*KeKe Palmer made her acting debut in the 2004 film ‘Barbershop 2: Back in Business,’ and rose to prominence in 2006 for her breakthrough role in “Akeelah and the Bee.”
She is currently a series regular on Ryan Murphy’s campy horror series, “Scream Queens,” and recently made history as the first African-American to appear in the musical “Grease,” for NBC’s live production in which Palmer played Marty.
Keke released her debut album, “So Uncool,” in 2007, and is set to drop a follow-up album for Island Records. On March 4, she premiered the first single “Enemiez,” along with its accompanying video. EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught with Palmer ahead of the song’s release to discuss the inspiration behind the effort, as well as her notable performance in “Grease: Live.”
You’ve spoken about the historical significance of playing Marty in Grease Live! Are you at a point in your career where accepting roles that speak to your culture outweighs other factors that help you determine your interest in a project?
KEKE: I always based roles on what spoke to my heart and that sent the message that I wanted to send. Whether it was with my character specifically or with the overall project. I only would do roles that spoke to me. When I started in the industry, my mom and I, we always did things that way. That in turn is what has given me roles such as Cinderella, and Grease Live. I think people see that type of consciousness in your work, and I think that’s why I’ve been blessed with those types of opportunities.
Is Grease: Live the most significant role of your career so far?
KEKE: One of them, yes – absolutely! I feel like all my roles make me who I am. I would never say one over the other but as far as major significance or giving me the opportunity to really showcase myself, Akeelah and the Bee would be one. My television show True Jackson, VP would be one, Cinderella would be one and then Grease Live!.
Was there ever a moment when you became so overwhelmed by the live show process that you struggled with fear or doubt about whether or not you could pull off an impressive performance?
KEKE: Oh, sure. Not so much with the show, more so with the character. I love doing character work but it’s so nerve-wracking when you’re doing something that’s so iconic. With a character like Marty, there’s certain things people expect from a Pink Lady. And it’s like, you’re trying to honor what is there, while still creating something of your own. So I went through a bit of that, where I was hoping I could accomplish what I’ve accomplished with my characters before, without letting the history of Grease make me nervous.
You were born in Harvey, Illinois, as was I, and us Midwesterners tend to believe that our background allows us to stay grounded in morally decaying cities such as Los Angeles. Do you agree?
KEKE: I would like to think that because I’m from the Midwest, and I definitely do think that there is a certain amount of groundedness that you culturally get from being from an area like that, but ultimately I think it’s down to you having that foundation within yourself. I think my relationship with God is what allows me to remain strong and have a good sense of self throughout all the different things that have happened in the industry and will continue to happen. I honestly think that it is my understanding of this relationship that allows me to feel confident anywhere I go.
Your new Jeremih-assisted party anthem “Enemiez,” is the first taste of your sophomore album. What can fans expect from this effort?
KEKE: They can expect everything that encompasses me as an entertainer. With all my other situations before music, I often felt like my voice wasn’t heard. With this album, this is the first time I’m feeling like, creatively, I’m in the diver’s seat. I feel like this is going to be the most personal record I’ve ever put together because I’m the one that’s steering the wheel and I’m clear on what I want to say, and clear on what I want to do and my vision is clear, and the message is clear. And the video, I wrote the treatment for it for it, and it encompasses all things me.
“Grease: Live” is currently available on DVD, and check out Keke’s music video below for “Enemiez f/ Jeremih.”