A Scandalous Tale: TLC takes OWN’s Tyler Perry

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TLC is known for bringing “remarkably relatable” real-life stories to millions of viewers on a global level.  However, it’s no secret, the brand behind Jon & Kate Plus 8, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and 19 Kids and Counting has endured scandals of plenty in recent years.  This season, TLC is switching things up with a rather scandalous presentation of their own…

The reality-driven brand is teaming up with none other than OWN Network’s Tyler Perry, for its first-ever scripted television series.  Going scripted may be uncharted territory for TLC, but the network’s president, Nancy Daniels is more than confident in their decision to sign with Perry.

Nancy Daniels, President and General Manager, TLC

“Tyler Perry has built a brand that is known for impactful, dramatic storytelling for a diverse audience. His latest creation, Too Close to Home, is sure to draw in and captivate our TLC viewers from the first episode to the last.”

– Nancy Daniels, President and General Manager, TLC

Seeing how OWN Network has boosted an estimated 30% in primetime viewership since the mogul’s four scripted-series have been in running, who can doubt this collabo’?  No need to fret OWN watchers, TP Studios isn’t going anywhere.  In fact, TLC received OWN’s blessing to do the deal!  (Both networks are under the world’s #1 pay-TV programmer, Discovery Communications)

The real scandal stretches from Washington DC to the small town of Happy, Alabama.  Tyler Perry’s Too Close to Home is a salacious story of a young woman who finds herself caught in a treacherous political scandal which forces her to return to the very place (and people) she once turned her back on.  That means trading her fictitious tale of an upper-class upbringing for her trailer park home and family of dysfunction.  But Anna (played by Danielle Savre) isn’t the only one dragging a sack of lies. Trails of deceit run deep through the town of Happy, Alabama and Anna’s new reality might just push her to her limits end.

Cast of Too Close to Home (left to right) Annie Thrash, Danielle Savre, Ashley Love-Mills, Kelly Sullivan

On Tuesday, August 9th Tyler Perry Studios, TLC and its parent company, Discovery Communications held a private viewing at the W hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.  Members of the cast indulged the first episode of Too Close to Home with invitees for the first time.  The series kicks off with a very special guest star, Heather Locklear (Melrose Place, Dynasty) whom Perry says he absolutely had to have for this project.

“(Heather Locklear) immediately grabbed me and said ‘listen, this is amazing the way you do things, it’s so different. It’s such a unique twist on how television is done, you’ve reinvented this (form)’ — So to have a veteran like that saying those things to me — I was very inspired by that and it let me know that I’m on the right track.”

– Tyler Perry, on how Heather Locklear inspired him

From their first interaction in episode one, entitled “Dangerously Close”, Locklear’s character sets the tone for the tumultuous ride Anna has unwittingly strapped into.  Of course the pilot is all about character introduction and relationships but in true TP fashion, the script’s twist and turns grips viewers from inception.  After the mind-boggling first view, Tyler Perry and members of the main cast participated in a Q&A session and interviews.

TLC execs and members of the Too Close to Home cast: (left to right sitting) Annie Thrash, Danielle Savre, Ashley Love-Mills, Kelly Sullivan | (left to right standing) Alpha Trivette, Mark E. Swinton – TP Studios Producer, Will Areu – Sr Vice Pres. TP Studios, Ozzie Areu – Pres. TP Studios, Brock O’Hurn.

“In my personal experience, I’ve never seen anything like it… — I’m sitting here in absolute awe of what just happened.” – Brock O’Hurn (Brody) reaction to the first episode of Too Close to Home.

When asked what inspired the story line, Creator, Director and Writer of the highly anticipated series, Tyler Perry replied:

“It’s a basic fish out of water story – this girl who has left behind all of this trauma in her past pretending to be somebody else, she finds herself in a situation where her character can’t keep her.  I wanted to know what would happen if people really got to that level and had to go back to where they came from.” – Tyler Perry

Perry went on to further explain what drives his writing for dramas like Too Close to Home, The Haves and Have Nots and If Loving You is Wrong stating:

“Everything that I’ve done on this show and also on OWN, everything is about your choices, the consequences for your choices.  So if you make bad choices there’s going to be hell to pay.  So everything is about how do you use your platform, (how do you) use the show to talk to people about making choices subtly without preaching, without beating over the head saying ‘you shouldn’t do this’ but actually just saying ‘hey, this is what happened when she made this choice’. — it’s about making choices.” – Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry with members of the cast

In a more intimate interview, members of the cast expressed the challenges they faced in telling such a gritty story in a very short length of time.  Normally, dramatic episodes are shot within about 7-8 days but Perry is known for shooting his scenes rather quickly.  Too Close to Home is an 8-part series that was shot in 8 days!  That’s one episode per day (sometimes 14-hour days) shot entirely on the new 33-acre TP Studio lot (formerly known as Fort McPherson) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tyler Perry and the cast of Too Close to Home (left to right) Alpha Trivette, Annie Thrash, Ashley Love-Mills, Danielle Savre, Kelly Sullivan, Brock O’Hurn.

The cast was given multiple scripts about a week in advance and asked to be familiar with all of them.  This type of quick shooting is nothing new to Young and the Restless starlet, Kelly Sullivan, who plays Anna’s sister Bonnie.  However, Tyler Perry’s characters are known for having many twist and layers; Sullivan admitted to having to stretch a bit in order to find her character.

“I think for me (the challenge) was learning the information about the characters and the secrets and then understanding the relationships.  Tyler is great for that – he has all this information in his head of who these people are.” – Kelly Sullivan

It was said that Perry would often add lines spontaneously during scenes, the actors would not know the significance until much later in the story.

“Such a big part of this show is everything happened up until the first second of filming (Too Close to Home is) it’s all history — you get like a glimpse of it. — Each episode there’s more information given – – and each character you’re like opening the door to their past.” – Kelly Sullivan

Sullivan’s bubbly young co-star Annie Thrash, who plays a rather rebellious teenager, revealed how she is similar to her character in how they are both learning how to open up and express deep emotions.  Thrash also gushed about this being her first time on set:

“I made a lot of like beginner mistakes. (Tyler Perry is) so patient – this has been such a cool first experience and I’m just so blessed.” – Annie Thrash

Talk about “Too Close to Home”, Alpha Trivette, who plays Dr. Allen shares how his character’s greatest struggle is all too familiar to him personally.

“My dad suffered (from) dementia before he passed away, so I patterned a lot after him, he was the nicest man I had ever met, so I try to make Dr. Allen somewhat like that.  However, Dr. Allen has some other secrets –there were some other things that happened in Happy, Alabama that he was not only privy to but probably part of and it’s quite possible that the dementia, in terms of those things, are a blessing to him at this point. — The secrets come out little by little in amazing and stunning ways sometimes.” – Alpha Trivette

Brock O’Hurn also sited many conversations with co-star Alpha Trivette for his character, Brody, who struggles with caring for a parent that is suffering from dementia.

“He carries a lot, he’s dealing with some really heavy challenges.” – Brock O’Hurn

Danielle Savre who plays the series lead, Anna, has never been in the unseemly position her character has placed herself in yet, she finds similarities with Anna as far as intricacy of her thoughts and emotions.

“Anna is a very complex person… which I believe most people are.” – Danielle Savre

Savre expressed how rare it is to have the opportunity to play roles that tell stories like Anna’s.  Her take on the script and story as a whole:

“It’s dark… it’s deep. You know as an actor, you don’t get that luxury often.” – Danielle Savre

Earlier during the Q&A, Savre showed great gratitude to Perry, saying:

“(People) say it takes a village but you built that village and your instincts and your gut, it’s amazing to watch you… You just know what you want and you know it’s right and it’s beautiful, so Thank You.” – Danielle Savre to Tyler Perry

Too Close to Home debuts on Monday, August 22nd at 9pm ET/PT with a two-hour premiere on TLC. 

Be sure to tweet as your reaction to the madness using #TooCloseToHome.

Alpha Trivette, Annie Thrash, Courtneii Ciara (SCTV), Kelly Sullivan

Danielle Savre (Anna), Courtneii Ciara and Brock O’Hurn (Brody)

Ashley Love-Mills, former Miss North Carolina USA 2013 (plays Anna’s friend)

Sweet Candor TV writer, Courtneii Ciara | Tweet #TooCloseToHome August 22nd at 9pm ET/PT

Courtneii Ciara

A Florida raised Cali-girl residing in Atlanta. I’m a bubbly, free-spirited ambivert with a passion for all things artistic. An artist by nature; a light by choice. You can find me somewhere between a stanza and a melody. Be light, be love, be you.

1 Comment

  1. Joan

    August 17, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Lady CeeCee,

    This is an Excellent article. Your writing skills are impeccable!!!
    I was so drawn into this piece. Love the Q & A…You built up the excitement and suspense. “Waiting with bated breath.”
    Love the Pics…. Lady CeeCee, are YOU a member of the “TOO CLOSE TO HOME” cast? You are very photogenic… YOU write well and YOU look Fabulous… YOU should be in the movie!
    Thanks for keeping us connected. Waiting on your next article.

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