David and Tamela Mann (middle and right with J. Anthony Brown far left) talked about the third season of Tyler Perry’s “Assisted Living,” premiering on March 23 on BET. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green,
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor,
mgreen@afro.com

While they play alleged father and daughter on the show, David and Tamela Mann have been married 34 years and continue to create magic together in film, television and stage as the dynamic duo Mr. Brown and Cora, most recently highlighted in the third season of Tyler Perry’s “Assisted Living,” which premieres March 23 at 9:30 p.m. on BET.

“We’ve been playing these characters since 1999 [24] years and to even still be relevant, like people still want to see it because the ratings on the show are very good.  People still want to see these characters and that’s because people relate to the characters.  The stories that we’re telling this season [of Assisted Living]— those are relatable stories.  Things that senior citizens go through, teenagers go through, husband and wife, couples go through and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do through the years with these characters, keep them relatable to people and what’s going on with the times,” said David Mann, who famously brings to life the character of Mr. Brown, on AFRO Live. 

After more than two decades of Mr. Brown and Cora in the Tyler Perry Universe, from plays such as “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” and theatre, television and film such as Madea’s Family Reunion (play and film), Meet the Browns (play, film and television show) and House of Payne (television show), singing sensation and actress Tamela Mann said that the work now is all about elevating the character as the story lines and audiences continue to develop. 

“I’m trying to just get better and better.  I feel like there’s always something you can sharpen, it’s like sharpening a tool and I just try to do better and better each season or any time I’m on screen.  I just want to be better and better and to just, again, show somebody else that they can do it too.  It can be done,” she said.

D.C. and Digital Editor Micha Green chats with David and Tamela Mann on AFRO Live. (Screenshot)

As a couple, the Manns have worked together before— they actually met creating art for the Lord in a singing group with then, only locally appreciated Gospel artist Kirk Franklin.  The two continued with Franklin becoming members of Kirk Franklin and the Family and recorded such hits as “Why We Sing,” and “Silver and Gold.”  However, when the two become Cora and Mr. Brown, wife, Tamela has no time for her husband’s affection.

“Once I put that Cora wig on, and my clothes, it’s like ‘Hey! No kissing, no patting on me on the butt or nothing! You’re my daddy right now,’” she explained, before her husband interjected.

“She doesn’t want me touching her like that,” he said. “When I have those clothes on, she don’t call me David, she calls me Mr. Brown.  Now, me on the other hand, I’m patting on set, touching all of that,” the comedic actor and singer added with a smile.

Now on its third season, “Assisted Living” originally premiered in September 2020 at a time of great confusion, pain and hardship for America and the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic, continued racial injustices and protests surrounding it, and months before the 2020 Presidential election.

“One thing that we wanted to do, especially with the pandemic going on, and everything, we wanted to bring joy to people, something that could take your mind off, just being locked in the house 24/7. Because that really took a toll on us, it’s something that we’ve never dealt with, had never gone through, so to be able to launch that at that time, for us, it was like ‘Ok good, there’s something that can kind of relieve what’s going on,” David said on AFRO Live.

“It was perfect timing, but like he just said, to be able to bring joy, and for it to happen at the time that it did happen, was perfect timing to just uplift, because, again, [the times] brought on a crazy depression everywhere in the world,” Tamela emphasized.

“And people don’t realize what we had to go through to get those episodes out there, so once you went in, it was no coming out until we were finished.  So we were testing every day, one great thing, he had everything that we needed inside of the bubble,” David added of the trying, fast paced filming during the beginning of the pandemic.  “One thing that they almost did to us was over fed us,” he added jokingly, garnering a laugh from his wife.  “They had food available every hour and a half.  But whether it was for medical attention, whatever you needed, [Tyler Perry] had set in that bubble and it made us comfortable to do this.”

Throughout the show, “Assisted Living” has discussed relevant topics such as racial injustices and the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as how people treat the aging seniors using comedic relief as a means of sharing truths.  The Manns said this season is no different in terms of broaching important topics through art and laughter, and of course there will be some surprises.

“Now, Mr. Brown is going to have find him a woman.  So stay tuned,” David Mann said.

“This season has taught us patience,” the Manns said on AFRO Live, discussing the various nuances of working with the cast of newcomers and legends alike.

“J. Anthony Brown- anybody who knows J.  Anthony Brown knows that he is one of our comedic legends,” David said.  “J. is a nut for real,” he added, cracking up laughing.

In addition to Assisted Living, the Manns are staying busy creating work not only in the Tyler Perry universe, but also making new music and working on Mann TV, which can be found on YouTube and includes juicy, fun conversations with the whole family with “Mann Family Dinner,” and watching Tamela throw down cooking in “Mama Mann’s Kitchen.”

With more than 20 years as Cora and Mr. Brown, as well as about 30 years in the music industry, the two talked about the continued pressures of making art.

“I have felt the pressure always, because working with Kirk Franklin, working with Tyler Perry, we were in the midst, and we didn’t realize we were in the midst of making history.  And so the pressure of that, is like, ‘How do we one up what we did before? How do we make it better? How do we do it?  And I’ve just come to the point where, when you do this, just do your best.  Do the best that you can do,” David said before his wife completed the thought.

“And we let the Lord do the rest,” Tamela chimed in emphatically.

“And that’s what we’ve done and the reward has been people enjoying the shows, finding hope in the shows,” David added.

“It makes you nervous, because you always want it to be good,” the actress and singer added. “When you’re putting out new music and new shows and everything you never know if the people are going to gravitate and go and take off with it.  Especially us, as people of color, we let you know.  Either you like it or you hate it.”

In its third season, many fans say the Manns are the reason why they continue watching “Assisted Living.”

“I really enjoy watching the Manns. They always get the job done,” one person wrote reviewing the show on Google. “I just like to watch anything the Mann’s are in. I just rewatched all the episodes of Meet the Browns and the Mann’s actual reality show. I really hope we get more of them.”

“Assisted Living,” premiering March 23, will air new episodes weekly on BET, every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor