Keke Palmer caught wind of the criticism that her character on the Fox series Scream Queens is a loudmouthed, neck-rolling hood rat—traits that play on stereotypes about how young African-American girls from working-class communities behave.
She told BuzzFeed that she doesn’t agree with that interpretation of her character and that she’s OK with the script because her character isn’t one-dimensional.
“I love that she’s from Oakland. I also love that she has attitude, she has kickback. She’s smart. She’s not a one-note character,” Palmer explained.
Palmer argued that it’s up to the actor to develop the character that is on the page and to give her substance.
“Being the only African-American female that’s part of the sorority, I think as an actor, it’s up to me to be honest about what I am comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with. I get to work with people every day that respect my opinion just as much as they respect everybody else’s,” Palmer said.
“For me, I hadn’t found any moments where I looked at my script and said, ‘Whoa! This is not something I want to say.’ Because ultimately, it’s up to me on how I deliver it as well. As an actor, that’s your job, to gauge it. You talk to your director: ‘Hey, this line feels a little bit one-note.’ And then maybe they’ll tell you another way to do it that maybe you hadn’t thought of yet,” she explained.
Palmer said that at first glance, there will appear to be stereotypes exhibited in the other characters, but again, the actor brings other stuff to the table to balance that out.
“Even Emma Roberts’ character. You can look at the character and say, ‘Oh, she’s supposed to be this stereotypical rich girl.’ But as time goes on, you start to see that these characters that you think we stereotypically know are much, much deeper.”
Palmer doesn’t mind adding familiar features to her Moesha-esque character, because she’s supposed to be playing someone from that community.
“My character was basically inspired by Moesha. On Moesha, I felt like she was someone that was part of my culture, and that was very important to me. When doing the show, it’s important that we do add those things—something that I would say, or someone like me would say. I like that we have those real moments.”
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.