    Hope to see more of this….

    Next movie = Nia Long, Lela Rochon, Viola Davis, Lonette McKee
    And I would love to see Angela Bassett in another 🙂

    • Wanda Simpson

      I love your take on this movie, I was trying to put my words together to write something and then I read this, could not have said it better.

  • JTerry

    I loved this movie. One of my favorites from Mr. Perry.

  • Reese

    I love how TP stepped outside of his box on this one. This probably one of my favorite TP movies.

  • ODB63

    This was my favorite Perry movie.

  • LeeLeeC

    I am no TP fan and definitely don’t spend money to see any of the garbage he puts out…but this movie right here…!!!! LOVE…LOVE…LOVE!!!!

  • Dee

    my FAVE Tyler Perry movie, hands down!

  • Sanaa is my girl crush for REAL!!!

  • KittenJ

    IKR!!! real fans know!

  • Kittenj

    Right!!! Love & basketball I said the same thing!!!

  • Zettai

    I have always liked Tyler Perry plays and hated the movies (the transition to film for the Madea projects never felt right to me). When I saw the trailers for Preys I KNEW I had to see it. Best TP film out there. And yes, the theater I saw it in also clapped and cheered at the slap scene, myself included.

  • Ms. Bee

    Sanaa did the damn thing.

  • scandalous7

    damn, when is TP gunna win?

  • Solitaire One

    I c Sanaa’s point. Andrea only wanted better. Nothing wrong w/ that, but how does she figure ppl shouldn’t judge after all the evil Andrea did, how could we not? The judgment is involuntary. I don’t have a problem with wanting better. The problem comes in when u step on others 2 get it. Having an illegitimate child & rubbing it in her husband’s face is beyond cruel & has nothing to do with wanting better. She meant 2 purposely hurt Chris. That was pure evil and once again, nothing to do with wanting better. She enjoyed hurting ppl it didn’t take all that. She blamed & stepped on others 4 something her parents went thru, c’mon how could we not judge her wanna be snooty behind. She seemed repulsed not wanting Chris to touch her. How does all that innocently factor into wanting better? That selfish, heartless b*tch was a demon!

  • NYC Gal

    I think this TP film was responsible for the new crappy TV shows Scandal and Deceptions. Also, TP has created a crappy TV drama for OWN with Tika Sumpter being a prostitute to a rich white man who happens to be her maid mama’s boss. Ain’t that the creative genius that is TP? He always have a character that is a prostitute or drug dealer in one of his projects. Maybe these characters were inspired by his own family. SMDH!

    • bigdede

      Scandal is NOTHING like this but I can see Deception being like this movie. I have no idea why people keep putting Scandal with Deception those are two different shows. Anyways, Tika is playing a prostitute to a rich white man and her mama is the man’s boss? Seriously? Now I’m kind of depressed. I had high hopes for his shows on OWN.

  • I absolutely love all things Tyler! He’s so creative and talented. He’s my big bro in my head lol. This movie was powerful and my favorite along with good deeds. People give him a lot of crap but at the end of the day he Is a Christian man with a positive message Giving more and more black people jobs everyday and I’ll support that all day long. People stay criticizing positive black Americans but will support all this ratchetness on tv these days smh. And the cast amazing.

  • beemooree

    alfre wasnt in brown sugar. she played her mom in love and basketball

    • brey

      Thank you!!! do these writers check what they are writing????

    • I was about to say. I know I’m not crazy because I did not remember seeing Alfre in Brown Sugar at all.

    • IAJS

      I was thinking, “I just saw this the other day, was she in the background dead somewhere?” Editing is important, people pay attention to detail.

  • HoneyDipp

    Definitely my fave TP film! Great storyline and they all did such a great job with their characters…