Candace Maxwell Interview: Tyler Perry Star Wants It All
Image attributed to Benjo Arwas
Candace Maxwell was raised in Queens, New York, where she loved music and dance, proving her to be a natural performer and entertainer. She then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she attended CCEPA (Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts), and after graduating, she went on to study acting and minored in dancing. She trained extensively in ballet, modern, jazz, tap, African, partnering and hip hop which led her to dance professionally for the New York Knicks City Dancers, and she became a backup dancer for Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Lil Kim and P. Diddy.
Tyler Perry has cast Maxwell in A Madea Homecoming, the newest film in the mega-hit franchise, which premieres on Netflix on February 25, 2022. The plot follows Madea welcoming her family to town for her great-grandson’s graduation from college, but the celebratory moment hits a halt as hidden secrets and family drama threaten to destroy the happy homecoming. Maxwell portrays Ellie, Madea’s granddaughter, in the highly anticipated dramedy. Perry also produces the BET+ original series, All the Queen’s Men, and Maxwell can currently be seen in the first season portraying DJ Dime. The show has been renewed for season two, and she will reprise her role.
"I want to do it all! Why sell myself short? My parents came here with a dream for their lives, and they were able to fulfill that. So why shouldn’t I go for mine?"
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Candace, are you living in Atlanta now?
Candace Maxwell: Right now, I’m in LA, but I’m back and forth between Atlanta and LA, so half my time is spent there and half here.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You seem to have hit the Tyler Perry jackpot! How did you get the role in All the Queen’s Men?
Candace Maxwell: Oh man, what a lovely story, believe it or not. I moved to LA in October of 2020 and did some auditioning. I auditioned for Tyler and his team and got a callback within the next few days that I had booked the role for All the Queen’s Men for DJ Dime. So it happened very quickly, and then once I started working in that world, it was just like non-stop. Tyler and his team brought me back on with a direct offer to be in his film. It’s pretty amazing how, when you fall into Tyler’s universe, if you show up and you work really hard, your life just changes overnight. So that’s exactly what happened to me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: That is quite amazing. What did you think of Tyler Perry when you first met him?
Candace Maxwell: He’s tall! Gosh, he’s tall! (laughs) I was a little intimidated, like “This whole production is running because of you and because of your vision for your movies you’ve built for your fanbase.” I’m not going to lie. I was a little intimidated. But I was also very excited to be there. But he’s big! He’s a tall big man. He could be a linebacker. Oh, my gosh!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: All the Queen’s Men is based on the book, Ladies Night, by Christian Keyes, so the show revolves around Madam Deville and a male strip club, but I imagine it’s much more than that?
Candace Maxwell: It sure is. When you think of male exotic dancers, you think that it’s going to be a lot of sexy women throwing money, but it’s so much more than that. You’ve got their lives, their struggles and why they chose these careers and also their way out of it. So these are real men and their real stories of survival.
On the flip side of that, you have my character, Dime, who is this young DJ that sees herself working in this club and finds herself under the mentorship of Marilyn “Madam” DeVille (played by Eva Marcille). She mentors Dime and helps her grow into a businesswoman. Dime’s a budding businesswoman and somebody who came from not much but is building up her life. So I can definitely relate to the character in that way. The show has some good heartfelt stories attached all within a frame of a sexy, sexy nightclub.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Is DJ Dime romantically involved with any of the male dancers?
Candace Maxwell: Well, I’d say you’d definitely have to watch and see. But the one thing I will say about Dime is that she is so committed to her job and to growing underneath Madam in becoming this woman that she has actually vowed not to get involved with any of the men at the club because she’s separating business and work. But then you know, you’ll see. Some things may happen.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So Tyler Perry offered you the role of Ellie in A Madea Homecoming?
Candace Maxwell: Yes. I finishing filming the show in March of 2021, came back to LA and was just getting back to my life here. I went on a vacation with my girlfriend, an amazing, life-changing trip to Cabo. The day that I got back, I got a call from the head of the studio to let me know they wanted to offer me the role of Ellie in A Madea Homecoming. My jaw was on the floor because I had an offer for a film from a huge movie studio, my first feature film. My jaw was on the floor!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How wonderful! An amazing vacation and an amazing job offer.
Candace Maxwell: Yeah. And unexpected. So unexpected.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Were you nervous on set filming your first feature film?
Candace Maxwell: There were the initial jitters, especially since my first scene was with Gabrielle Dennis who plays my older sister in the film. That was my first scene of the day and my first scene filming. I was super intimidated and nervous to just hop into a scene with Tyler’s iconic character. Of course, I was nervous. But as time went on, the environment on set was one of “Let’s have fun,” “Let’s play” and “Let’s bring so much life into these characters.” So what started off as nerves ended up becoming just a blast. It was a blast.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Tyler Perry is the director, writer and star. How in the world does he do all of that, especially in costume?
Candace Maxwell: Oh, my God. It’s insane watching him do that, quite honestly. There was one time he had the costume on and he had to go back and direct the other part of the scene he’s not in. So he took off half the costume, took the wig off, pulled down the dress so it was half on, and he was sitting in the chair directing. You’re like, “How can your brain fathom all of these things at one time?” But he’s like a machine. He knows exactly what he wants, when he wants it, how he wants it and moves really quickly and efficiently, too. It’s a blast.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Tyler Perry said he brought back the character of Madea to tackle some social issues so that people would see the importance of meeting others in the middle to just stop the hate. How is that shown in the film?
Candace Maxwell: I think that the social issues are the biggest things that are talked about in the movie. My character, Ellie, is a black female police officer living and working in Atlanta. So she is a fierce supporter of her community and a lover of her community. She’s one who stands by not defunding the police but police reform. She believes we need people to be educated, and everybody needs to get along. That’s one of the biggest points in the film, “Let’s all get along and love one another through it all, the highs and the lows.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Tell me about growing up and when you first realized you might actually live your dream.
Candace Maxwell: I grew up in Queens, New York. My parents came here with the big American dream. I’m their first kid, and I immediately kind of stumbled into dance and acting and had a family friend who was an agent. She’d get me auditions and get me out to do plays and different things, so I just honestly grew up as, what I would say, a New York City performing arts kid with big dreams and a huge love for the stage and the screen. The fact that I was able to continue that love my whole life is what I wanted to do since I was a kid. I stayed hyper focused on it.
I’m so appreciative how everything has panned out, but it hasn’t been without hard work and a lot of sacrifice. I also was a trained dancer, a professional dancer for 10 years. I traveled the world and got to dance with huge names like Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim. So this is what I love and sort of the environment I grew up in.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Would you say that dancing was your first passion?
Candace Maxwell: Really, I wanted to sing like Mariah Carey, but I didn’t have a voice like that. I would watch them on TV and say, “Oh, my gosh. Aren’t those women glamourous?” They were so far from how I grew up. I grew up in such a simple life in Queens with a working class family. So I’d look at them and say, “Wow! These women are so glamourous.” I wanted to feel that. Even as a kid, I knew I wanted to feel something different with my life. Then I realized, “Wait. I can record music videos and copy the dances.” I was teaching myself how to dance in the living room along with some ballet classes that my mom put me in. So I would say, dance was my first passion, but I knew that in some form, I wanted to be in entertainment, and that was always a passion.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What do you like about the entertainment industry so far?
Candace Maxwell: There are pros and cons to it. It’s not necessarily the industry. I love being on stage. Honestly, stage is my favorite medium. You get this rush, and you get this high. You get this collection of people you don’t meet in everyday life. There is this vulnerability on stage. It’s visceral. It’s loud. It’s creative. It’s quiet. It can be loud. It can be quiet. It can be big. It can be small. It’s one of the freest places I’ve ever been in my life.
So what do I love about entertainment? I love the connection that I get with people. I love to play characters. I love to understand my environment and the world around me. I love music. I love putting on a beautiful outfit, getting my makeup and hair done, the fun side of it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And, as you have stated, lots of hard work is involved.
Candace Maxwell: Oh, so much!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What do you want to have accomplished in 10 or 15 years from now both professionally and personally?
Candace Maxwell: Oh, man. Well, personally, I just want to be happy and be healthy including mental health and spiritual health happiness. I want to have a family and have children. I would want those kids to be loving, free people. Professionally? Man, I want to go for the Super Bowl! Let’s win the EGOT, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. I want to do it all! Why sell myself short? My parents came here with a dream for their lives, and they were able to fulfill that. So why shouldn’t I go for mine?
So I want it all. Why not? Life is short. If I’ve learned anything during 2020, 2021 and 2022, it’s that life is short. So why not go for it? Life’s not promised. So that’s kind of where I’m at, you know?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Speaking of having a family, is there anyone special in your life now?
Candace Maxwell: (laughs) We’ll see. I’m not necessarily sure, but I like him. He’s not in entertainment. I love that. He works with children. He runs a non-profit. So I like that he doesn’t care that I’m an actress. It doesn’t really matter. He likes me, and that’s great.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Final words on the TV series and film?
Candace Maxwell: Please check out All the Queen’s Men and the film. A Madea Homecoming is a great family film just about connecting with each other and loving each other through hard times. I think more than ever, that’s what we need right now and to laugh. I will say that doing this film brought back a lot of laughter to my life that I didn’t know was missing.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And they do say that laughter can indeed help relieve stress and other health issues. What’s next, Candace?
Candace Maxwell: I’m really excited about season two of All the Queen’s Men because we get to elevate the characters and just put the show on a whole other level. There are some twists and turns. I think those elevate it even more. You’ll have to tune in to see. In June, we’ll be back to film another 10 episodes, so we’ll be heading to the second part of All the Queen’s Men. We’ve got a lot coming with that show. I’ve just been auditioning and trying to get closer to that Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony (laughs). So I’m auditioning my butt off.
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