How Transforming the TV Biz Earned Tyler Perry the 2020 Governors Award

Tyler Perry already has his name on everything from his slate of feature films, television shows and stage plays to his 330-acre studio in Atlanta and most importantly, his foundation, which supports organizations and educational programs that cater to marginalized communities.

Now, the Television Academy has added Perry’s name to the very short list of Governors Award honorees, a distinction reserved for individuals or organizations whose achievements the organization deems “either of a cumulative nature or so extraordinary and universal in nature as to go beyond the scope of the Emmy Awards presented in the categories and areas of the competition.” Perry and his Perry Foundation will receive the award at the Sept. 20 ceremony.

Perry is the first individual to receive the honor since 2014. The award was most recently presented to “Star Trek” in 2018; last year it was not given out at all. And the multi-hyphenate creator and entertainer’s contributions have certainly gone beyond the scope of the screen in 2020.

“To me, Tyler exemplifies what the word ‘governor’ means,” says Cicely Tyson, who first worked with Perry on 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and has gone on to collaborate with him four more times. “Here is a man who came from sleeping in a broken-down car to living in a mansion. Using his talents to service others, Tyler and his philanthropic ways continue to help those who are disadvantaged and are looking for light. Tyler is that light.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Perry found a way to safely return to production at his Tyler Perry Studios, while also providing monetary donations and anonymous gifts to those hit hardest by the disease and subsequent shutdown, especially in his hometown of New Orleans and his base in Atlanta. He is also a powerful presence in the Black Lives Matter movement — offering private plane flights for George Floyd’s family to attend his funerals and covering funeral costs for Atlanta’s Rayshard Brooks and Secoriea Turner.

“He helps those who are mistreated and abused with no place to turn,” Tyson says. “He will step in, take over, help and walk away. If he hears about a need or injustice, he is there. He is by nature a leader, a giver, a governor. And for the television and film industry, this man has created a monumental studio in Atlanta honoring several of us actors — myself included — with a sound stage.”

Michelle Sneed, Tyler Perry Studios’ president of production and development, witnessed Perry’s innovation first-hand as they worked to transform the Atlanta studios into “Camp Quarantine” this summer. In order to complete production on Perry’s BET series “Sistas,” “The Oval,” “Bruh” and “Ruthless,” the team housed and employed more than 300 cast and crew members within a “bubble” for the two-week duration of filming each show.

“The most valuable accomplishment while filming during the pandemic was the ability to tap into the most resilient parts of the human spirit,” Sneed says. “We were unified in the knowledge that this was something bigger than just getting another show done — we were in fact, reclaiming trust and integrity in ourselves and each other while remaining safe and providing for our families.”

“Working with Mr. Perry equates to striving for your highest potential every day,” she adds. “The goal is always to be better with every production and every encounter with the people around you. It means embodying a sense of fearlessness for the truth and always asking yourself, ‘Why not?’”

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