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Mourning and Moths With Janet Jackson on the Set of Tyler Perry’s New Movie

If you’ve seen the trailer for Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too, which opens Friday, you know that there’s a moment when Janet Jackson has a totally intense, sweaty, wrenching, shit-throwing mental breakdown. That she didn’t have an actual breakdown on set is something of a miracle, given that she was shooting the movie when her brother Michael died. “Janet wasn’t there that day of shooting,” said Perry at the movie’s New York premiere last night. “But we were all on set and everybody’s phone started going off. Just a mass of texts and calls. It was surreal.” The cast immediately sent Jackson flowers and let her know they were there for her, but when she returned, they had a silent pact not to talk about it. “She was all business, she did her thing, we all tried to work through it together,” said Richard T. Jones, who plays Jill Scott’s ex-husband. “Everyone made an agreement, ‘Don’t run up to Janet asking about Michael; that’s rude and immature,’” said co-star Tasha Smith. “‘Let’s just honor the fact that she continued on with her commitment and get the job done.’” Upon her return, says Perry, her performance got even better. “She put every bit of anger, every bit of frustration, every bit of hurt into it,” said the director. “There are seven stages of grief and I think she used every one of them in this movie.”

On a lighter note, all of the cast agreed that Jackson was probably the most professional of them all when it came to the giant moths that plagued them as they shot on location in the Bahamas. “The moths were like bats! They were all over the place there. It was the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Perry. “Those moths were huge, man!” said Jones. “Middle of a take they’d fly up and smack you in the face. Janet was fine with it. I was probably the worst! I was running around, like, ‘Hey, this isn’t cool ... ’” Jill Scott, too, had issues with the moths. “She doesn’t do bugs,” said Lamman Rucker, who plays Scott’s new husband. “A lot of the time when we were on the back, I was on bug-watch. I’d see one and take it out before she saw it or things would get loud.” “We were under a creature attack,” Scott agreed. “Between the crabs crawling on windows and the sand flies that hated us and the huge moths that landed on us with their furry selves. Furry! About the size of your head, I’m not kidding. There were these creatures that crawled up from the beach, dug down, made a hole, and then flew. That’s right! Flew away! It was not amazing. It was horrifying.”

Photo: Patrick McMullan