Our brilliant and beloved television program Atlanta may have ended its storied run, but its themes and stories will reverberate in our minds long after the crew did donuts in that pink Maserati. Recently, a TikTok storytime went viral in part because it sounds exactly like “Work Ethic,” the fifth episode of Atlanta's final season.
“Work Ethic” comically satirizes the Perry Studios apparatus, with Donald Glover wearing prosthetics to depict a fictional character named Kirkwood Chocolate—an obvious parody of Tyler Perry himself. When Van shows up at the massive film production grounds to fill a cameo role, Mr. Chocolate takes a liking to her daughter, Lottie, essentially firing Van and reworking the film on the spot to revolve around her young child. The episode stretches the satire to its limits, showing a mystifying and chaotic operation that functions in spite of itself.
In the aforementioned TikTok, an entertainer named Brandin Jay recalls a time when he was just a wee young tyke on a television set, just like Lottie. However, this wasn’t any television set—it was for Meet the Browns, a Tyler Perry production. And as “Work Ethic” so deftly depicted, Tyler Perry productions are anything but normal.
@brandinjay Filming Meet The Browns Storytime! Like for Part 2. #meetthebrowns❤️ #meetthebrowns🎥 #tylerperry #mrbrown #amazonprime #foryoupage #fyp #tiktok #storytime #actingtok #brandinjay ♬ original sound - Brandin Jay
The director of this particular Meet the Browns was Alfonso Ribeiro, best known as Carlton of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and as America’s Funniest Home Videos’ current host. After a short amount of time rehearsing, Jay learns that Perry began rewriting the entire script, completely changing the character he signed on to play. For some reason, Perry’s inspiration called him to turn the character into gay child who has a crush on his bully. He’s supposed to learn his new lines and character in just an hour.
After running lines for the new script with his costar Tamela Mann, Jay gets word that the script has been changed yet again. Of course, since he was a novice actor and a minor at the time, Jay was nervous and had trouble performing. Eventually though, he rose to the occasion, crying real tears and confronting a bully in a pivotal scene.
Aside from the inherently meta nature of what went on here and the fact that Jay says it was the “hardest thing” he’s done in his ”entire life,” Jay views the experience positively, as it was in his view a crash course in acting. An alternate perspective is that there’s a reason most major players in Hollywood don’t operate like this. One could argue that this brutal churn-and-burn process is one of many reasons why Perry’s output is so polarizing.
We aren’t sure if Glover and “Work Ethic” writer Janine Nabers were inspired by Jay’s story, but it seems they were certainly familiar with his, um, work ethic. Peep the video above for part one of an epic anecdote that's stretched out across five videos on Brandin Jay's TikTok account.
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