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Keshia Knight Pulliam : The Game Changer

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Heroin. Prostitution. Street life. These are not the words most would use in association with a role played by beloved actress Keshia Knight Pulliam. Yet, the 29-year-old Atlanta resident does just that in the highly anticipated film from Tyler Perry, "Madea Goes to Jail." The Spelman grad proves that she can't be typecast in her surprising role as Candy, a heroin-addicted prostitute who befriends Madea in the big house. Read on to learn how the Georgia peach prepared for the role of a junkie, what she learned from working with Hollywood titan Tyler Perry and why she's itching to do an action flick with Angelina Jolie.

ESSENCE.COM: You did an excellent job with your role as Candy, the heroin addicted prostitute in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail. Tell us a little about Candy and how you prepared for the role.
KESHIA KNIGHT PULLIAM:
I think [Candy's story] is a very universal one. It's a story about a girl who has had a lot of adversity and horrible things happen to her in life. Ultimately it's a story about triumph and how you come back and not continue to be a victim. I spoke to people who had triumphs with drug addiction and even prostitution and I really just dug deep. I brought my all to the role; from the wardrobe, to the hair, the makeup, the yellowing of the teeth—I wasn't afraid to be ugly on film.

ESSENCE.COM: Why was it important for you to step out of your comfort zone for this role?
PULLIAM: I'm definitely one of those people who likes a challenge. I think that's the only way that you grow. A lot of times, people forget that this the beauty of being an actress. I can be a prostitute, a housewife, a doctor, an attorney, an entrepreneur. There are very different roles to play. I mean it's great that people have grown up with me as Rudy and that I've been able to be a part of history, but ultimately I am an actress and I want people to see me for that. I hope that people take away that I am a great actress.

ESSENCE.COM: What was it like working with the talented Tyler Perry and who would you love to work with that you haven't already?
PULLIAM: It's been a pleasure working with Tyler Perry. I've worked with him on the television show, "House of Payne" as well. He's a very hard worker. He's a trendsetter; what was thought to be impossible, he's made it possible. I just love the opportunity to not only work with him but learn from him. There's so many other people that I'd love to work with. I love Angela Bassett and of course Denzel [Washington], Halle [Berry], I think that Morgan Freeman is phenomenal; those are just the African-American actors. Then there is Angelina Jolie. She just has this amazing strength. I would love to do an action movie with her. You know, really out of the box, fun characters. I think next I would like to do something more action-related.

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