Keke Palmer Turns Producer & Is Ready to Call the Shots [EXCLUSIVE]
The 19-year-old actress embarks on new endeavors
Audiences were captivated by Keke Palmer in her breakout role in 2006’s Akeelah and the Bee. She was just a minor then. Nowadays, the triple-threat entertainer has blossomed into a young woman, who is gearing up to take Hollywood by the reigns as a performer and a businesswoman.
Palmer’s latest project is a TV movie she co-produced with Nick Cannon titled Rags; it's a Cinderella-like story that revolves around a young man and has a hip-hop twist. Palmer co-stars as “Kadee,” a pop princess who is ready to break free from her boring routine.
Here, Palmer chats with Loop 21 about overcoming her fear of calling the shots and why Nickelodeon fans should tune in to Rags.
Loop 21: Talk about what attracted you to Rags.
Palmer: Nick Cannon asked me to come on board as a producer. I could be a part of the development, see the script, make changes, have a say with the music, so it was really fun for me to be creative on that part. I love music and I’m very close with the Nickelodeon family having done “True Jackson VP,” so I said, 'Let’s do it.'
Loop 21: What did you learn about yourself by getting a taste of production?
Palmer: I learned that I need to stop being so afraid. I’m very afraid of coming off as being 'too much.' But as a producer, you have to say what you want, what you like, and what you don’t like, because if you don’t then it will never happen, so you have to become comfortable in not being afraid to say, 'Hey, this is what I need to be done,' and you can still do it politely.
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Loop 21: Tell us about your role in Rags.
Palmer: I play Kadee and she’s awesome. She seems like she has the perfect life, but in reality she wants to change and show her true colors. She reminds you of Rihanna and Beyoncé, but she wants to go deeper than just pop [music]. She’s at a point in her career where she’s tired of being a robot and wants to step out and be on her own.
Loop 21: Why do you think Rags will resonate with viewers?
Palmer: You never see this type of story with a male [lead] and I think a lot of guys, when they see the movie, they’ll be inspired to go out there and do their thing too. The theme is about people being afraid to do what they want and letting others hold them back, but that’s never been done in a male form, because a lot of times that’s not seen as masculine. The appeal here is that it shows the story from the guy's point of view. Also, I think the music will be great. It's produced by Rodney Jerkins, so you know how it’s gonna be -- pop but with undertones of R&B. And it will be different for people to see me in this artist role. My roles are usually shy and introverted.
Loop 21: What’s going on with your career in real life?
Palmer: I definitely see myself going on tour after my mixtape comes out next month. It’s almost done, I have one more song to do, but I see myself going on a college tour. That’s the crowd that I’m trying to reach. And I finished Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. That’s coming out July 13.
Loop 21: Speaking of kids, I know you’re working on an anti-bullying campaign.
Palmer: Saving Our Daughters is a program that I work with; it was created by [Curtis Benjamin]. I’ve worked with him before and he created this for me because I was bullied when I was a kid and I felt there was a need to get involved. Hopefully young kids can see me, be inspired to help stop bullying, and make sure that people don’t just stand by and let it happen.
Loop 21: Reality TV has gotten a lot of backlash from people who believe it encourages bullying.
Palmer: I think parents should explain to kids what they’re watching. I've never believed that TV or music changes people. If you’re not educated on what you’re listening to or watching, then maybe you shouldn’t be if you can’t understand what it is. When I listen to Tupac, I don’t want to go and kill nobody and be a gangbanger. My mom taught me that's not the best way to live and that you have to do the best you can with your own life. My little sister is 11 and she watches “Teen Mom,” but my mom makes sure she knows that this should be an example of what not to do.
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Loop 21: Would you ever do reality TV?
Palmer: I wouldn’t do reality TV, but I’d do something like a talk show because I like to talk, and I feel like there’s a lot of different things going on -- violence, bullying and sex -- that aren’t being touched on for my demographic, so anything that I could do for them would be important to me.
Loop 21: Do you watch reality TV?
Palmer: Yeah, “Bad Girls Club.” I watch that, but you don’t see me doing that. It’s entertainment, you have to know what’s entertainment and what’s real and what’s not. It’s just like a soap opera, it’s meant to shock you, you’re not meant to actually do it.
Rags premieres at 8PM EST Monday May 28th on Nickelodeon