NEW YORK — Actor, director and producer Tyler Perry says his latest film, Netflix’s “A Fall from Grace,” was birthed out of his own experience clinging to his faith and prayer in times of pain and uncertainty.
“I just want people to know that no matter how dark, no matter how bad, no matter how dismal the scene or situation you're in, there's still hope,” Perry told The Christian Post in sit-down interview in New York City. “I say that even from my own life, realizing that I was in some of the darkest times in my life and didn't even know if I was going to make it. But as long as it held my faith and held on to hope and prayer and God and believing, it all came together.”
"A Fall from Grace," released on Netflix Jan. 17, is not a family-friendly film. The dark thriller features brief nudity, sexual content, and some adult language that might turn off some of Perry’s faith-based viewers.
It does, however, highlight the themes of hope, perseverance, and loyalty while showing the realities of what some single, aging women face.
The Netflix original film follows Grace Waters (Crystal R. Fox), a downtrodden woman who is restored by a new romance after being disillusioned and lonely since her ex-husband's affair. However, it’s not long before Grace learns secrets about her new husband that shatter her world in ways she never could have imagined. When Grace is convicted of murdering him, it’s down to her and her lawyer (Bresha Webb) to uncover the truth.
Phylicia Rashad, Mehcad Brooks, Cicely Tyson and Perry round out the cast, while Perry also directed and wrote the screenplay.
“In the beginning, I was very much, ‘I'm only going to do certain things, I'm only gonna tell certain stories,’” Perry recounted. “And then I realized as a storyteller, there were so many more ways to tell stories and still reach people. So this was very important to me that while I was doing this, that I got an opportunity to really take this woman on her journey who was the woman of faith through all that she went through and just let people know that no matter how dark it gets, there's always hope.”
An outspoken Christian, Fox added that while many people choose their work based on their faith, she adopts the mentality that “where I am, God is.”
“I take Him with me. I never leave Him,” she said.
Although it's not a faith-based film, religious symbolism and themes are sprinkled throughout “A Fall from Grace.” Grace talks about her faith, is seen attending church, and chooses her lawyer based on their shared beliefs.
“I want people to know who she was and her background,” Perry said. “She couldn't kill a spider off a bed. She was just a really good, hardworking woman who had very tremendous faith in God and believed. And somewhere along the way, she lost the belief in herself, which I think happens a lot.”
Webb, who stars as Grace’s heart-of-gold-yet-inexperienced lawyer, Jasmine, told CP she prays over every role she tackles. Jesus, she said, comes “first” when it comes to her acting career.
“I want God to speak through me, to lead me to the instincts that lead me to unfold what He wants me to say in this character as well,” she said.
Rashad, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable from "The Cosby Show," plays Grace’s close friend and confidante, Sarah. She encouraged women watching the film who struggle with loneliness and isolation to remember their worth in a culture that places little value on older adults.
“Examine this feeling of loneliness and isolation and what is that really about,” she said. “There's something about a number of us as women who feel that we are incomplete without someone there next to us where we can touch. I know a number of women who live with someone right next to them that they can touch, and from my observation, they are very alone and lonely even with that, so that it's not really what loneliness is.”
“It has not so much to do, I don't think, with someone that you can't touch as it does with being in or out of touch with yourself,” she added.
Fox added that part of the reason Grace experiences trials is because she lost sight of her identity and worth as a child of Christ. Her name, “Grace,” she explained, is another word for the Holy Spirit.
“I read something recently in a daily word that said something about how grace needs to be acknowledged. When it is not, it cringes and withdraws within itself,” Fox said. “And for me, that's what happened to her when she stepped on her beliefs and did something maybe outside of herself. She lost herself. But if she remembered who she was, she would remember what was always over her as well. Her name is her gifting from God, it’s the love of God, it’s the covering of God. She is grace.”
Still, “A Fall from Grace” offers redemption, Tyler said, adding: “At the end of it, they ask, ‘Is it over?’ and she says, ‘Oh, it ain't over.’ She came to herself.”
Fox said that at pre-screenings, both men and women approached her after watching the movie and revealed they’d endured similar trials.
“I love that this story touches other races and genders as well,” she said. “I just want them to know ... remember to love yourself before you look for somebody else to love you. And if you lose your way, get back to that. Get back to that. It'll allow you to open yourself up for whatever comes your way, to be blessed by love or an opportunity, anything, but love yourself first.”
“And don't give up,” she stressed. “Don't forget your intuition. Follow your instinct. That discernment is there for a reason.”