Ahead of tonight’s season four finale of the hit OWN show “If Loving You Is Wrong,” star April Parker Jones sat down with Atlanta Black Star to dish on what it’s like to work with Tyler Perry and how she prepares to play the take no prisoners character of Natalie.
Jones scored the gig of Natalie in 2014 after stints on “How To Get Away with Murder,” “Devious Maids” and “The Fosters” and she says Perry is no joke.
“He is a workaholic,” Jones said. “He’s there for every scene we shoot because he writes every episode because he directs every episode. He comes up with the voices and the visions for all of these characters. He’s just really committed to his work. … He’s become sort of like an uncle to me or someone to aspire to be in so many ways.”
Working on a Perry set isn’t for the faint of heart, either. Jones says the cast gets their scripts for half of the episodes before shooting and they have a week or so to learn all the lines.
“Tyler Perry moves at an extremely, an extremely fast pace,” she said. “Most Hollywood shows, they take about a week to shoot one episode. We do one episode in a day. So if we get 22 episodes in a season, we’re done in about three weeks, where most Hollywood shows take four to six months to do a full season. … We gotta come ready because usually, we got one or two takes [with a scene partner]. And then we have to move on! So you gotta be ready!”
But the swift pace doesn’t bother Jones in the least. In fact, she said working so quickly makes her a better actor by the end of each season.
And what about hopeful actors who wish to join the ranks of a Perry production? Jones offers up three key tips.
One, know why you want to become an actor in Hollywood.
“If it has anything to do with you wanting to be famous, or be on the red carpet or be interviewed, you may want to reevaluate that,” she says. “Because there’s so much more to being an artist than just being on a red carpet.”
Next, Jones, who describes acting as “therapy”, says you need to study.
“For heaven’s sakes don’t think you can just jump into it,” she explains. “You guys, go learn the craft. Even if you have to start doing theatre or doing the plays at church or volunteering at your rec center in your hometown.”
Finally, you should find a mentor whose career you admire.
“Talk to them,” she says. “Gets some advice.”