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Instead, he often finds his strongest connection to his audience through the Internet, which makes relating to fans more manageable. "My message board is my lifeline," Perry explains. "There's four-and-a-half million people there leaving messages on Facebook, and they are not filtered — they are positive, 99.9 percent of them — of people saying how their lives have been touched and changed. So that's how I know I'm on the right track. That's how I know what matters."
On the Internet, in his periodic messages to fans, he adopts a more conversational tone, describing the hassles of touring or recounting his mother's gratitude at the new house he gave her: "She said she always wanted to know what it was like to live like [the town matriarch] Mrs. Chancellor from 'The Young and the Restless.' 'Now, I know,' she said."
Last year, Perry not only released Why Did I Get Married, Too? and For Colored Girls, he also starred in the touring production of Madea's Big Happy Family, at one point appearing in 125 performances in 126 days. And this was Perry working at half-speed.
When his mother died on Dec. 8, 2009, at the age of 64, Perry was devastated. "That was a large part of my drive, and when she died, I lost it," he recalls. "I was just done, with everything, all of it. The sky wasn't blue anymore."
He says the memory of his mother helped him rediscover his path. "This life is but a moment. And I started to think about the joy of who she was, and what she gave me. I dream about her and in dreams I see her at peace, so those are the things that help me get back up." He now says his interviews on "Oprah" detailing his abuse also exorcized some of his childhood demons. "I talked about all that stuff and freed myself. It's like, when my mother took her last breath, I was able to take my first."
Perry says he only now feels like he's getting back up to speed after his mother's death and that he intends to explore new areas without slowing down. He recently signed on to play James Patterson's psychologist/investigator Alex Cross (a role played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider) for director Rob Cohen, marking only the second time, following his Star Trek cameo, that Perry has taken a role he didn't write himself.
He's close to starting his own TV network, and intends to expand his already-sizeable production lot. "I just bought the other 30 acres on the other side of this lawn to expand the studio," he says. "When I got here I was thinking it was too big, but then I realized that when we're really in full production, we don't have a corner to hide in."
But is he ready to make the compromises in his personal life that come with having a family, something his films frequently advocate? In 2010, he told the New York Post: "In all my adult life I've had five serious relationships with women. And I'm not sure monogamy is for me." In person, he corrects the record. "What I said was, monogamy wasn't for me at that time," he clarifies. "At that moment. No, I'd just come out of a relationship; I wasn't interested in being in another. Here's where I am with that now. This isn't a reason to get married, but it would be a shame for me to have built all of this up, and not have a legacy to pass it on to.
"As a matter of fact, we thought we were pregnant back in December, but it was a false alarm," he says. "If it happens, it happens. But, marriage? I don't know."
So, who's the lucky lady?
"I'll let you in on a little secret," he says, mock-conspiratorially. "It's Oprah. I'm kidding, I'm kidding!"
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