Meet Tamala Mann, who plays Cora, the happy-go-lucky peacemaker and daughter of Madea. The gospel singer who belted tunes as a member of Kirk Franklin’s The Family has traded in song notes for a script—for the moment. Her face is also familiar on Tyler Perry’s popular sitcom “Meet the Browns.” The Texas native’s jubilant spirit finally makes another big-screen debut in “Madea Goes to Jail.” ESSENCE.com caught up with the wife and mother to reveal how much of her on-screen persona rivals her real-life spirit.
ESSENCE.COM: You’ve become a familiar face in Tyler Perry’s plays and movies as Madea’s eccentric daughter Cora. What are Cora’s strengths and weaknesses and what do you love most and least about her?
TAMALA MANN: Well, the only thing I’m stuck with that I dislike about Cora is her wig. The other part of Cora is easy for me because it’s my personality that I get to share with the world and I’m able to encourage different people. The personality of Cora is that she’s not easily swayed and I’m also a strong person. Her weakness is how easily she laughs, which means it’s really easy to make me laugh and break character.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you plan to venture out and try other roles besides the one that you have played?
MANN: Yes, I hope so. I would want to do something more serious like a tearjerker; maybe playing a mother or sister role with a bit more drama. Also, I’m working on my third gospel album, which is due sometime this year. I don’t have a title yet. It’s really a different approach for me because everybody knows me for doing straight gospel music. I’m doing more urban and a little R&B.
ESSENCE.COM: What are some of the craziest behind-the-scenes moments that have happened, and how do you keep a straight face when your husband, David Mann (who plays Mr. Brown), is showing out?
MANN: Behind-the-scene moments with David are when he gets into character and I have to keep him from kissing me as Mr. Brown. It’s one of the hardest things because I told him once I get into character and put my wig and clothes on, I’m serious. But he still wants to kiss me like I’m still his wife. I’m like, “No you’re my dad now so you can’t be kissing me!” Then he pats me on the butt a lot behind the scenes. I’m like, “You can’t keep doing that in front of all these people!” (Laughs.) It’s never a dull moment.