Can Somebody Please Put Keke Palmer On ‘Game Of Thrones’?
Calling Keke Palmer a triple threat wouldn’t begin to cover it. The actress, singer, dancer, writer, producer, author and influencer is only 23 years old and already on her way to becoming a mogul, if she doesn’t qualify already. From her early roles in Barbershop 2: Back in Business and Akeelah and the Bee, to her take on Chili in CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, Marty in Grease: Live, and Zayday Williams on Scream Queens, Palmer is recognizable to people of all ages, but it’s her own generation of millennials that are hardcore Keke stans, following her highly personalized social media updates and living for her repopularizing phrases like, “That’s the gag.”
Today, Palmer launches her new mockumentary series on YouTube, a fictionalized version of her everyday life that she shot in Los Angeles, despite now living in Atlanta. She just clued fans in to the new project last week, and the response would be akin to the siren alarm emojis that she has surrounding her name on her Twitter handle.
“I’m so happy because I always like to surprise them,” Palmer said, sitting at a table inside the Beverly Hilton. “That’s the part of entertainment that is the most fun to me—getting it right with them. Knowing what they love or what they’ve been cueing into from me, and then being able to piggyback off of it. That’s the creative process for me. I really enjoy that.”
That’s the Gag, Palmer says, is her attempt to show fans the hilarity and duality of her life as an entertainer. The trailer shows the kinds of things that happen to her regularly, from being mistaken for another black actress, to awkward auditions, to switching modes in a matter of moments as her career multitasking often requires.
“You know the industry always takes itself so seriously, but at the same time, no one can tell that it’s taking itself so seriously, unless you’re in it,” Palmer says. “So this is kind of a pretend inside look at what goes on behind the scenes in the industry and how tough it can be and also how fun it can be—and me poking fun at myself, of course.”
Palmer is at the Hilton for the Television Critics press tour, promoting her newest role in Season 2 of the EPIX CIA drama Berlin Station. She joins Ashley Judd and Michelle Forbes as new additions to the cast, ensuring the show now has three formidable women in powerful positions. Palmer plays April Lewis, the “newest and youngest” case officer who works on the ground, and who press notes describe as having a “bracing combination of millennial intrepidity and old-fashioned sass,” not so unlike the actress herself. But Palmer says shooting in Berlin (like she’s been doing for three months) and suiting up as April is what helps her to get into character, especially when she has to move quickly from one role to the next, or from music to acting, or vice versa.
“April has a total different wig than I would wear or that I’m wearing—or the way that I would wear that wig,” Palmer said. “She’s very kind of slacks, tennis shoes, more business, business comfortable, whereas I’m not business-y at all. But when I get in her wardrobe, it brings a whole different kind of more seriousness to me, or when I’m playing Zayday and I’ve got all the prints, and the prints on my shoes and the big hats, I feel more sass coming out of me. And then when I’m just me—I’m just Keke—I’m an entertainer. I’m ready to entertain you from head to toe, and with what’s coming out of my mouth.”
Palmer speaks fast, with seemingly no hesitation, even with her publicist and her mother present. She’s honest and straightforward without concern of slipping up or not staying the right thing, because she’s sharing exactly what’s on her mind, which is one reason fans go crazy for Keke. She shares openly that she isn’t interested in a relationship right now: “Dating is a real hassle, honey. When I know somebody is liking me and their focused on trying to date me, it gives me the heebie jeebies.” She explains she's more interested in keeping her creativity her priority. So much so that she left Los Angeles for Atlanta so that she could keep inspired instead of focusing on the networking and distractions she was finding to be an integral part of Hollywood.
“Atlanta has been awesome because it rejuvenated me,” she said. “Growing up in the entertainment industry, and also in the state in which Hollywood is, it becomes overbearing. L.A. can be a huge distraction. It can kind of be a city where you find yourself chasing your tail. Everything can seem like an opportunity, or something you should be at, or a place where you can talk and be digital and be this and be that. I’m already a workaholic. I’m wasting my time and not getting enough personal life and then at the end not being inspired at all by what I’m seeing. I need a change.”
Palmer returns to L.A. often for work, but says after she finishes shooting Berlin Station, she’ll be back to Atlanta to finish her forthcoming album and work on some visuals to accompany the new tracks. She’s also excited about the new film she is starring in called Pimp.
“It’s a lesbian love story but it’s in the backdrop of her being a pimp, and her growing up in this dark kind of world,” Palmer said. “So that just brings a whole different element and that allows me to tell the story of that person that people see walk down the street and judge.
“It’s about people—it’s about stretching,” Palmer continued. “Acting really allows you to be an emotional daredevil, and I think as a creative, diving into my emotions—no matter how bad or good—it’s really what inspires me to create, and I think that’s all entertainment is, even going back to Shakespeare. You want to make somebody feel something. That’s the whole purpose of being a human being—to feel. Even though we don’t want to feel all that stuff, you wouldn’t have that many emotions if you weren’t supposed to feel and learn from them. And to turn around and be able to create, it gives people so much relief. And that’s the beauty of entertaining to me, and why I can’t limit it to one style or type.”
As for the kind of role she’s dying to try next? “I’m watching Game of Thrones, honey,” she says. “I was never into the show at first. I was like ‘People are too busy on this medieval shit—I’m not interested.’ Girl, I sat down one day in Berlin—because you know I have all this time—I sat down and watched it and I’m on Season 4. You know they are already on seven seasons—I’ve gotta catch up. But I am impressed beyond belief with the writing on the show. I need them to get another black person in the cast. Girl, they need to get me on there. I’m not about to play. I love that show.”