with Kam Williams
Headline: Kicking It with Keke
Lauren Keyana Palmer was born on August 26, 1993 in Harvey, Illinois to Sharon, an elementary school teacher, and Lawrence, a salesman. The second of four children, Keke showed such promise at an early age that her parents decided to relocate the family to Los Angeles when she was just nine years-old. And that same year, she made her screen debut as Ice Cube’s niece in Barberbershop 2: Back in Business.
Then, after bit roles on such TV series as Cold Case, Law & Order, ER, she found international fame as the title character in the critically-acclaimed Akeelah and the Bee for which she won an NAACP Image Award and a host of other accolades. Also, in 2006, she played Tyler Perry’s feisty foster child in Madea’s Family Reunion. Since then, the versatile actress/singer has released her own CD on Atlantic Records, So Uncool, and she’s appeared in the Ludacris/Mary J. Blige video for the song Runaway Love.
Here, she talks about her new movie, The Longshots, a bio-pic about Jasmine Plummer, the first female quarterback to lead her team to the Pop Warner Superbowl.
KW: Hey, Keke, thanks for the time.
KP: No problem.
KW: I was just telling your father that your performance in Akeelah and the Bee was very powerful, and had me in tears.
KP: Oh, thank you very much.
KW: Where did you think all that talent came from at such a young age?
KP: I started singing regularly in the choir with my mom. I think it comes from the encouragement my parents and my church gave me to follow my dreams and they’re telling me that I could achieve anything. So, I’ve always felt confident and secure, and was able to be myself and to have a good time. And when the acting came up, I just applied that same approach to movies and television.
KW: I imagine you received a lot of positive feedback after playing the inspirational role of Akeelah.
KP: Yes I did. And because of that movie’s message, I was approached by lots of community organizations like the Girls Scout, It’s Cool to Be Smart and Urban Farming.
KW: I know your mom’s a schoolteacher. Are you home schooled by her?
KP: She was my teacher for a little while, after we first moved to Los Angeles. But now I work independently, except for when I’m shooting a film. When I’m on set, I have a tutor.
KW: After the success of Akeelah and the Bee, were fans always asking you to spell words?
KP: People would sometimes ask me to spell stuff, but I didn’t really feel any pressure.
KW: What interested you in The Longshots?
KP: What mainly interested me in the role was that it was so inspirational. And not only that, but because it’s a true story, I thought it would really motivate young girls to pursue their dreams
KW: After playing Jasmine Plummer, are you going to feel pressure to prove yourself as a football player?
KP: Well, I think the movie speaks for itself, because that was really me playing.
KW: How did you prepare for the role?
KP: I practiced for about four months, getting my arm ready, and then learning the footwork.
KW: Had you ever played football before that?
KP: Oh no, I didn’t have any experience in it at all.
KW: Are you a football fan, now?
KP: Not watching it, but I like playing.
KW: How did you like working with Ice Cube?
KP: It was a lot of fun. I was really excited to work with him one-on-one, because he gave me my first break in Barbershop 2. It was a small role, but it was the second I had ever auditioned for, and the first one I ever got.
KW: How did you get along with Tasha Smith who plays your mother?
KP: Great! I worked with her on the TV show Second Time Around when I first came to California, and I was happy to work with her again because she’s so nice.
KW: What message do you hope kids will take away from this movie?
KP: That you can achieve anything, as long as you put your mind to it, whatever it is, even if it’s supposed to be only for boys, or only for girls, for that matter. You can go as far as you want to go.
KW: Did you ever meet Jasmine Plummer, the girl The Longshots was based on?
KP: Yes, I did. I met her towards the end of the filming. She’s a very nice girl. And luckily, I portrayed her as she was. And I think she was glad about that.
KW: Are you planning to record another CD soon?
KP: No, I just departed from the record label that put out my first album in ’07. So, I’m just going to be doing little stuff here and there, and maybe some soundtracks.
KW: Well, music maven Heather Covington wants to know who you’re you listening to right now.
KP: Hmm… I’m listening to a lot of people. I love Rhianna.
KW: You’re turning 15 soon. How do you plan to celebrate your birthday?
KP: I don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe something small.
KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson wants to know, what was the last book you read?
KP: The last book I read was a novel by Jerry Spinelli called Stargirl.
KW: If you were old enough to vote, who would you vote for for President?
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
KW: Is there any question nobody ever asks you, that you wish somebody would?
KP: No, I think I’ve been asked everything.
KW: How do you fell about the passing of Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes?
KP: I was so shocked when I heard that Bernie Mac had passed. I know he’d been sick for awhile, but I was still really, really sad that he’d died. He was so talented and had worked so hard. I felt the same way about Isaac Hayes. It was so sudden, that I was just shocked. They’re in a better place now, but I’m still sad and we miss them down here.
KW: Are you able to live like a regular teenager? Can you still go to the mall or a movie theater without being followed by fans?
KP: I can most of the time. There are certain situations where they come up to me. I only get noticed if I stand around for a long time.
KW: Do you have a website?
KP: Yes I do, it’s www.kekepalmer.com
KW: Do you answer your fan mail yourself?
KP: Yes I do.
KW: Nosy “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan asks: Where in L.A. do you live?”
KP: In Altadena, about 20 minutes from L.A.
KW: I see you’ll be playing the title character on a new TV show this fall on Nickelodeon.
KP: Yeah, it’s called True Jackson, V.P. It’s about a 15 year-old girl who gets a vice president’s job at a fashion company.
KW: Well, thanks again for the interview, and I wish you the best of success as you continue to blossom into a beautiful young lady.
KP: Thank you very much.