James Patterson on Tyler Perry: ‘Hollywood Wanted to Change Alex Cross to a White Guy’

James Patterson is one of the most successful fiction writer of our times. The novelist has penned a record-breaking 63 bestselling hardcover fiction titles and, in 2009, signed a 17 -book deal worth $150 million. His heralded Alex Cross series returns to theaters with Tyler Perry as the lead in Cross.

Patterson recently spoke with rolling out about why Perry is great for the role and how Hollywood wanted the character to be played by a white lead.

Why was Tyler Perry perfect for the role of Alex Cross?

I think that Tyler is closer to the Alex Cross in the books than Morgan [Freeman]. Morgan Freeman is a terrific actor, but this movie is closer to the books than Along Came a Spider.  Tyler’s physically closer and more active and I think the fans of Tyler will enjoy it and say, “He did it.”

What was the inspiration for Alex Cross being a larger-than-life hero?

I grew up in a town that was very mixed. [I] watched what Hollywood was doing back in those days in terms of stereotyping black people with a boom box in every scene, for example, and I didn’t find that to be true.  So, I wanted to create a hero that was an over-the-top, larger-than-life African American male, who was anti-stereotype, very good with his family, well-educated, articulate and could be heroic.

Was it difficult to sell Alex Cross to Hollywood since the lead is a black character?

The first book was Along Came a Spider and when it first came out people wanted to buy it, but they wanted to change Alex Cross to a white guy. I said, “I don’t think so.” It took another four years before we sold the movie rights.

What’s the future of the series?

You gotta ask Tyler about that. He’s the boss about where it goes and I think he should be very proud because he stepped up, took a chance and delivered.  It’s a good movie and he’s great in it.

A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw

A.R. Shaw is an author and journalist who documents culture, politics, and entertainment. He has covered The Obama White House, the summer Olympics in London, and currently serves as Lifestyle Editor for Rolling Out magazine. Follow his journey on Twitter @arshaw and Instagram @arshaw23.

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