In Tyler Perry’s romantic thriller, Acrimony, we are pulled into the decades-long love story of Melinda and Robert, two college-educated dreamers who find each other at critical points in their lives. Their years of love and commitment are wrought with challenges most couples can relate to, but the inevitable fissure drives Mel to the brink of sanity, a journey captured masterfully by Taraji P. Henson.
But how does she achieve such a believable level of despair without compromising her own mental state? Rumors have swirled for years that actors like Heath Ledger didn’t fully recover from burrowing into the depths of their own darkness for a role.
“Well, you know, first, all I do, I read the script. I know her, I do the back story, I write, all that stuff. And then once I have the character then I have it, there’s no more I need to do,” says Henson. “You know, I go to work, I do my job. So I live in between takes. I literally have to laugh and be silly because this is deep and heavy. Who wants to live in that space? I can’t stay in that all the time, you know? So that’s just how I work.”
“It’s incredible to see her go in and out, it’s like, seamless,” says her co-star Lyriq Bent, who plays her husband, Robert. “It’s just [makes face] ‘Cut! Hey girl, so can we get some crab legs? Cause you know, I got some shoes I gotta get in. Action!’ [makes face]. It’s like it doesn’t phase her and not a lot of actors could do that…it’s a good thing when you can have somebody who can just…your leading lady is like that? Oh yeah, it sets the pace for everything else. Where you can just do your thing. Not be too rigid.”
At the heart of “Acrimony’s” drama is a tenacious pursuit of happiness by both protagonists, one in business, the other in love. The conflict comes to a head when those individual passions collide and tear asunder their happy union. But when does one know when to let go?
“Well, I don’t know when to say I cut my losses, ‘cause I’m all in,” says Tyler Perry, who famously brought himself from the brink of homelessness to being one of the most powerful Black men in Hollywood. “I’m an all in guy. I kept going until I got there. So, I’m not the person to ask. You’d have to ask someone who did cut their losses. That’s why I wrote him from that point of view. Of this is gonna work no matter what happens. But the difference in me and him [Robert] is that I was working all the way through. I was supporting myself. I wasn’t letting someone else do all the heavy lifting and me just reap the benefit of one day having a dream.”
“It depends on how bad you want it,” says Henson. “‘Cause according to people in my life, surrounding me, I moved out to LA to go after my dream too late. Some people thought 26 was too late. So, it’s just all up to you, because, that sounds like a judgmental question. You can’t tell me what’s too late. You can’t. Just ‘cause it worked for this person, that was their journey. My journey’s different.”
Follow Taraji and Lyriq on their journey into love and lust in Acrimony, in theaters this Friday.