For the sake of silence, the air conditioner has been snapped off at the Gwinnett Medical Center’s Glancy Rehabilitation Center in Duluth, the mid-June set of Tyler Perry’s latest film, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. Whoopi Goldberg uses a Chinese fan to cool off while Janet Jackson steels herself for the scene. Phylicia Rashad, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, and Thandie Newton walk over last-minute marks. Perry shouts “Action!” and the actresses run into the ER, carrying children who are covered in theatrical blood.
“We couldn’t wait for the ambulance!” Devine shrieks at the medical staff as she runs. “Code blue, code blue!” As the actresses convulse with sobs, the camera pans to Goldberg as she wanders the hall, dazed.
In addition to the harrowing ER sequence, the cast will shoot scenes involving a suicide attempt, a rape, and a counseling session at Glancy. Crew member Dan Furst shakes his head at the images on the video monitor and says, “This is a tough shoot to watch. I occasionally have to look away.” When Colored Girls—based on Ntozake Shange’s classic 1975 play—hits theaters in early 2011, Tyler Perry Studios producer Joe Genier hopes audiences have the opposite reaction. It’s the first film Perry has directed that he has not written himself, and it’s viewed as a litmus test: Can Perry extend beyond Madea?
“This is our biggest production on many different levels,” says Genier between takes. “It’s such an iconic piece. We found that any actor who knew the material wanted to be attached.”