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After Love Thy Neighbor debuted on the OWN network at the very end of May, it definitely had people talking. Why? Well, the Tyler Perry comedy brought in the second-highest ratings for any series premiere on OWN, second only to another Tyler Perry hit, The Haves and the Have Nots. Perry’s fans definitely showed up and showed out. But it was also the talk of the town because of those who found it to be a stereotypical portrayal of black folks and life. There was even a petition created to take it off the air. And a lot of the controversy had to do with Perry and the main character of the show, Hattie Mae Pierce, played by Patrice Lovely.

While the character had been around for years and first appeared in numerous Tyler Perry plays, some weren’t so happy to hear she was getting her own show. But after speaking exclusively with Lovely, who is a lovely woman by the way (and on a sidenote, was the first black female ringmaster in the world while working with UniverSoul Circus), she says that she isn’t worried about the detractors, but instead, is appreciating all her blessings. See what she had to say about haters, how Hattie Mae Pierce came to life, and a few things you might not know about her good friend, Mr. Perry.

On the creation of Hattie Mae Pierce:

“Hattie Mae is a character I created. It just came from my mother, my grandmother and my aunt. I grew up with Hattie Mae, it’s always been a part of me. And I’m just glad that someone else gets to see what I dealt with all my life and what I grew up around. Tyler wrote the show Love Thy Neighbor as if he was sitting in my house watching what was going on my entire life [laughs]. For him to center it around myself, it’s just a blessing. I’m just happy to have been in the right place at the right time.”

On the petition made to get Oprah to cancel “Love Thy Neighbor” because some think it’s stereotypical:

“Honestly, I have no clue as to what you’re even talking about. I didn’t hear that. All I’ve ever heard was great reviews. I mean, 1.8 million viewers…the first night. All we’ve felt and all I’ve heard was love. Because people enjoyed the show, so I don’t know anything about that. Even if I had, all I can say is you’re going to have haters, you’re going to have people who have their issues. Anywhere you go in life, just keep on steppin’ and keep walking over whatever problems and challenges that try to get to you. Just believe God. He got you here and He’s going to keep on elevating you and moving you to the next level. Make your haters your motivators.”

On critics of her character, Hattie Mae, who claim it’s VERY stereotypical: 

“All I know is God has blessed me and He’s allowed me to create that character and obviously Oprah and Tyler saw something in that character and they loved it. And I’m sure the viewers love it. I’ve only heard great things that’s been said about the show as well as the character. I don’t get caught up in what people say and what people think. I just do what I do, and I do it to the best of my abilities and I pray that people enjoy it.”

And her thoughts on Tyler Perry as a person behind-the-scenes: 

“Tyler is hilarious, he’s funny. He’s a genuine, and kind-hearted, gifted man of God. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do. He’d bend over backwards to help and do whatever he can to make your life better. He’s not one to keep what he has to himself.  He’s just a people person and he loves life, he loves love, and he loves to laugh.”

And clearly, the fans love him, because the show if still doing big things.

You can still check out the show, Love Thy Neighbor at 9 p.m. on OWN.

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