Keke Palmer plays Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas in VH1's "CrazySexyCool:… (Blake Tyers for VH1 )
Keke Palmer is just 20 years old, but she has a resume that could belong to someone twice her age.
Born in Harvey and raised in Robbins just south of Chicago, Palmer has been working steadily since facing off against Queen Latifah as an 11-year-old in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business." In 2006, she starred in "Akeelah and the Bee" and "Madea's Family Reunion," and also headlined Nickelodeon's "True Jackson, VP."
Palmer has a lot going on these days, too. She has a new album coming out, plays Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas in "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" and does a ton of talking on the new series "Full Circle," premiering at 9 p.m. CT Oct. 9 on DirecTV's Audience Network. Written and directed by playwright Neil LaBute, the 10-part series focuses on 11 characters who are somehow all connected. Each episode takes place in a restaurant and focuses on a conversation between two people.
Palmer plays a young woman whose gay brother killed himself after being bullied when a famous comedian speaks ill of him online. In one episode she confronts the comedian, Jace (David Boreanaz), whom she blames for his death. In another, she takes on Cliff (Devon Gearhart), one of the high-school boys she suspects bullied her brother.
Bullying, both online and in person, is an issue Palmer has spoken out against in the past. She was interested in the project because celebrities' influence on Twitter or Facebook hasn't yet been the subject of a drama.
"It really is a big deal with social media," said Palmer, who has more than 1.3 million Twitter followers. "And you as a celebrity also need to understand the power that you hold because if you say someone's an idiot, nine times out of 10 if you have a lot of fans, everyone's gonna believe that person is an idiot, too. So you have to be really careful of what you say."
The dark story and the intense focus on the actors—because nothing else happens but their conversations—made the project especially challenging for Palmer.
"It was monologue after monologue after monologue," she said. "This was my first time working or even knowing about Neil LaBute's work. So I was definitely in for a surprise."
It was a far cry from her experience on "CrazySexyCool," which airs at 8 p.m. CT Oct. 21 on VH1. The biopic allows Palmer to show off both her acting and singing talents. She performed TLC songs as a child, she said, and was thrilled to be able to meet and hang out with Chilli before the project began.
"We actually became very close and we had some sleepovers at her house and everything," she said. "She was very open about ... how it was in the group and some of the things that happened that maybe weren't in the script."
"CrazySexyCool" wasn't as emotionally draining as "Full Circle," Palmer said. Physically, however, she had to be in great shape for the role.
"I was like working so hard on the abs," she said. "She's known for being sexy and for her abs, so I worked like crazy."
Palmer and I talked more about her projects and how she got started in acting. Read more after the "Full Circle" promor and the list of Palmer's current activities.
What are you ...
... reading? I am reading "Heaven is for Real."
... watching? "Catfish," I love "Catfish."
... listening to? Drake's new album "Nothing was the Same." I love it.
... browsing? necolebitchie.com
... playing? I play "NBA Jams." And I also play "Tekken."
... working on? Right now I'm working on this movie called "Brotherly Love."
How it was taking on Angel? I hear you were a fan of "Angel" when you were younger.
Yeah, definitely. I was just like, "Oh man, this is Angel!" I was like, "I always think about you from 'Angel'" and stuff like that. You know, I've kind of gotten good at keeping my starstruckness under wraps. Like I grew up watching this guy, so it's fun.
It was hard to take on this script, there was so much. So that alone was difficult and something I had to get my head around. And then as we started working together, it was about allowing those beats to find you and not making them forced. Because we are sitting there and we aren't moving at all it's just a conversation, we want to make sure that we get all the levels and we keep people wanting to watch. ... So I had to really learn the line as best as I could, get my memorization down to the most perfect T, and then just allow the words to hit me naturally.
David is so patient—he was so patient with me and he allowed me to have those moments, as I allowed him to have those moments. It was just really good to work with someone like that because we both allowed each other to let the moments happen naturally.