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Everything to Know About Password Host Keke Palmer's Extensive Career
From Nickelodeon to Nope, here's everything to know about the triple threat and recent Emmy nominee.
There’s no doubt that Keke Palmer has come a long way since her Nickelodeon and Disney days: Though she started out as a child actor, she has proven that she can handle both mature, serious roles and a musical career. However, she also knows when to let her signature sense of humor shine through, especially when she hosts the NBC game show Password.
“Keke Palmer is one of the most talented human beings I’ve ever met,” Queen Latifah told Time in 2022. “Watching Keke evolve as a young woman has been a joy. She is the epitome of grace, poise, and honesty.”
Here’s everything to know about Keke Palmer’s impressive career, from Akeelah and the Bee to Password.
Keke Palmer's Movie and TV roles
Keke Palmer in Barbershop 2
Palmer started acting at the age of nine, and her first on-screen role was as Gina’s niece in Barbershop 2: Back in Business in 2004.
Palmer was also very proud of her fashion statements around this time of her acting career. “I was about 10 years old, and I was going to the Barbershop 2 premiere. My mom got me a little custom jean look made. Honey, my jean look was everything. I had pink fur on the collar, pink fur on the sleeves, I was just giving you life, honey. I wish I had the same poses that I did back then, because I was really taking photos. I was giving you everything,” Palmer told told W Magazine in January.
Keke Palmer's Early Guest Roles: SVU, ER, Cold Case
One of Palmer's first television roles was when she depicted a young girl in named Arletta Marion in Season 1, Episode 13 of Cold Case. While the episode called "The Letter" aired in 2004, the scenes with Palmer's character took place in 1939.
She also played Tasha Wright in a Season 7 episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2005 titled "Storm," a young girl who was abducted with her sisters from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
That same year, Palmer had a role in ER in the Season 11 Finale episode titled "The Show Must Go On." Palmer played an 11-year-old girl named Janell Parkerson who broke her wrist when a porch collapsed. When Dr. Carter was treating her, he realized he'd delivered Parkerson when she was born during the first Season.
Keke Palmer in Akeelah and the Bee
Palmer’s breakout role was the lead character in the 2006 hit film Akeelah and the Bee, which tells a story of a precocious 11-year-old girl in Los Angeles who competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee while facing many challenges at home.
In a DVD commentary for the movie, director Doug Atchison said that he chose to cast Palmer because he was impressed with her subtle character choices and deep understanding of the script. "I realized that in Keke, I had found somebody.. .I didn't want to have to painstakingly extract a performance from a kid line by line, but somebody who I could collaborate on as an actor and a director, and not just a child, even though she was a child," he said.
Keke Palmer's Other Early Movie Roles: Madea's Family Reunion, Jump In, The Long Shots, Shrink
For Madea's Family Reunion in 2006, Madea becomes the foster parent to Palmer's character, Nikki Grady, who has had a difficult life with an absent father and an incarcerated mother. Nikki and Madea frequently argue due to their stubborn natures, but eventually warm up to each other after Nikkiy begins to take Madea's good intentions and words of wisdom to heart.
In 2007, Palmer reprised her role as Nikki in the Season 2 premiere of the television show Tyler Perry's House of Payne.
Palmer was also in the 2007 Disney sports film Jump In!, in which she played Mary Thomas, a competitive double-dutch player who frequently bickered with her neighbor Izzy.
In the 2008 sports drama film The Long Shots, Palmer acted alongside her Barbershop 2 co-star Ice Cube. Based on a true story, Palmer depicted the lead character Jasmine Plummer, the first girl to play at the Pop Warner Football Tournament. After Jasmine's team made it to the championships in the film, she decided to let her uncle, former football player Curtis Plummer (Ice Cube) into her life as her father figure.
A year later, Palmer starred as a central character in the black comedy film Shrink. An extremely mature role for Palmer, she played Jemma, an emotionally troubled high school girl who was required to see a therapist after having an angry outburst at school. With a creative mind, Jemma was an cinephile and aspiring filmmaker, and the film depicts her coping with her mother's death.
Palmer then starred alongside Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah in the musical ensemble film "Joyful Noise," which is about a group of small-town women who attempt to save their choir by participating in a singing competition. Showing off her vocal chops, Palmer played Latifah's daughter Olivia, and a clip of her singing a gorgeous arrangement of "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson can be watched here.
Keke Palmer in True Jackson VP
Many fans also might know Palmer as the titular role in the Nickelodeon show True Jackson VP, which aired from 2008 through 2011 and followed Palmer’s character as she was appointed the vice president of an apparel line by a fashion executive when she was only a teenager.
“I started acting when I was 9. I was 14 when I did True Jackson, VP, and it was my own show. I remember thinking, Wow! This is crazy! When that show came out, everything changed for me. It was a whirlwind experience,” Palmer told W Magazine.
Keke Palmer in CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story
In 2013, Palmer portrayed "Chili," one of the members of the R&B girl group TLC, in the biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story. According to an interview with Essence, the remaining members of TLC were very involved in the process of selecting the right actress to depict the respective roles. Palmer was very immersed in the process of becoming Chili, studying her performances and interviews, and meeting her in person.
Keke Palmer, the Ice Age Franchise, and Other Animation Work
Palmer is also a talented voice actress: She provided the voice of Peaches in two beloved animated children's films, Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) and Ice Age: Collision Course (2016). Peaches was a young mammoth and the daughter of the main character, Manny. In the 2012 movie, Peaches went through a rebellious teenage phase and found love; she then gotmarried in the 2016 film.
"It gave me the opportunity to learn how to use my imagination and really allow myself to put my emotions on film," Palmer said of recording Collision Course in an interview with HeyUGuys.
As for her other voice work, Palmer has also voiced Aisha in the Nickelodeon animated series The Winx Club from 2011-2015. Aisha was the fairy of waves, and was known for being self-confident and a talented athlete.
Palmer also provided the voice of Maya for the reboot of The Proud Family, which aired on Disney+ in 2022. Maya was the teenage friend (and sometimes rival) of the lead character, Penny. Maya was a 14-year-old social justice activist who was extremely wise for her age and believed she was above superficial cliques.
Keke Palmer's Later TV Guest Roles: Key and Peele, 90210, Grey's Anatomy, Masters of Sex, Insecure
Palmer also had guest roles in some of highly successful TV shows in the 2010s.
She showed off her expert comedic timing in a 2013 Key and Peele sketch called "Obama Shutdown." In the bit, Palmer played Malia Obama's "anger translator" who tried to convince her parents to let her go to a party.
"If you don't let me go to this party, I will get a tattoo. On my face," she said on Malia's behalf. (You can still watch the hilarious sketch.)
Palmer also had a recurring role in the finale season of 90210 as Elizabeth Harwood, who appeared in four episodes in Season 5 in 2013. Originally from New York, Harwood was the sister of Jordan Welland, and her mother was Judge Cheryl Harwood.
In 2014, Palmer starred in a Season 10 episode of Grey's Anatomy titled "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Palmer played a young pregnant woman named Sheryll Jefferies, who also had a heart condition and was desperately trying to be a part of an experimental medical trial that would treat her illness.
That same year, Palmer starred in four episodes of Masters of Sex, playing the role of Coral in Season 2. Coral was the nanny who took care of series leads Libby and Bill's baby, and was subjected to frequent racist harassment and belittlement by Libby.
In 2021, Palmer played Kira in Season 5 episode 3 of the critically acclaimed series Insecure. Kira was the sister of Condola Hayes, and visited her after Hayes gave birth to her son. However, the sisters' relationship was on the rocks, as they frequently bickered in humorous moments in the episode.
Keke Palmer's Later TV Roles: Scream Queens, Berlin Station, Star, Turnt Up with the Taylors,
Palmer is also known for playing Zayday Williams, one of the main characters in the ensemble comedy Scream Queens from 2015-2016. Her character was an intelligent overachiever who was the co-president of the sorority Kappa Kappa Tau.
In 2017, Palmer starred in a mockumentary series titled That’s the Gag, which was loosely based on her own experience in show business.
That same year, Palmer started her role in Season 2 of the spy thriller series Berlin Station. Palmer played April Lewis, a young CIA Agent assigned to Berlin Station, and continued the role until the show's third and final season.
"With a bracing combination of millennial intrepidity and old-fashioned sass, April brings a new-guard mentality often at odds with her old-guard colleagues in a system struggling to preserve its besieged identity. But she is determined to make her mark in Berlin, as she did back home at Headquarters," The Hollywood Reporter wrote about the role.
That year, she also played Gigi Nixon on Season 2 and 3 of the musical drama "Star." Gigi was a successful singer, but she also came with a feisty attitude and rough past, and often manipulated other characters on the show.
In 2021, Palmer received her first Emmy Award for playing five characters in her TV series Turnt Up with the Taylors, which is a fictional comedy series about a reality-show family.
We also caught a glimpse of Palmer's horror acting skills when she starred as Kym in the third and final season of the slasher series Scream in 2019, a show based on the movies of the same name. Kym was an opinionated social activist who tried to put others first... until her own life was in danger.
Keke Palmer in Hustlers
Palmer also played Mercedes in the critically-acclaimed 2019 film Hustlers. Mercedes was a clever dancer who helps her friends unlock their criminal schemes. "I definitely feel like this is kind of a pinnacle for me," Palmer told Nylon about her role in Hustlers. "I think people will see me in a different light after this movie."
A year earlier, Palmer had tackled another gritty role as the lead character Wednesday in the 2018 film Pimp. The movie was about is a female pimp (Palmer) who pulled business tricks to fight for her family's survival, and slowly began to turn her life around amidst a series of hardships.
Keke Palmer in Nope
Palmer also played the lead role of Emerald Haywood, a descendant of a horse training company owner, in Jordan Peele’s horror-comedy Nope in 2022.
A review from Collider praised Palmer's performance in Nope. "Palmer plays every emotional note to perfection. She has a great sense of comedic timing, excellent physical presence, and delivers some of the best lines of the film. She does so with impeccable tact, able to convey both the charisma and concern that is doing battle inside of Emerald," the outlet wrote.
Keke Palmer Hosted Saturday Night Live
In an interview with NBC's Mark Barger, Palmer opened up about the process of rehearsing for SNL.
"I love doing sketch. I love comedy. I love playing around, I love collaborating. And that's everything that the show is about. To meet all the cast members and the writers and get to have fun with them is the most exciting thing about the experience," she said.
After her opening monologue, Palmer starred in eight hilarious sketches. The first was a dark twist on the Nickelodeon hit show Kenan and Kel, where she was supposedly pregnant with Kenan's child.
The next was a callout to the rapper Drake, as Palmer and a passionate group of women who have been referenced in Drake's music form a union against him. "That Keke, do you love me song ruined my damn life!" Palmer exclaimed.
In a sketch called "Hello Kitty", Palmer plays a retail employee at a Hello Kitty store who is skeptical to learn that Hello Kitty has been official declared a human.
In "Big Boys", Palmer proved her flow when she rapped about wanting to find a mate for cuffing season.
Then, in "Arby's", Palmer plays a confused customer who questions the logistics of a super cheap roast beef sandwich.
In "Choir Practice", Palmer showed off her gorgeous voice again when she outshined the other singers in her group, causing some funny conflict.
The next sketch showed Palmer's character getting an ultrasound, where her twins did a breakdancing sequence and even smoked some cigarettes in the womb after she ingested some non-ideal substances.
For the final sketch, Palmer and the cast did a parody of soap operas, where Palmer and Cecily Strong's character are caught in a dramatic love triangle.
Keke Palmer Hosts Password
As for her current endeavors, Palmer is currently the host of the game show Password. In the show, which is a revival of the 1960s show of the same name, various celebrities are paired with contestants and given hints to unlock a mysterious unknown word, aka the password.
In a 2022 interview with The Washington Post, Palmer said that hosting the show has been a positive experience for her. “I’m really feeling personality-hosting and producing, because I’m really feeling me and myself more than portraying someone else. Even though my personality in hosting is still a performative aspect of who I am, it’s a little bit closer to who I am than playing a character or a role.”
She's been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Host For A Game Show for her role on the show.
Keke Palmer's Music Career
Palmer is also a talented singer who has released her own her own original music. Her first studio album, titled So Uncool, debut in 2007 under Atlantic Records, and charted at number 85 on the Billboard R&B charts. The album contained the singles "Footworkin'" and "Keep it Movin'".
In a 2007 interview with TODAY, Palmer explained the inspiration behind the album's title. "Being different — some people may think that you’re so uncool, but at the same time that makes you cool because you’re just being yourself." Palmer said.
After transferring over to Interscope Records in 2009, she released her mixtape Awaken in 2011, which contained one single "The One You Call". A year later, she released her self-titled mixtape, which had two singles titled "You Got Me" and "Dance Alone".
Palmer has also released 3 EPs, with Lauren reaching number 18 on the Billboard R&B Albums chart in 2016. In 2020, she released the EPs titled Virgo Tendencies, Pt. 1 and Virgo Tendencies, Pt 2.
In 2023, Palmer released a nine-track visual album called Big Boss. The songs contain personal lyrics that tell the story of her struggles as a young woman being brought up in the entertainment industry.
“I ended up writing the story that I didn't even know I wanted to tell,” Palmer told Glamour about the project, “which was my musical journey and all that I experienced and learned and felt, and how the different narratives that I had told myself stopped me from being able to live in this very expressive, creative flow.”
Keke Palmer's Broadway Roles
Palmer also has impressive experience as a stage actress in musical theater.
In 2016, she played Marty — one of the Pink Ladies — in the television performance of Grease! Live.
She also made her Broadway debut in 2014, playing the titular role in Cinderella. At the age of 21, Palmer was the youngest star to play Cinderella on Broadway.
Keke Palmer's Son
After announcing her pregnancy while hosting SNL, Palmer gave birth to her son, Leodis Andrelton Jackson, in February 2023.