Michael Jai White and Tasha Smith didn’t have much time to rehearse for their roles as a married couple on TBS’ upcoming dramedy “Tyler Perry’s For Better or Worse” — they taped one episode per day, whereas most shows tape an episode per week — but they likely didn’t need it.
White and Smith are reprising their roles from the Tyler Perry movies “Why Did I Get Married?” and “Why Did I Get Married Too?” And besides, they used to date in real life.
Not that this should be cause for concern among their real-life spouses: White and Smith said the four of them are friends and chat regularly. Smith has even been known to call White’s wife, who is a doctor, with personal health questions.
“Our spouses are amazingly secure,” White said in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Chicago hotel last week. “I think my wife was excited about it. … If you saw my wife, Tasha and myself and you didn’t know us, you might think that Tasha was my wife. Tasha and I might be a little more affectionate. My wife is really cool. She loves watching the energy between Tasha and I.”
On “For Better or Worse,” which debuts Friday, White and Smith play the cast’s lone married couple. The two other couples in the cast are either dating or engaged. The show is “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” director/star Perry’s third series along with TBS sitcoms “House of Payne” and “Meet the Browns.”
“There’s no laugh track,” Smith said. “And it’s stylized in a different way. I think it’s a more mature part of Tyler Perry, as far as relationships are concerned. It’s not a family show. It’s an adult show about relationships. This is grown-folk business.”
White believes the show can delve deeper into social commentary than “House of Payne” or “Meet the Browns” because it is a dramedy rather than a traditional sitcom. He describes the show as a half-hour version of a Perry movie.
Though Perry, whom Forbes named the highest-paid man in entertainment in 2011, opted not to brand the TV show with the “Why Did I Get Married?” title, but he did once again attach his name to the title. What can the Perry name do for a project?
“There’s a pedigree there,” White said. “People know Tyler Perry, and there are standards they’ve come to expect from him. His brand is uplifting and it’s something a lot of inner-city African-Americans can relate to. It’s going to have his voice and faith, which is what he’s come to be recognized for.”
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