Keke Palmer Interview: 'True Jackson, VP' Star Talks 'Joyful Noise,' Her Album & Turning 18
Keke Palmer has had one busy summer. The multitalented teen star not only appeared in the season 11 premiere of TeenNick's "Degrassi" and debuted two new songs, "Walls Come Down" and "The Greatest," but she also wrapped filming on a one-hour True Jackson, VP movie "Mystery in Peru." But Nickelodeon's teen queen has even bigger things to worry about now--like celebrating her eighteenth birthday.
"I think my boyfriend and my best friend are putting something together, but they're not telling me," Palmer tells The Huffington Post. "I'm excited! I love surprises because I get stressed out easily, so if I don't have to think about it, then it takes the stress off me."
While every teenager across America recognizes Palmer as True Jackson from her hit Nickelodeon show, "True Jackson, VP," the 18-year-old has been in the business for quite awhile now, starring in her first movie, "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" with Queen Latifah, at age 11. She landed her first starring role in the critically-acclaimed "Akeelah and the Bee," alongside Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, at just 13-years-old. But 2012 will be Palmer's biggest year to date, starring in "Joyful Noise" with Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah, lending her voice to the anticipated "Ice Age: Continental Drift," and producing her first ever film--"Ragz"--for Nickelodeon.
"When I first started out, everything was so fresh and so new and so fun," says Palmer, "And I didn't really pay attention to the business side of things, but as you get older, you start to notice things that you hadn't really thought of before, like producing. It was hard at first; Being a producer gives your opinion a little bit more weight. I was almost uncomfortable having so much power. It was hard to let myself have an opinion on things."
And when it comes to balancing her budding career with some sense of normalcy, Palmer says it's all about distancing herself from Hollywood.
"I have a few celebrity friends, but I'm really not into the whole Hollywood scene," says Palmer. "I like to separate myself from my work. It stresses me out if I do too much of the same. I can't work all day and then go home and hang out with the same people. I don't want everything to revolve around the entertainment business. Yes, that's my career, but it's not my life."
The teenager also wants to make it big in the music industry, hoping to release her sophomore album next summer.
"The music industry is something that I'm still trying to understand," admits the Nickelodeon star. "With acting, I've been doing it for so long, that I understand every aspect of it for the most part--there are obviously still more aspects that I need to learn--but I have a grasp on it. With music, I'm still learning. I'm still getting used to it."
Palmer's next big role will be in the 2012 family film, "Joyful Noise," where Palmer plays a young teenage girl, butting heads with her mother, looking to grow up and find who she is--much like Palmer herself. In the midst of finishing school and staring a full-fledged movie career, Palmer's had a lot of decisions to make this past year, but at least she had her two extremely successful co-stars to help guide her along the way--Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.
"Filming with them was absolutely amazing," says Palmer. "I had the pleasure of filming my first ever role with Queen Latifah, and she was just as kind this time as she was the first time. It just goes to show how great of a character she has. She was just so welcoming, and then Dolly Parton--oh, my God. I just expected her to be a little bit guarded, but she wasn't at all. She's like a mother. She made fudge bars for everyone on set. She doesn't let the difficulties of her job stop her from being awesome. I learned so much from both of them."
Even though she's starred in film with powerhouse actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah, Tyler Perry and Angela Bassett, Palmer still considers herself to be a normal 18-year-old teen. She loves music, James Franco, catches "Freaks and Geeks" and "Doug" every night on TeenNick, still dreams of meeting Will Smith and Mariah Carey, and can spend all day talking about "Degrassi"--and gush about her good friend Drake.
"I'm totally normal," says Palmer. "I love watching movies and hanging out with me friends at my house. I still go to the mall, I love to text and go on my computer. I'm totally normal--sounds kind of boring, right?"