warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

The Stars Of 'Peeples' Talk Cast Chemistry And Getting Down To Business

Rachel Scott |
April 23, 2013 | 11:44 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Tyler Perry presents Peeples, a new film that focuses on the dreaded anxiety that every long-term relationship faces—meeting the family. The comedy tells the story of Wade Walker, who is hoping to propose to his girlfriend, Grace Peeples. When Wade meets the Peeples family for the first time, he meets a clan of over-achievers who throw his plans of a proposal off the rails.

The film, directed by Tina Gordon Chism, stars Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson, Tyler James Williams, David Alan Grier, S. Epatha Merkerson, Kali Hawk and Malcolm Barrett. Neon Tommy was given the opportunity to interview the cast and get a behind the scenes look at the film out May 10th.

The Foundations of a Good Cast

When choosing the cast for the film, director Tina Gordon Chism said she was told, “Make sure you choose a cast that you believe in because they will do most of the heavy lifting”. Luckily for Tina, she was able to rely on the talents of the cast, saying that they became her “biggest assets”.

While the first day of filming allowed for first time introductions, it was not the first time that the actors had heard of one another. In fact, even before the first day of filming, the cast had admired their fellow actors’ work. Kerry Washington, who plays Grace Peeples, mentioned that she had always been a fan of David Alan Grier and grew up watching her on-screen father on television as a child. Kali Hawk, who plays Gloria Peeples recalled how excited she was when she was cast as the sister of one of her role models, Kerry Washington.

The foundations of a good cast can be traced back to the values of respect. “When you respect someone’s work, its so easy to have that chemistry," Washington stated when attesting to the great attributes of the cast.

Chemistry Between Actors 

Yet, it wasn’t just respect that led to wonderful chemistry on set, as David Alan Grier said the interaction between the actors was “natural and comfortable”. Many of the actors in the film referred to the cast as a family dynamic that embodied immediate and organic energy.

“We may work a fourteen hour day but we would still hangout once we got home from the hotel”, said Epatha Merkerson.

The cast recalled weekend trips to New York and even moving into the same trailer in order to spend more time with one another. What was their favorite thing to do together? Believe it or not—the cast of Peeples loved to sing together. From silly songs to Christmas carols, each actor brought their musical talent to the set and often busted out in harmonies.

The chemistry between the cast allowed each actor to expand on the depth of their characters. “All of the actors wanted to make their characters as rich and as layered as possible”, said Washington.

The Scandal star went on to say that at times she felt as if she were getting paid to go to comedy school, and the comedic talents of the actors allowed for lots of improvisation in the film. Gordon Chism was always looking for these comedic moments between cast members.

“If you thought that something was funny and someone caught you doing it—they were like hey you should add this in”, said Hawk.

Getting Down To Business 

With all the laughs shared between actors, one may wonder how the cast was able to focus on filming.

“Usually I am the clown, but they are such clowns,” said Gordon Chism.

The first-time director recalled moments where she would have to lock up the piano in order to force the actors to focus. She often told the actors not to have fun until she called action, but eventually she gave in stating, “At a certain point you just have to let them go because they outnumber you”.

Luckily, the chemistry between actors on set worked in her favor, as the improvisation added a crucial comedic element to development of the film.

Lessons Learned

This film produced a number of ‘firsts’ for those involved. Not only was it the first time that many of the actors worked together, it was also the first leading role for Robinson and the first directing role for Gordon Chism.

Robinson recalled rising to new levels in the final scene of the film, stating, “it was electric—what I felt with Kerry, it was a new depth for me.”

Aside from learning how to lock up a piano, Gordon Chism learned everything while she was on the job. After two serious roles in both Scandal and Django, seasoned actress Washington enjoyed the opportunity to take a step away from her dramatic roles and showcase her comedic talents.

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned by the cast was conveyed best through Hawk, who said, “I loved everyone—I learned that that was possible.”  

Reasons To See The Film

“What I liked about it when reading it is this can be any family, it could be anyone”, stated Everybody Hates Chris actor Tyler James Williams. The film, he continued, is for everyone regardless of race, gender or age.

“We need reasons to laugh these days. And I’m proud that we are putting out a film where you feel good about yourself, life, love and family,” said Washington.

Reach Staff Reporter Rachel Scott here. Follow her on Twitter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.