WATCH: Why Tyler Perry Decided to Forgive and Provide For the Abusive Man he Thought Was his Father

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 16: Tyler Perry attends the premiere of Lionsgate’s “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” at Regal LA Live Stadium 14 on October 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)

Before Tyler Perry ever made audiences laugh as Madea, he dealt with years of childhood abuse at the hands of the man he called “dad.”

Outside of the physical and verbal attacks at home, Perry, now 48, also survived sexual assault by other adults in the New Orleans community where he grew up.

“It wasn’t a pleasant childhood,” he tells PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in one of the latest episodes of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on People TV).


The actor-writer-producer opens up about how he managed to forgive his father figure — and how he later learned that Emmitt Perry Sr. isn’t his biological parent.

“He had a lot of issues,” Perry reveals. “But the thing that helped me get over it and still take care of him today is, I took a moment to find out more about him and his childhood and where he came from, and his was way more horrific than mine. So it kind of formed the person that he was.”

The Hollywood powerhouse learned that Emmitt and his siblings were abandoned as kids and turned over to a 14-year-old girl after being found in a Louisiana drainage canal.

“Every time they would do something wrong, she would tie them in a sack, hang them in a tree and beat them,” Perry recalls. “The brutality that he suffered was extreme, so he had no tools in dealing with being a father, being compassionate, being kind. All of that, I feel, had been beaten out of him.”

Learning about Emmitt’s brutal past helped Perry accept his flaws as a father, and even find a silver lining.

“To his credit, we were never hungry, he never left the family, he always brought every dime he made home to my mother,” the filmmaker says. “So in return for what he did then, I still do the same thing for him even though we don’t have a relationship.”

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SOURCE: People – Jess Cagle, Dana Falcone