Tyler Perry Tells Personal Story of Grandmother's Quilt While Accepting Governors Award at 2020 Emmys

TYLER PERRY - Governors Award EMMY
ABC

"This is amazing," he said. "I didn't expect to feel this way."

Tyler Perry spoke about recognizing the value of a diversity of experiences and stories while accepting the Governors Award on behalf of himself and The Perry Foundation at the 2020 Emmys on Sunday Night.

The writer-director-producer-actor expanded on a central metaphor of a quilt while accepting the annual award, which honors an individual or organization that has done "exceptional" work in television that transcends the traditional Emmys categories. Previous honorees include Star Trek (2018), the television company ITVS (2017), American Idol (2016) and A+E Networks (2015). individuals including Norman Brokaw, Marian Dougherty and Sheila Nevins have also received the prize. No Governors Award was presented in 2019.

"This is amazing, I didn't expect to feel this way," Perry began. He then told the story of his grandmother giving him a handmade quilt when he left home at 19 years old. Perry didn't care for it, he said; in fact, he was "quite embarrassed by it. I had no value in it at all... I had no respect for this quilt." But one day, he passed an antique store and saw a quilt just like the one his grandmother had given him. He learned a former slave had made a similar quilt to reflect her life experiences: "one part was from a dress that she was wearing when she found out that she was free, another part was from a wedding dress when she jumped the broom," Perry recalled.

"As I was hearing this history I became so embarrassed," he added. "Here I was, a person who prides myself on celebrating our heritage, our culture, and I didn't even recognize the value in my grandmother's quilt. I dismissed her work and her story because it didn't look like what I thought it should."

The story applied more universally, he said, because "whether we know it or not, we are all sewing our own quilts with our thoughts, our behaviors, our experiences and our memories." Perry, the director behind 22 films, 13 television shows and 20 stage plays, then recalled how his mother, in her own life's quilt, couldn't have imagined his accomplishments to date. "I stand here tonight to say thank you all of the people who are celebrating, who know the value of every patch, every story and every color that makes up this quilt that is our business, this quilt that is our lives, this quilt that is America," he said.

He finished, "Because in my grandmother's quilt, there were no patches that represented Black people on television. But in my quilt, her grandson is being celebrated by the Television Academy."

Perry has risen to the challenge of COVID-19 production at Atlanta's Tyler Perry Studios by creating a "Camp Quarantine" model for on-set safety. The production method, which Perry used to restart production on his BET shows Sistas and The Oval, require actors to self-isolate before production, stay on the studios' campus during production and be tested upon arrival, four days into production and before leaving.

Perry's nonprofit, The Perry Foundation, has contributed to aid efforts for victims of Haiti's 2010 earthquakes, Puerto Rico's Hurricane Maria and Texas' Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian, which devastated The Bahamas in 2019.

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the 72nd Emmy Awards aired live on ABC at 5 p.m. PT, with Kimmel broadcasting from Staples Center and other presenters and honorees appearing remotely.