Tyler Perry steps behind the camera for the romantic drama

Tyler Perry is quickly building quite an empire down in Atlanta; the writer/director/actor has already created the Madea franchise on the stage and on the big screen.

He found himself staying behind the camera on his latest effort, Daddy's Little Girls. The film stars Gabrielle Union as a very successful lawyer, but a very unsuccessful dater. She's joined in the cast by Idris Elba, who is fighting to get back his daughters from his ex-wife.

Unlike his previous two films, Tyler made a conscious decision to not act. "The main reason is because I felt like I was over-exposed; I needed a moment to get away. That's what I did on this film."

Even Tyler will admit his style was different on this. "You look at Family Reunion, and you say, 'Did anyone direct this movie?' But in Daddy's Little Girls, I was able to try something new; I played with the camera. I really feel this is my first time directing, and it can only get better from there."

He says the concept for the film really came from two good friends. "One is someone we were working with; he'd be on the phone all the time. I found out it was his daughters; he has three daughters who really needed to talk to him. He was my muse for the Monty character. And then I have another friend who's very successful, who can't find a man to save her life, with all the money, she's done. I thought what if the two of them met. She's very classy, very regal; he's very hood, very street. And that's where this story came from. It started out as a story to encourage father's who are doing the right thing - because there is no support for that; and also to speak to women to say, 'even if you are in corporate America, maybe look on this side of the tracks, there may be someone out there."

Daddy's Little Girls is really a simple tale of two opposites coming together. "It comes to me as you guys are seeing it; I have it in my head for months, and as I sit down to write it, it just comes out of me. I think these characters really tell a simple story; I'm concerned that it feels right, and it feels right to encourage the father's out there."

Gabrielle was the first choice for the role, says Tyler. "It's pretty simple, cause as I was writing, I was thinking Gabrielle all along. The little girls, China, the youngest, she's on my sitcom, House of Pain; she's just amazing. I'd be watching her on set through the monitors, and while the other actors are doing their thing, she'd have this puzzled look on her face like she understood what they were saying. It freaked me out. And she has three sisters and a brother; and her brother is the kid in the van who says, 'Get away from my daddy, tramp.' But I wrote it, and the chemistry between Idris and Gabrielle is just insane; you believe it. I believed it, too."

And for Idris' part, Tyler says there was very little discussion into who Monty was. "What I try to do with actors, I hire the write cast; he instinctively knew what to do and where to go. The notes I had for them were very minor; there were a couple things when he made choices. I give actors all the freedom, but nine years on the road, I try things on the stage. If I were to try something, they would tell me; I'd know pretty quickly."

Just because Madea didn't make an appearance in this film, that doesn't mean we won't see her again. "Oh, absolutely; Madea isn't going anywhere, I'm just taking a break from it. The wigs and the make-up, I feel sorry for women."

And Tyler's going to be pretty busy over the next couple years; he's got a number of projects he's working on. "I think it's about five; one is Why Did I Get Married?. We start shooting that in March, based on one of my plays. Jazz Man's Blues we shoot in the summer. House of Payne, I've got to do 100 episodes by the end of the year. And Meet the Browns, a sit-com, we're working on that. I'm writing two movies and a book. Writing used to be the thing that relaxed me, but that's become work. Africa was relaxing; I had the best sleep there - the Hennessy helped."

There's no relaxing needed for Daddy's Little Girls; it opens in theaters February 14th, rated PG-13.