I didn't know what to expect when I sat down for an interview with David and Tamela Mann. The couple have become famous for their alter-egos, the hilarious clothes-challenged Mr. Brown and sweet Cora, the daughter he shares with Tyler Perry's gun-toting, wise-cracking character, Madea. The Manns were in Oklahoma City late last year starring in one of Perry's plays, "What's Done in the Dark.” With Perry's movie "Meet the Browns” now on the big screen (it premiered Good Friday), I thought I'd share my interview with the Manns. Incidentally, I saw the movie, which starred Angela Bassett and Rick Fox. I thought the film was OK, but I would have loved to have seen more of the Manns. After all, when you think about "the Browns,” David Mann's wacky Mr. Brown is who you think of. First, to answer his fans' unspoken question, David Mann turned up in regular street clothes for our meeting. Everything matched — no polka-dotted overalls or plaid skinny pants or multicolored "onesies” like his character, Mr. Brown, loves to wear. Here's our question-and-answer session: Q:First, I'd like to get some basic information, like your age, how long you've been married. ... A:Tamela: We've been married for 19 years. David: And I'm 20ish. (laughter) Tamela: We're both 41. Q:How many kids do you have? A:David: Four. Three girls, one boy. Tamela: We have four beautiful children. David: She says that. I don't say we have four beautiful children. I just say we have four children ... because they're all not beautiful. (laughter) Tamela: They are. David: There's nothin' like a mother's love, is there? (laughter) Q:What is it like being in business together? You are both singers and comedians. A.Tamela: It's actually great. We find it to be really easy because first of all, we love each other's company and we're in love with each other. He's my best friend, so it makes it kind of easy. If things get a little bumpy, I can go to him and talk to him. David: The deal is, we genuinely enjoy each other's company. We started in this industry together. Q:How did you meet? A.Tamela: My best friend went to high school with him. She sang in the choir with him. She was kind of bragging on me at her school. David: Basically what her friend said was, "You guys think ya'll can sing, but I'm going to bring somebody here that will blow ya'll out.” Tamela: She said that, I didn't say that. I went and sang for them. David: She really blew us away. Tamela: We just grew from there. David: The group that we had, she started singing with us. One day I kissed her, and she fell in love. She did. Tamela: That was really one of my prayers. I asked the Lord for someone that was doing the same thing that I was doing, so I wouldn't have to explain coming in late from church and musicals, versus them thinking I'm coming in from the club. He would be there with me. David: I didn't like clubs, so that worked out perfectly. Tamela: We have a good time together, so it comes easy. Him being my father (in the plays and movies) is so funny to me. David: Back stage she doesn't like me touching her, really. Tamela: He'll have his makeup on, and I'll say, ‘You're my dad right now.' Q:That's too funny! A:Tamela: It's really funny to us, too, because once we get in character, I look at him as Mr. Brown. David: I still want some sugar, though. (laughter) Q:How did you all meet up with Tyler Perry? A:David: We had the same promoter (as Perry) and he said, ‘Why don't you go meet this guy, an up-and-coming guy. He has a show that's about to come out called "I Can Do Bad.” I want you all to audition for him.' So I went to audition for Tyler in Chicago. Originally, Mr. Brown's part in the show was just a small walk-on part. Tamela: Mine was even smaller. Q:Really? A:Tamela: Really. David: Nobody could have ever imagined that these roles would turn into a movie, a television show and even our own stage play. Nobody could have ever imagined that. Q:What happened? A:David: We started building on the character. We started building on the clothes and then we started with the antics, the physical comedy. We started building on all of that and it stuck, thank God. I guess the people were liking it, and it just kind of stuck. Q:Many, many times I've thought you were going to steal the show from Madea (played by a cross-dressing Perry). It's kind of give-and-take as to who's doing what. A:David: I genuinely enjoy seeing people having a good time. Tamela: To see people laugh. David: This would be my equivalent to a high. I just like to bring joy to people. Tamela: That laughter, it's so healing, it's medicine. It really is medicine for the soul. David: We look at different anointings. People are anointed to preach. She's anointed to sing. I believe I'm anointed to just bring joy to people and make people laugh. Q:Did you both starting singing in the church?Comments
A:David: That's all we know.
Q:You started with Kirk Franklin and the Family.
Tamela: That's where we got our national start.
Q:You both have powerful voices.
A:David: It's nothing but a blessing because we get to be in each other's things. I told her it's cool that we get to do this together.
Tamela: Everything was built together. I thank God for that. He really pushes me.
David: We really push each other. Plus, and make sure you quote me on this, she beats me. (laughter)
Tamela: We don't have any of that. We've been together 19 years with no separations.
David: None of that. We're in it to win it.
Tamela: Not that we haven't had any hills, bumps and valleys.
David: We realized we said, ‘Til death do us part.' Anything that comes, we work through it.
Q:Can you share anything about the TV show on Fox?
A:David: It's called "Meet the Browns.” We already shot the first 10 episodes, and they aired one of the episodes on the "House of Payne.” They kind of ran them together. What it is, is Cora and I start an old folks home.
Tamela: He gets a letter that he finds in the house from his deceased dad. In the letter his dad says, "Take care of the old. ...” He takes it to mean take care of the old people.
David: He was really meaning "take care of my old car,” a Thunderbird in the garage. But I didn't finish the letter.
Tamela: He fixes the house that he's supposedly working on himself, which is really funny.
David: And Mr. Brown can't fix nothin'. He tears up everything.
Tamela: We take in some elderly people.
David: It's kind a mixture of "Golden Girls” meets "Sanford and Son.”
Tamela: It's kind of touchy feely. It's something I don't think has ever been on television, not in this way.
David: We have a lady that used to be a movie star who thinks she's still a movie star. We have a man who is a colonel who thinks he's still in the army.
Q:When will the show begin airing?
A:David: Fall of 2008. The movie sets up the premise for the show.
Q:Is there anything you'd like to add?
A:Tamela: David has the "Mr. Brown's Good Ole Time Church” CD, also we have "Tamela Mann: The Live Experience.”
David: Our Web site is www.davidandtamelamann.com.
David and Tamela Mann share a scene in "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns.” LIONSGATE