Tyler Perry Issues Warning For His Steamy Kelly Rowland and Trevante Rhodes-Led Thriller ‘Mea Culpa’: “This Is For Grown Folks”

Tyler Perry, Kelly Rowland, Trevante Rhodes, and RonReaco Lee talked to BET about coming together to make their “grown and sexy” Netflix thriller.

Make sure to put the kids to bed because Tyler Perry’s latest cinematic offering, “Mea Culpa,” gets hot and heavy with Kelly Rowland and Trevante Rhodes as its lead stars. The ultra-sexy Netflix thriller, Perry’s fourth project with the streamer, centers around a married criminal defense attorney (Rowland) who falls for a seductive painter (Rhodes) accused of murdering his girlfriend. When the two mix business with pleasure, their pursuit of justice gets hot… and dangerous.

In addition to her leading lady duties, Rowland also serves as a co-producer on the film that stars RonReaco Lee, Sean Sagar, Nick Sagar, Shannon Thornton, and Kerry O’Malley. On juggling her two roles, the singer and former Destiny’s Child member said, “It was a great responsibility, and I had fun.” She added, “To be honest, I was definitely slightly intimidated at the beginning because it just sounds like a huge task, but the more I was able to do the work, enjoy the work, and be uncomfortable, the more I enjoyed it.”

Perry sang Rowland’s praise for their first film collaboration, saying, “[This filming process] felt different, but the thing that made it fun is Kelly. Just working with Kelly, getting an opportunity to show this woman in a new light, I feel so good about that.”

Perry and Rowland, as well as Rhodes and Lee, dived further into the making of their erotic thriller with, where they discussed the movie’s plot, nostalgic inspiration, and the cast’s chemistry. Kelly and Trevante, you two have amazing chemistry in the film. Tell me how you built that rapport with each other to bring that energy to the screen.

Rowland: We met the day before we started shooting, and as soon as I hugged Trevante, I felt safe, I felt respected, I felt comfortable, and I remember texting Tyler saying, "Oh yeah, this is going to work." So the chemistry was there. I'm grateful, super grateful.

Rhodes: I mean, I've been saying it all day. Just look at this person. You must be broken if you don't have chemistry with someone like this. RonReaco, you've worked with Tyler Perry before, but this is your first time sharing the screen with Kelly Rowland, yes?

Lee: Yes, I had never met her. It was my first time. I met her first day of filming, but she was great. I mean, she put me at ease right away. I just wanted to be there for her, you know, in terms of [being] that supporting cast member. I was letting her know, “I'm here for you. If you go left, I'll go left with you. You go right, I'll go right with you.” What was it like acting alongside her?

Lee: She's amazing. First of all, I don't think it's anything she can't do. I've obviously witnessed her as an amazing performer with [Destiny’s Child], solo, and then to see her do this. She made it seem like it was a seamless transition. Tyler, I read that older thrillers from the '80s and '90s, and you and your mom’s love for those movies, inspired the premise of “Mea Culpa.” When crafting the story’s arc, did you reference specific films from those eras?

Perry: No, when the characters in my head start talking, man, I just write things down. Wherever they wanted to go, I just take it. All I remember is my mom standing up, screaming when those movies had these crazy twists, and calling my aunt [like], "Did you see that?" So I wanted to ensure I had a few of those moments in [“Mea Culpa”]. What was it like to direct Kelly Rowland and Trevante Rhodes in this movie? Did their chemistry come naturally while you guys were filming?

Perry: Yeah. Well, first of all, Kelly is a professional like no one else. I've worked with a lot of people who are professionals in this business. The music people, sometimes, can be different in how they show up, when, or at what time. Kelly's none of that. She's no-nonsense. She's killing it from day one. She and Trevante went to lunch once when his name came up, and she was like, "He's the one. He's the one. Let's make this happen." So that chemistry was automatic and instant, and it was great to see. Trevante, I gave him his first gig on “If Loving You Is Wrong” many, many years ago. So to see him go from that to “Moonlight,” to be this incredible artist who picks and chooses what he wants to do, for him to be like, "Oh yeah, I'm coming to do this one.” It was really great. What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Perry: Shannon Thornton, I'm working on something right now with her that's really amazing that I want everybody to see. And Nick Sagar and Sean Sagar, they're both from London, they're brothers, and I wanted to break them in the US for people to see them working together. It was a lot of fun because we're all like family. And Angela Robinson, from “The Have and the Have Nots” - are you kidding me? When she shows up in that gallery, it's like everybody's on the edge of their seat. So they all did great. 

Rhodes: I thought it was great. I'm a big fan of RonReaco, so having the opportunity to jump into the space with him and see him do his thing, and everybody really. Everybody brought their A-game. That is just something that you’ve got to appreciate. As another creative, as a collaborator, you have to really be appreciative and love when everybody is there, present, and bringing their shit. That's a blessing.

Lee: I thought everybody was perfectly cast and did a great job. My hat goes off to Kelly and Trevante. I thought they did a great job of sucking us in, and then, I don't know how I found myself rooting for this couple, but I did. It was like I wanted them to win, and then at the end, [I thought] they did a great job. How does “Mea Culpa” stand out compared to other erotic thrillers?

Perry: I can't really compare it to anything because you don't see [these movies] with a lot of Black folks. This is told from the point of view of a really powerful Black woman attorney. And I think Kelly Rowland delivered like you wouldn't believe as a leading lady, and I'm so proud of her. I want people in Hollywood to go, "Whoa, look how well this movie did. Look what she did," so that they can call her for everything. What do you hope people feel after watching “Mea Culpa”?

Rhodes: Everything.

Rowland: Yes, I hope they feel like they've been taken on a ride. I hope that they're on the edge of their seats and I hope that they are sensually tapped in. Because it awakens that as well, that spirit in you, that sense of you, so I hope that it inspires for sure.

Perry: All I want the people to do is not sit there and Netflix and chill with your kids watching this movie. This ain't for the children; this is for grown folks. This is grown and sexy adult time. I don't expect people to feel anything, but I want them entertained. 

“Mea Culpa” starts streaming on Netflix on Feb. 23.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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