THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB
About The Production
Single mothers don't get enough credit, says Tyler Perry. And with his latest
comedy, Lionsgate and Tyler Perry Studios' Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club,
the actor/writer/ producer/director is out to change that. "I wrote The Single
Moms Club as a celebration of single mothers and the men in their lives who lend
a helping hand," he says. "It's about taking a minute and saying, 'Thank you,'
and paying homage to their effort and love and everything they do each and every
Perry's spirited comedy follows five single mothers from very different walks
of life whose children - thanks to a generous scholarship program - all attend
an exclusive prep school called West Merryville. The mothers range from a white
alpha-female career woman to an African-American fast food worker; but they find
themselves united through a stroke of bad luck: each of their children has been
caught for infractions - smoking, tagging graffiti - at their school. With their
children's expulsion hanging in the balance, the five mothers have no choice but
to agree to the Principal's "assignment" for them: to organize West Merryville's
upcoming fundraiser and school dance.
The result is an edgy, moving, and always funny collision of very different
women who, like it or not, have a deep common bond. "We're all very different
and it's like oil and water," explains actress Nia Long, who stars as May, a
struggling journalist with a teenage son. "Black, white, Latina, rich, poor,
roaches, Mercedes Benz, we've got a mixture of everything."
And as their struggles and vulnerabilities come to the surface, the women
realize their gatherings are actually an unexpected resource. "One of the women,
Hillary, who is freshly divorced, talks about how hard it's going to be to
rebuild," says Wendi McLendon-Covey, who plays career woman, Jan. "And the rest
of us, who've been doing it as single parents for years and years, walk her
through the process and then it dawns on us, 'Well, we could help each other. No
one else knows what we go through so why don't we just help each other?'"
Together, they form the Single Moms Club, a haven for single mothers seeking
support and an understanding ear. "It's such a big deal to be around people who
get it," says Cocoa Brown, who plays fast-food worker, Lytia. "We don't have to
explain what we're going through, why we're tired, why we just burst out crying
for no reason or why we might bite your head off for no reason."
At first, the women form the club for one reason: reclaiming their freedom.
"One mom babysits while the other four go out and have a good time," explains
producer Ozzie Areu. "And they rotate every weekend. So it gives them an
opportunity to just go out, party, do whatever they want, be wild again, be 16
Says McLendon-Covey, "All these women are playing mother and father. They're
also playing janitor, policeman, dentist, chauffeur, doctor. There is no time
off, no support. So a major bonding point is each of them realizing, 'Wait a
minute, I'm actually allowed to have fun?'"
While the women's nights on the town - to a karaoke bar, a strip club - are
among The Single Moms Club's most hilarious set pieces, the ladies, says Perry,
"realize it takes a village to
raise these kids." Soon they begin depending on each other to weather the hard
times as well, finding strength in numbers to make lasting changes in their
Finding the perfect cast to play this singular group was one of the principal
challenges of production, primarily because the script's five plum roles were in
such high demand by actresses. Recalls producer Matt Moore, "We spent a lot of
time just trying to whittle our options down and find the actresses who not only
would be great in the roles, but would also be great with each other."
Anchoring the cast as May, the "nucleus" of the group, is actress Nia Long,
known to audiences for her work in films such as Boyz N The Hood and Love Jones.
May works for a newspaper and is trying to get her book published without much
success; but her main concern is her son, Rick, who at age 12 is asking more and
more questions about his absent father. May has spent years hiding the truth
from Rick that his father is a drug addict; but her protective secrecy ends up
turning Rick against her. Says Long, "For May, there's that moment where you see
your baby go from baby to young man to teenager and you start to go, 'Who is
this person?' Suddenly she can't control what he knows about their past, and it
forces both of them to face things they've been avoiding."
Long had no trouble relating to the young actor playing opposite her... since
he's her own 12-year-old son, Massai Dorsey, Jr. It was Long who suggested to
Perry that Massai audition for the role of Rick, but it was Massai who won the
part based on his impressive audition tape. "In the film, May and Rick are a
team," says Long. "All they have is each other. And it was so magical to look
into Massai's eyes when I was playing these moments, moments which were very
real for us, too, throughout the last 12 years."
Much like May, who has to adjust to her son's sudden maturation, Long watched
Massai adapt quickly to life on set. "He'd start correcting me, saying, 'Mom,
you're not supposed to say that there,'" laughs Long. "And I'd be like, 'Oh,
As she grapples with how to manage her son, May also begins a relationship
with T.K., a divorced father of two who helps jump-start May's car, and later,
offers to help stage the women's fundraiser. Played by Tyler Perry, T.K. is
charming and easy-going, and proves dependable when May falls into a crisis with
her son. "It was so great working with Tyler on screen. He's so grounded
himself, and that quality really comes through in his performance as T.K.," says
Long. "It was also so impressive because he'd switch between his character and
directing the scene so effortlessly. I don't know how he does it."
Celebrated comedienne Wendi McLendon-Covey, known to many for her break-out
work in the hit comedy, Bridesmaids, brings a high-wire, comic intensity to Jan,
a goal-oriented career-woman. "Jan's very driven to finish everything she's got
on her to-do list in life: have a career, have a baby, find a guy, not
necessarily in that order," explains McLendon-Covey. "She ends up having a baby
alone, through a sperm donor. And now her daughter's growing up and she needs
guidance, but Jan's too used to scheduling her daughter's life instead of really
connecting with her."
When the Single Moms Club goes on its first outing to a karaoke bar, Jan
seizes the opportunity "like a starving man finally eating a cracker," says
McLendon-Covey. "She's forgotten what it's like to actually have fun and be a
Like each of the women in the club, Jan also begins to entertain the
possibility of love in her life. Says McLendon-Covey, "It's been so long,
especially for Jan. It's like a factory closed.
There's nothing going on down there. They're all going to the movies and
everybody's paired up except Jan. So May thinks, 'Okay Jan, you pathetic
creature, I'm going to set you up.'"
Jan dreads the date more than anything until Tony, an amiable divorcĂ©e played
by Sean Carrigan, appears. "Tony is just this tasty treat for Jan," laughs
McLendon-Covey. "Suddenly, with Tony next to her, dating doesn't seem so bad."
Jan could easily claim the title of alpha dog in the Single Moms Club if it
weren't for Lytia. A brazen, take-no-prisoners mother of five barely making ends
meet on minimum wage, Lytia is brought to life with comic gusto by actress and
stand-up comedian, Cocoa Brown. Explains Perry, "Lytia is the soul of the movie
in that she represents that hard working woman who is down at the bottom and
trying to juggle and maintain it all at the same time."
"Lytia's two eldest sons went to jail," says Brown. "So she's really hard on
her middle son, Hakeem. She doesn't want him to go down the same path."
Lytia has no patience for Jan's and Hillary's white, upper class woes, and
she makes no effort to hide it, which causes more than a little friction in the
club's first meeting. Says Brown, "Jan and I are like oil and water from the get
go because she looks at me like I'm street trash and I look at her like some
uppity, prissy white woman. I think we have nothing in common, but we both
realize we've got the same problem: we both need to reconnect with our children
and not just be the overseer or the check writer."
Lytia is just as opinionated and obstinate when it comes to her love life,
which involves an amorous war of attrition with Branson, played by Terry Crews.
"Branson is a good dude," says Brown. "He wants me a whole lot but I just keep
throwing waffles at him. I don't want anything to distract me from raising
Hakeem and making sure he goes to college."
"Lytia's whole M.O. is to reject me nonstop," laughs Crews. "She pretty much
beats me up in this movie. I get slapped, I get put down, I get smacked and I
come back for more. Ultimately, I'm just there saying, 'I'm going to be there
for you,' until she finally gets it. I have to say I really cherish getting a
chance to play a good guy like this."
Filming the pair's love scenes involved an added dimension of comedy since
Terry Crews and Brown's husband are good friends. Says Brown, "It was pretty
hilarious having to do those scenes with Terry knowing that my husband is
literally on the phone afterwards like, 'So what did he do? Did he give you
Hillary, a wealthy mom used to the luxuries of paid help, is easily the most
inexperienced member of the Single Moms Club. At the beginning of the film, she
undergoes a rude awakening when her 12-year marriage to her husband ends, which
includes his financial support. "Hillary lost herself in all the money and the
housekeepers and the chefs, and when she gets hit with the divorce it completely
knocks her off her feet," says actress Amy Smart. "She's really vulnerable and
slowly awakening into her real self and learning how to be a better mother."
It takes Lytia to convince Hillary that she can handle her new life. "Hillary
looks at Lytia and sees this strength and wisdom as a mother that she doesn't
believe she has herself," explains Smart. "But Lytia wasn't born that way. She
had to learn it all, too, just a lot earlier in her life, and in a much harder
way. So they help each other out. Hillary finds strength in Lytia, and Lytia
learns how to be softer and more vulnerable from Hillary."
Hillary also enjoys the beginnings of a potential love affair with her
neighbor Peter, played by television heartthrob Ryan Eggold (NBC's The Black
List and CW's 90210). "Peter
moves next door to Hillary at the top of the film," says Eggold. "He's a
contractor and is constantly making noise and fixing his house and she's always
telling him to shut up."
As the two neighbors get to know each other, Hillary asks Peter to help build
a set for the school dance and fundraiser. "He's very lovely and understanding
and he offers a lot of support and wisdom, so there's a little chemistry there,"
"Trying to have a career and a personal life and raise kids all at once on your
own is almost impossible for anybody, man or woman," says Eggold. "So Peter is
there to offer what he can."
Rounding out the Single Moms Club is Esperanza, a beautiful, divorced Latina
mother played by Zulay Henao who longs for her freedom but finds herself
dependent on her ex-husband, Santos. Santos repeatedly threatens to stop
providing child support if Esperanza begins a relationship with another man,
which prevents her from moving in with her boyfriend, Manny. "She's really
frustrated," says Henao. "She wants to break free from her ex-husband's control,
his manipulation, but she's too frightened." Manny, played by Latin star William
Levy, is equally frustrated. "He wants to be there for Esperanza," he says. "He
wants to be there for her daughter, to take that responsibility. But Esperanza
can't make the move."
When she joins the Single Moms Club, however, Esperanza finds the guidance
and support to make changes in her life. "She sees May, who has a job and a son,
and she's doing it all," says Henao. "It inspires her to break free and reclaim
"Zulay is wonderful," says Perry. "She's this beautiful, amazing, incredibly
sexy woman. And watching her play these comedic beats with William Levy has been
really, really fun."
No one could have predicted exactly what kind of chemistry would result from
bringing these five actresses together. But by all reports, they found a
magical, effortless rapport both on and off screen. "We just came in and it was
like a sisterhood, like we'd been friends forever," says Brown.
"The chemistry of all these women together is so real," says Perry. "Only two
of them are actual single mothers but they clearly have a bond - an unspoken
language - that runs between all of them."
"What's so much fun about this movie is you feel like you're just watching a
group of friends hang out," says producer Matt Moore. "A lot of times in
production when you call, 'Action,' they turn it on and when you yell, 'Cut,'
they turn it off. During this shoot it just kept going. We had to tell them,
'Alright, you've got to be quiet. We've got to set up the next shot.'"
The cast's freewheeling energy dovetailed perfectly with Perry's penchant for
improvisation on set. "Pretty much every group scene that we had, someone popped
off with something and it ended up being golden," says Wendi McLendon-Covey. The
Single Moms Club's visit to a strip club, in particular, was shot without a
script or rehearsal. "Everything that happened in the strip club scene was
totally adlibbed," avows McLendon-Covey. "I didn't know what was going on."
Perry admits as much. "I didn't direct that scene at all," he says. "I just
told them to bring one of the ladies up on stage. And Wendi got up on stage and
did this crazy scene. I'll just say those dancers got pretty buck wild and it
got pretty insane."
"This is one of the funniest movies I've worked on in terms of the actors
playing off each other," adds produer Ozzie Areu. "We were dying off camera.
Just doubled over trying not to laugh."
Perry matched this comedic freedom with his customary speed during
production. Often, Moore had to schedule additional locations for the end of the
day because Perry was moving so far ahead of schedule. "It's like he's
pre-editing the movie in his head while he's directing it," says Moore. "He
knows exactly what he wants and once he's gotten it, we all move on."
"He keeps you on your toes and I think any actor who has done theater or who
has been in the game for a long time and is looking to be challenged, this is
it," says Nia Long. "You have to be ready for anything."
Despite the pace of production, Perry offered his cast the kind of support
that few directors manage on more leisurely schedules. Says Henao, "Before we
shot one particularly dramatic scene, Tyler sat me down and we had a
conversation that put me in the best place emotionally that I could have been.
It's those kind of gestures that I'm so grateful for."
"He really takes the necessary time with you," echoes Smart. "He walked me
through the places I needed to get to and because of that, I trusted him
completely. He's wonderful."
"I'm an actor's director," says Perry. "So I'm always talking to the actor
about how they feel and what they think the character feels at a given moment. I
like the script to be a canvas where there are ten different ways to get around
the corner and the actor and I choose together which one is the right one."
Now that The Single Moms Club is completed, Perry hopes the film's themes -
and its raucous humor - will inspire audiences. "I like teaching people things
through comedy," says Perry. "These women are struggling, and the movie takes a
look at some serious issues. But what really makes it sing is the love and the
laughter between these women."
"You're going to feel uplifted and you're going to laugh," says Wendi
McLendon-Covey. "You're going to appreciate those women and what they go
through, and it might even make you a better neighbor. Know any single moms you
can pop in on and say, 'Hey, can I help you with something? Can I watch your
kids while you go and look at naked men? Can I mow your lawn while you spend way
too much money on your credit card?'"
Perry and his filmmaking team hope the Single Moms Club model might even
inspire other single mothers to form clubs of their own. "I would not be
surprised if Single Moms Clubs start to pop up all over the country," says
Perry. "It's such a great idea, a concept of four or five mothers grouping
together or 10 mothers grouping together and rotating, one babysits while the
others get to go out and have fun."
"Even if I'm not single or a mother I would want to join it because it's so
much fun," says Smart. "I think friendship is one of the most important things
in life and for women to form friendships like these is incredible."
"What it comes down to is that we all have a lot more in common than we ever
think we do," adds Perry. "That's what Single Moms Club is really about. It's
about how we're all stronger when we come together."
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