17 of Keke Palmer's Best Movie and TV Roles
Keke "sorry to this man" Palmer isn't new to this, she's true to this (see what we did there, "True Jackson, VP" fans?). Comparable to no one, Palmer has been booked and busy since the age of 9 when she had her very first acting role in "Barbershop 2: Back in Business." Since then, Palmer has transcended her child and teen acting career — which is nothing to sneeze at, by the way — to do just about everything imaginable. Palmer acts across genres, does voice work, makes music, and dances. She's even won a Primetime Emmy for her Facebook Watch series "Turnt Up With the Taylors. Not to mention, she is the GOAT of hosting, having hosted everything from the "GMA3" and the 2020 MTV VMAs to the 2021 Met Gala.
Simply put, Palmer has the range. It would take you weeks to work your way through Palmer's "Akeelah and the Bee" days and her time on Nickelodeon to her recent work in notable films such as "Hustlers" or buzzy animated series like "Big Mouth," "Human Resources," and "The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder."
This summer, you may have heard Palmer's voice as space adventurer Izzy Hawthorne alongside beloved space ranger Buzz Lightyear in "Lightyear," but that's not all. You can see her starring role in the Jordan Peele sci-fi thriller "Nope," in the theaters now.
It doesn't take a fortune teller to get the sense that Palmer's just getting started. Could an EGOT be in her future? With the way she tweeted herself into "Insecure"'s final season, we think the answer could absolutely be yes!
In this film, Palmer stars alongside Daniel Kaluuya as a pair of siblings who run a struggling horse ranch in California and discover something out of this world in the skies above them. "Nope" is a spectacle to behold that's got the nostalgia of '80s sci-fi movies with all the freshness we've come to expect from Peele. We're saying nope to spoilers, but all you need to know is Palmer is as captivating as ever as her character, Emerald, who's equal parts determined, funny, and badass.
This Netflix adult animated series became popular for its hilarious, raunchy, and cringey portrayal of the trials and tribulations of puberty. The show follows a group of friends and frenemies as they battle their changing bodies and discover themselves. Along the way, they receive help — and hindrance — from Maury and Connie, the hormone monsters, brilliantly voiced by Nick Kroll and Maya Rudolph. Palmer joined the cast in season five as Rochelle, the hate worm who fuels awkward tween Missy's rampages.
Adapted from Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article "The Hustlers at Scores," "Hustlers" follows a crew of New York City strippers who steal from their wealthy clients when the 2008 recession hits. Seasoned stripper Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez) takes newbie Destiny under her wing, showing her the ropes, her way around the pole, and the pockets of their Wall Street clientele. As their schemes get bigger and more lucrative, they get riskier, and it becomes not a matter of if they'll get caught but when. Palmer plays Mercedes, a member of the Vegas crime ring alongside a stellar cast, including Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Julia Stiles, and Cardi B.
"Lightyear" is the newest addition to the Toy Story franchise. It's the fictional movie that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy from the Toy Story films, and this time, he's voiced by Chris Evans. In the film, Buzz finds himself several decades into the future in an attempt to help his team get back to their planet after a botched mission. As Buzz's close friend's granddaughter and all-star leader Izzy Hawthorne, Palmer (or rather her voice) shines in this fun-filled adventure movie that's perfect for a family movie night.
When a serial killer reemerges and targets the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority sisters at fictional Wallace University, hell week gets a whole new, horrifying meaning for an eccentric group of new pledges. In this Ryan Murphy-produced satirical slasher series, Palmer is Zayday Williams, protagonist Grace Gardner's no-nonsense friend who reluctantly decides to pledge with her when they hit it off as roommates. Palmer stands out in her role in season one among a stacked cast featuring Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Niecy Nash, Lea Michele, fellow Nickelodeon alum Ariana Grande, and so many more. She also starred in the second and final season of the series.
"The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder"
In this Disney+ reboot of "The Proud Family," the Prouds are back and, in case you missed it, louder and prouder. The show is familiar yet fresh, with newly minted 14-year-old Penny Proud navigating modern-day problems, like new kids on the block who challenge her status quo and social media influencers (ahem, bullies) who want to cancel her at school. Palmer plays Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins, a new kid on the block whose dads are the first gay couple in Smithville. This reboot does just what second chances should do, expanding representation that wasn't there on the Disney Channel of the early aughts.
"Brotherly Love" is a dramatic film that takes place in Philadelphia and follows the Taylor family and their struggle to navigate the hardships in their lives. Eldest brother June (Cory Hardrict) earns his living in dangerous and less-than-legal ways, but it allows his younger brother, Sergio, to pursue basketball and his sister — Palmer's character, Jackie — to focus on school and music. However, June's life on the streets and Jackie falling in love end up complicating her life in serious ways.
"Akeelah and the Bee"
Palmer has displayed serious acting chops while working with legends since day one. She had her breakthrough role in "Akeelah and the Bee," starring as Akeelah, a bright girl from South LA who discovers her gift for spelling and hopes to compete in the National Spelling Bee. With the help of her mother, played by the illustrious Angela Bassett, her teacher (Laurence Fishburne), and her supportive community, Akeelah might just achieve her dream of becoming a spelling champion. The role earned Palmer her first NAACP Image Award.
"True Jackson, VP"
Calling all Nickelodeon kids everywhere, this one's for you. In this TV show, Palmer plays teenage fashion designer True Jackson, who serendipitously gets a grown-up job as vice president of Mad Style's youth line. As any teen would do, she hires her best friend Lulu (Ashley Argota) to be her assistant, and her other bestie Ryan Laserbeam (Matt Shively) is, for whatever reason, always in the office. As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue, but the series is a reminder not to underestimate young people (or Palmer's longevity as an actor, for that matter).
Palmer's got pipes, and the musical dramedy "Joyful Noise" is here to prove it. In the movie, Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) and G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) fight over control of their small town's church choir after the untimely death of the choir director. With the church's budget dwindling, the stakes are high for the group to win the Joyful Noise competition. Eventually, Vi Rose and G.G. join together to liven up their set with contemporary pop and R&B influences. Palmer plays Queen Latifah's daughter, Olivia, whose independent spirit comes into conflict with her mother's rules. However, with some convincing, she and G.G.'s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) talk Vi Rose into changing their group's tune.
Just about anybody who watched the Disney Channel Original Movie "Jump In!" growing up ended up trying out some of the sick double-dutch moves from the movie. In this DCOM, Palmer steals scenes as Mary, a competitive double dutcher who convinces her friend Izzy (Corbin Bleu) to join her team, the Hot Chili Steppers. Over the course of the movie, Izzy must juggle his training as a boxer and his commitment to help Mary and the team make it to the finals.
During her time on Nickelodeon, Palmer starred in "Rags," another modern riff on the classic Cinderella tale. In the film, Palmer plays pop star Kadee Worth, who becomes unlikely friends with janitor-by-day, aspiring-singer-by-night Charlie, aka Rags. Charlie's cruel stepfather and stepbrothers keep him from chasing his dreams, while Kadee is over others controlling her career.
"Scream: The TV Series"
Palmer joined the cast for season three of this television adaptation of the hit horror franchise Scream. Season three, also known as "Scream: Resurrection," has a whole new storyline in a different setting revolving around a group of teens stuck in detention (think: "The Breakfast Club") being hunted by their dark pasts, secrets, and Ghostface. Palmer shines amongst a diverse cast, including Tyga and Mary J. Blige, as a socially aware twist on "the rebel" trope who refuses to be put in a box.
"Star" is a musical drama from the creators of "Empire" about a trio of teens — Star (Jude Demorest), Alex (Ryan Destiny), and Simone (Brittany O'Grady) — who form a girl group and travel to Atlanta to try to make it in the cutthroat music industry. In seasons two and three, we really get to see Palmer's triple-threat status at work as Gigi Nixon, a famous singer who joins the trio's record company and befriends Destiny's character, Alex. Palmer absolutely kills her flashy musical numbers and leaves no crumbs.
In this gritty drama, Palmer stars as Wednesday, a pimp who's taken over her father's (DMX) trade after he's murdered. Wednesday makes enough money to provide for her mother and her girlfriend, Nikki. However, she runs into some serious trouble with a dangerous rival pimp when Destiny (Vanessa Morgan), one of the strippers he employs, expresses a desire to work for Wednesday instead. Amidst gripping danger and violence, there are moments where Palmer gets to display intimacy and tenderness in scenes with Nikki.
In this thriller, Palmer takes a more dramatic turn as Alice, an enslaved woman who escapes from a plantation in Georgia onto a paved road in the future — 1973, to be exact. After a disillusioned political activist helps her get acclimated to her new environment, Alice experiences freedom for the first time and uses it to seek revenge. The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival in 2022.
"Human Resources" is the workplace comedy spinoff of "Big Mouth" that reveals the day-to-day activities of your fave hormone monsters, love bugs, shame wizards, logic rocks, and many more. And Palmer reprises her role from "Big Mouth." Spoiler alert! Rochelle the hate worm turns into Rochelle the love bug. Palmer's character is always hanging over at her messy work-bestie Emmy's (Aidy Bryant) cubicle. If you're a fan of "Big Mouth," dive deeper into the world of these wild creatures helping humans with their emotional and bodily issues in absurd ways. Palmer knows how to pick her projects, so it's no surprise "Human Resources" has big names such as Bryant, Rosie Perez, Randall Park, Pamela Adlon, and more!