Keke Palmer, actress

ShoWest 2006 Rising Star of the Year

The Hollywood Reporter: You're accepting the Rising Star of the Year Award at ShoWest. How did you feel when you heard about it?
Keke Palmer: It was a phone call. My mom came to me and said, "You just won the Rising Star award," and I was like, "You're kidding me." My heart was just so happy.

THR: You've been nominated for some other pretty amazing awards as well. What was it like being nominated for a SAG Award with veteran stars such as Charlize Theron and Hilary Swank?
Palmer: I couldn't believe it at first. When my mom came to tell me, I was just sitting there (like), "She's kidding me -- I don't believe it." I don't even know it's true until I'm there at the place. I just love to be dressed up and going to awards.

THR: How did you get into show business?
Palmer: My mom did singing. We always played instruments in the basement. So, I always knew I'd do something in the entertainment business.

THR: When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
Palmer: When I was 9 years old, my mom was reading in the newspaper about auditions for "The Lion King." My mom asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said, "Of course" -- because I love to sing, I love to dance. So, I'd maybe try to act. My dad took me to the place where they had auditions at -- this was in Chicago, the touring production -- and I made it down to the top 15, and then I was out. I was like, "I like how this goes down. I want to keep at it." My mom said, "This will be a fun little hobby thing." So, she found me an agent.

THR: Have you studied acting?
Palmer: No, it just kind of comes to me. People say, "How does she do this so well?" And my mom is like, "She just does it herself." Some people get amazed by that, and me and my mom are like, "What's the big deal?" It just comes naturally to me, and I'm really grateful for that. It's a great gift, and I'm blessed. And I've had excellent scripts.

THR: In your first film, "Barbershop 2," you were already working with such stars as Queen Latifah and Cedric the Entertainer. Was that intimidating?
Palmer: No. They both were very nice people. Kevin (Rodney) Sullivan was the film director, and he helped me. It was a fun experience. The lines were hilarious, and I just fell right into them. I knew my lines, so I wasn't worried about not knowing my lines.

THR: How do you hold your own with people like that?
Palmer: A lot of people say that. They're just like regular people. They don't make you feel unwanted. They welcome you just like any other person who talks to them. I'm very lucky and very blessed that they are people who are happy with me.

THR: You said that Angela Bassett was helpful to you on the set. How was she helpful?
Palmer: She was helpful like William H. Macy. There was a scene where I had to cry, and I was having a hard time bringing all that emotion out. She said, "Think about your friends. They don't want to be your friends, and your parents are leaving you." And boom, I was crying. I don't know how she did that. All she did was say a couple of words. I hope I can do that one day.