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EXCLUSIVE: KeKe Palmer on Playing Chilli in TLC Biopic

The 19-year-old actress opens up about the audition process and preparing for the role.
EXCLUSIVE: KeKe Palmer on Playing Chilli in TLC Biopic
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When KeKe Palmer landed the role of Chilli in the upcoming VH1 biopic about TLC, few knew that the casting would be so controversial. In the hours after the announcement was made, stans of the second top-selling girl group took to the blogosphere to point out that the actress did not resemble Chilli. Palmer took to Twitter to defend herself from the criticism and point out that acting is more than just looking the part. ESSENCE.com caught up with the 19-year-old actress to talk about the drama, how she’s preparing for the role and more.

ESSENCE.com: Are you excited about the TLC movie?
KEKE PALMER: I am extremely excited to do it! When I first heard about it I wanted to be a part of it. I love TLC and the way that they influenced me and my music and how they were always so true to themselves. I think their story is one that a lot of people want to hear.

ESSENCE.com: On Twitter you responded to some negative comments about you not resembling Chilli. Why did you feel the need to address them?
PALMER: That’s just my personality and sometimes I want to reply and say stuff. Every now and then I get in the mood when I want to respond—I wouldn’t say to negativity—but to people’s opinions. A lot of times being in the industry I know different sides of things. Sometimes I just want to say the truth. I worked hard to get the part. It would be the same as if I said to somebody who works at Chase: ‘You shouldn’t work at Chase because you don’t look like a banker.’ [laughs] That would be the equivalent. That’s the main reason why I wrote back. You should be happy because I worked hard, I got the job. Even though not everyone is going to be happy for you, at the end of the day this is the reason why I got it.

ESSENCE.com: As an actress, I’m sure you really want to embody your character.

PALMER: My main focus in doing the movie is to make sure I am able to embody the essence of Chilli. I’m really excited. I’ve been watching all her videos, interviews and get as much as I can get before I go to Atlanta to meet her. Then once I meet her, I’m going to be watching her every move so I can make the fans proud.

ESSENCE.com: Did TLC have any say in how the movie was casted?
PALMER: They did. Before they even came to me with the role, they talked to TLC. Chilli and T-Boz were very involved in who got the roles, who they were okay with, what they wanted, what they didn’t want. That’s another reason why I was really happy when I got the role because I knew that they approved.

ESSENCE.com: I know you can’t give too much away. But will you be doing lots of singing and dancing?
PALMER: I’m not going to be doing any singing. In the beginning I was sad about that. But at the same time I can also understand, because you want to hear the actual music. It was their choice to keep the real music. I respect that. [I’ll be] learning tons of choreography. Luckily their original choreographer will be choreographing us. It’s so cool.

ESSENCE.com: Do you have any words to calm fears and assure fans you’ll do a good job?
PALMER: I want to say to most of the people that love TLC and love Chilli, they can rest assured I’ll do all that I can to make them proud. I work very hard. I’m a perfectionist myself. I’m also a fan. I think that when you have someone who is also a fan they will always pull out their best. I understand them and I know what they want because I want the same thing.