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Keke Palmer on ‘Scream Queens’: ‘It’s a Dream Come True’

Former Nickelodeon star Keke Palmer, who rose to fame on “True Jackson VP,” will be scaring up a whole new fandom on “Scream Queens,” from executive producer Ryan Murphy. The singer stars as the confident co-ed Zayday, who gets talked into pledging the sorority by her roommate Grace (Skyler Samuels).

How did you get cast?

It was kind of random. Ryan called my agent to see if it was something I was interested in. We met up, he told me a little bit about the show, to see what I wanted to do as an actor, what I was looking for. I told him I’d been wanting to do comedy for a very long time. I did it with “True Jackson” but hadn’t been able to do as an adult. So I was really looking forward to getting an opportunity like that. He was immediately like, “You are who I think this character is.” Next thing I knew, I was doing this show.

What has the experience been like?

It’s been a dream come true. You get to grow on the show. You get to be a part of creating your character. The way the writers go about it, they input part of who you are – and they exaggerate it. Whether it’s more funny or more dramatic, they just take little bits and expand on them. It makes it fun for you because you get to go deeper into that part of you that you didn’t know was there.

What is it like working with Ryan Murphy?

It’s really different working with Ryan. He’s the type of director that lets you do your thing. That can be nervewracking as an actor because depending on your experience, you might have been with a lot of directors who over-direct or directors who are very specific. It’s not very often that you get directors like Ryan who trust you so much with what he feels you can do with the character that he lets you go off the rails a bit. It was scary at first when I first start working with him. But then I realized what he was doing was make me independent as an actor. He brought out the best out in me.

Are you enjoying it?

It’s what I need for this time. Right now, at this stage in my career, I need someone who’s allowing me to be creative. It’s a great time for me to expand on my abilities.

What have you learned from working with Jamie Lee Curtis?

She’s the coolest lady. There’s nothing you can ever say negative about someone like her. She’s the sweetest person you could ever meet. I wasn’t on set for a couple of days and she was like, “You were really missed. Where’s our Keke?” She’s such a class act. She teaches us girls coming up how to be. She sets a great example. I’m blessed in my career to work with people like that.

What about the rest of the cast?

We don’t spent too much time partying around. New Orleans is the bomb! Every now and then we go out, but there’s too much work to do. Most of my scenes are with Skyler (Samuels), so I’m closest to her. And Lucien Laviscount, since my scenes are with him, too.

Are you a fan of horror films?

I grew up loving horror films. But I had to step away since I didn’t want all that negative stuff in my psyche. I didn’t want to conceptualize those thoughts into my life.

But “Scream Queens” really sends up that genre. The girls take charge!

It’s a really smart look at our generation. I’m all about our generation and the emotions of the millennials, and Ryan has a great grasp on our generation. He has a great way of making light of it and poking fun at it without being disrespectful. They have a good way of offering an inside look that other people wouldn’t know. If there’s a gay character, you think you know that character, but then you realize these stereotypes and judgments are not real and there’s a lot more depth. Emma (Roberts) is playing the rich girl, but she’s more than that. We’ll give you what we assume to be the stereotype, but there’s so much more than that. And I really appreciate that. It’s good to have that on (broadcast) where so any people are going to see it. They’re going to be exposed to so many kinds of people in a way they never have before.

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