*Audiences were first introduced to actress Patrice Lovely when she debuted in “A Madea Christmas” the stage play, and she has since appeared in numerous Tyler Perry stage productions. For the past three seasons, Patrice has entertained viewers as the vivacious Hattie Mae Love, owner of the Love Train Diner, on OWN’s hit comedy series “Love Thy Neighbor.”
The show is second highest-rated series premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network, after another Perry program, “The Haves and the Have Nots.”
Hattie is a character Lovely created many years ago while she was doing the stage play “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and during a recent conversation with the comedian and gospel singer — she has two gospel records under her belt — Patrice explained to EUR/Electronic Urban Report how she and Tyler Perry “fell in love” through Hattie.
“I actually created that character years ago I was doing a stage play called ‘Good Man Is Hard To Find,’ but we didn’t know that there was a show that was out there that was ‘Child Support,’ so it was the same identical show but two different titles. So we did the show and the night we ended the show we felt like we rocked the show, but they told us to go home because the people had already seen this show,” she said.
Continuing: “We stayed up all night long creating a brand new show and I came up with that character, which is my mama, my auntie, my grandmother, and that character actually saved the show. So we toured with that character for years and Tyler flew in to Detroit to see that character and we fell in love that night and Tyler had me on just about every show that he’s put out within the last six years. He just allowed me to come in, bring what I know, bring my A-game and just let me go. He just released me and let me carry the torch. I put a lot of time and energy into that character. At the end of the day, I am exhausted because she takes so much of my energy.”
In our Q&A with Patrice below, she dishes about her experience working with OWN and Tyler Perry, and what viewers can expect when the fourth and final season of “Love Thy Neighbor” returns March 4.
What can viewers expect when they tune-in to the premiere of LOVE THY NEIGHBOR on March 4?
PATRICE: Everybody know that Linda’s been pregnant for… three years now (laughs), so she’s finally gonna have the baby. Danny and Troy, there’s a lot going on with that — you know they eloped before the last season ended, so it’s a lot going on. And definitely Ma Hattie trying to hold everybody down and prevent everybody from killing each other, or her killing one of them. It’s just a lot of laughs, and I think it was phenomenally written by Tyler. I feel like he put a lot of energy into it and we’re just excited and glad to be on the OWN network. It’s just been a blessing in each of our lives.
Without giving too much away, what can viewers expect to see during this final season?
PATRICE: There’s only one Tyler Perry and when I tell you he has written some fun-nee stuff….we’re about to take the country by storm. We’re just blessed and happy to be able to bring life, love and laughter to the Earth.
Discuss your character’s role on the show this season. How has Hattie changed since season one?
PATRICE: Well, Hattie is Big Mama. Hattie has always cared for her family and what happens to them, even her neighbors. She’s just a matriarch of the community and of the family, and at the same time she’ll cut you too. They say a lot of time we have to stick our finger up in the air and see which way the wind is gon’ blow for mama Hattie cause mama Hattie is ‘bout it-‘bout it.
Talk about your experience working with OWN and Tyler Perry. What type of creative energy does he foster on set?
PATRICE: Every morning we come in, he opens each shooting with prayer, and I feel like he sees Good in these shows. I mean, the love that we receive from Tyler is crazy, and I’m speaking personally — on and off set. Just him being a friend of mine and how this man has helped me in my own personal life and changed my life. I’m just awe-elated. Each one of us, we just love Tyler and what he allowed us to bring to the show. He doesn’t stifle you. He just puts his baby in your care and trusts that you will do exactly what he’s paying you to do. So we enjoyed every minute of it. And being on OWN, being the first scripted sitcom on the Oprah Winfrey Network, we made ourselves a piece of history and we’re excited and glad to have been employees of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.
What do you attribute to the show’s massive success? Why do you think viewers fell in love with these characters?
PATRICE: I’m thinking mainly because they feel the energy and they feel the love that we have for each other. I’ve been on a lot of sets and I know a lot of different shows where people just tolerate each other and they just come to work, ”Give me my check and let me get out.” But with the cast of ‘Love Thy Neighbor,’ we genuinely love each other and we enjoy what we’re doing and when you enjoy what you do the audience will feel it. The viewer — they’ll know it. The energy and the love that we pour into this, we take our time and we shut down completely. We don’t do other jobs in the midst of us taping ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ — we’re committed to that. We bond off set as well as on set. Again, we’re thankful and appreciative.
You reached a milestone with the 100th episode. How exciting and fulfilling that must be professionally.
PATRICE: We just went overboard and God just blessed us. He promised us the good of the land and that’s exactly what’s he given us. When we reached the 100th episode we were actually filming and Tyler came in and said “I just want to congratulate you guys. You guys reached a hundred episodes.” So we celebrated a little bit right there at the studio. We’re just excited and we’re blessed. We’re appreciative for what God is doing.
Considering how personal Hattie is for you, has playing her been therapeutic in any way?
PATRICE: Absolutely. You know, doing interviews and stuff like that, I do them but it’s just not something that I like to do, and that character allows me to hide behind her. Believe or not, it’s crazy that Hattie pops up and comes out regularly. If I’m having a bad day or if I see something, for some reason Hattie picks up on that and it’s just a laugh. Just doing that character is very therapeutic. And when we’re doing that character and if you’re able to change people’s vibes and you can make them laugh and make them cry, if you’re able to captive the audience like that then that alone makes my heart happy. It brings me joy.
March is the month dedicated to celebrating women’s history, so what tips does Ma Hattie have to help empower women?
PATRICE: Build and believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. And put God first and let him direct your path. Let him lead you and he’ll do exactly that. And have some kind of sobriety about yourself. Be a woman of virtue. Even for the men, be men. I say that because I see that there are a lot of people just selling their souls just to get a buck and just to get one moment of fame, instead of working on your craft and perfecting your craft and allowing your gift to make room for you. That would be my flow for the day.
Tune in to “Love Thy Neighbor” Saturdays at 9/8c on OWN, and the premiere of the 100th episode on Saturday March 11.