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Tyler Perry Oprah OWN

When Tyler Perry began creating shows for the then-struggling OWN Network four years ago, he’d send the scripts he’d written to Oprah Winfrey for approval — and she’d wince.

“I would say, ‘I think that’s too much! It’s over the top! Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening!’” Winfrey recounts about Perry’s first OWN show, “The Haves and Have Nots,” a prime-time drama fueled by connivers, sex and blackmail, now in its fourth season.

Others might have acquiesced to Winfrey. But not Perry.

He would say to me, ‘I know this audience better than you do, I know what the audience wants,’” she said. “And he’d say, ‘I’m telling you it’s gonna work.’ And every time he’s been right.”

Knowing the audience and what they want has been the key to Perry’s success, going back to when he was putting on plays in the chitlin circuit with a loudmouth, irascible gun-toting character that would become known as Madea. Perry describes his fans as the people working in service jobs, the women in the church pews, the family with a crazy relative like Madea who can laugh about it. And like Perry, who was abandoned by his father, grew up in poverty and survived sexual abuse, his audience is familiar with struggle.

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How Tyler Perry Convinced Oprah His Shows Would Flourish On OWN  was originally published on