Tyler Perry is sitting in the director’s chair of his new film “Daddy’s Little Girls“, staring at the monitors while his crew finishes fussing over the details of what a kitchen in the ‘hood should look like. As set stylists haggle over the exact configuration of dirty dishes, Chinese food containers and empty soda cans on the kitchen counter, Perry rubs his head and sighs heavily, like he’s on the edge of too-through. The gesture prompts his set seamstress to jokingly chide him for being impatient, but Perry insists he’s just tired. “This is 18 months of nonstop working,” he says.

For sure, Perry’s been running full speed up the box-office charts with his hugely successful films and book that feature his beloved character–alter ego, Madea. But a bit of that head rubbing can easily be attributed to the challenge Perry’s new romantic drama brings as it makes its way to the silver screen. Shot in Atlanta, “Daddy’s Little Girls ” is about a blue-collar divorce (Idris Elba) struggling to balance fatherhood and a burgeoning relationship with a high-profile attorney (Gabrielle Union). It’s a straight-up love story — and Madea isn’t in it.

Producer Reuben Cannon isn’t worried. He says Perry’s fans will love the film’s portrayal of a strong Black father providing for his children. And Union agrees. “This is not your typical boy-meets-girl,” she says. “We see the whole dynamic of what happens when a relationship that produces children doesn’t end well, and all parties don’t behave maturely. It’s a story that happens every day in our community. It’s interesting and appealing to us, but not necessarily to the people who normally make films. Tyler kind of turns that whole thing on its head.”