Of Course Keke Palmer Isn’t Retiring Anytime Soon

Keke Palmer is not sleeping on 2024. Starting the year with an Emmy win for outstanding host of a game show for her work on NBC’s Password, the actress is filming both Aziz Ansari’s Good Fortune and Eddie Murphy vehicle The Pickup, running year-old media upstart KeyTV, growing her podcast and hosting a second season of Password — which premieres Tuesday. So, it was obviously a little confusing when a recent comment to Teen Vogue had many interpreting that the 30-year-old’s retirement was “around the corner.” The response, says Palmer, was unexpected — and quite overblown. Speaking over the phone in February, Palmer elaborated on long-term hopes for her career, gave her late review on Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime Show and revealed how a conversation with one Password guest might have accidentally led to a seaside vacation.

Is this show a good way of networking for you? You meet a lot of people, I imagine, many you know.

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It actually is… and I don’t mean that in the annoying way that we hear about networking. Because “networking” can be used and perceived in a weird and negative way. In the true sense, it’s just collaborating and talking with like-minded people — just sharing ideas and information and knowledge. And that’s cool. We’ve had Howie Mandel on the show before, but this time around, he and I got to talk a little bit more. I was just hearing about his evolution as an artist and as a producer. And he was like, “Come hang out anytime on my yacht.” What a cool thing for me, because how else would I get the opportunity to have a real conversation with someone like Howie? I like the opportunity to just listen to people and hear their stories. So, I do end up meeting a lot of cool people thorough this show. If I get the chance to really talk to them, and there’s a level of mentorship, I’m always thrilled.

Did you really go on Howie Mandel’s yacht?

No, but I’m going to. I’m literally going to go.

What’s the port of call?

I don’t know if I’m at liberty to say. (Laughs.) Then everybody’s going to be on Howie’s yacht.

So this is season two. Of the guests, who really delivered for you?

Everybody delivers, but I’d say Roy Wood Jr. surprised me most. I didn’t expect him to be such a good player — and is really good at the game. We also have Jimmy Kimmel, who’s great. He and Jimmy Fallon obviously play well off of other people. It makes the game that much more fun and competitive. Joel McHale is another one of my favorites.

Belated congratulations on that Emmy for hosting the show, by the way.

Thank you. To win and get that experience? It was so great. Because the first time that I won an Emmy, it was during COVID, so we weren’t doing anything. So, to be at an award show again, be around my peers and then to win, it was really an honor.

Can we talk about the comments you recently made that prompted tons of headlines that you’re already thinking about retirement? You’re 30 and you just started your own media company, so I’m guessing the response was a bit overblown.

Exactly! People read into that one so deep. I didn’t see it coming, that being such a thing. First of all, I’m a very broad person. “Around the corner,” for me, is like 15 years. However, what I was talking about was just focusing the diversity of my career. One of my biggest inspirations is Tyler Perry. It’s insane what he’s been able to accomplish. And we’ve seen him in so many different stages. From him being the creator and actor as Madea to acting as other characters, and then moving out from always being in front of the camera to directing and writing and running TP Studios. I also really love Amy Poehler. She’s an amazing producer, writer, director but she doesn’t do movies as much as she used to. For me, that’s what I mean when I talk about retiring. I’m sure there’ll come a time when I maybe won’t be on camera as much. That’s life. That’s evolution. So I think my comments were just kind of a commentary on the evolution of my career. I’ll always maintain a career in the industry, but I hope that I’ll be able to branch out and not just always be a front-facing performer and work for hire.

PASSWORD with Keke Palmer
Keke Palmer, hosting Password

I watched Jennifer Lopez’s movie, and I’ve got to say that I was surprised to see you, an outspoken Virgo, playing the literal embodiment of a Scorpio.

Oh my god. Isn’t that crazy? But Scorpios are like the evil twins of Virgos, so it kind of tracks.

Where you ever actually filming any of those scenes with the other people — Jane Fonda, Trevor Noah, Jennifer Lewis, Post Malone — or were all those done separately.

They were done at different points, and I think I was the last person to do it. I really love how it turned out. I associate myself with astrology, so when Jennifer told me the whole thing, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is exactly the kind of thing that I love.”

You seem to be signing on for a lot of new projects since the strikes. What’s next on your plate

The schedule is crazy. I’m doing three movies this year on top of all of the independent stuff that I do with my company. We’re branching out in the event space. That first year of KeyTV, we were really focused on entertainment-based creatives and creators. But we’re about helping people of color connect to one another, to get those opportunities outside of just Black History Month or Buy Black Friday. We’re trying to help to push that thing forward. I’ve also got my podcast and being a mom. There’s a lot going on, but I’m doing my best to manage and maintain it.

It’s been over a year since the launch of KeyTV. What’s been the biggest lesson?

The first year is just about keeping everybody on course, right? That’s the thing. When you start a company, you have a mission statement. The mission statement is the invisible voice behind everything you’re doing to. But it can be real easy to get caught up in the weeds instead of being focused on the big picture, the reason you started. What I’ve learned that I need to do — not only for myself, but for my team — is to just make sure we’re always thinking about the bigger picture.

Before I let you go, can I get a belated review of Usher’s Super Bowl Halftime Show?

I was at Tyler [Perry]’s for the Super Bowl, and it was just the most wholesome, amazing event ever. We were all just dancing. We just loved it. Usher’s one of those people that we’ve all watched since he was a kid. I mean, Usher was doing music before he even had hips. So, to see him up there, he’s a true performer in the Sammy Davis Jr. sense of it — a triple threat. I was just really excited to see him have this moment. And, like he said, he brought the A to the Super Bowl. I love that.

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