The Madea movies weren’t built on Madea alone.\
Sure, audiences have flocked to theaters ever since 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” to see what crazy antics Tyler Perry’s straight-shootin’ granny would get up to next. But fans of the Madea Cinematic Universe long ago figured out that each movie is chock-full of outrageous characters along for the ride.
One such secret weapon keeping the franchise fresh is Madea’s close pal Hattie Mae Love, played with manic glee by Patrice Lovely. Following the past two flicks in the series — “Boo! A Madea Halloween” and its sequel — Hattie returns for the latest, “A Madea Family Funeral.”
“Hattie is in mourning with the family,” Lovely tells The Post. “She is trying to comfort the bereaved, and you know how that goes with Madea. That’s a mess — but it’s a good mess.”
Born in Jackson, Miss., Lovely, 51, was raised by her mother in Hamilton, Ohio, and Troy, Ala. At one point, the family was on welfare, but her mother went on to work at a shirt factory and as a pastor at a Pentecostal church. That last gave Lovely a taste for gospel music, which led to her releasing two independent albums and working as a singing ringmaster in the UniverSoul Circus.
Today, she’s best known for a role she created for a gospel stage play: Hattie, a feisty 76-year-old with a distinct voice that somehow sounds like an elderly baby. Complete with a catchphrase — “Ain’t that niiiiiice!” — the character was inspired by Lovely’s own grandmother and aunt.
“The thing is, they didn’t know they were funny,” says Lovely. “Myself, my siblings and my cousins, we would be cackling. We used to do stuff or say things just to get them all hyped up. When they got started, the laughter just kept coming.”
Hattie scored big laughs from audiences, too. Perry, whose Madea character also originated in a gospel play, in 1999, heard about Hattie and flew out to Detroit to see Lovely do a show, the actress says.
“He loved the character, and from there, we were locked and loaded. We were inseparable,” says Lovely. “That character Hattie just jells so well with Madea, it’s like we’ve been knowing each other all of our lives.”
Hattie first appeared with Madea in the 2011 play “A Madea Christmas,” and by 2013, Perry had created a television show starring Hattie. The sitcom “Love Thy Neighbor” ran for five seasons on the Oprah Winfrey Network, concluding in 2017.
So far, Lovely’s mostly been seen on-screen wearing old-age makeup, which takes up to an hour and a half to put on. Even so, she gets noticed on the street in Atlanta, where she now lives.
“I’m like, ‘How in the world do you recognize Patrice out of character?’ Because it’s night and day!” she says, laughing. “But those are my die-hard fans . . . They’ve already Googled!”