Keke Palmer wants the world to know two things: 1. Scream Queens, her new Fox show, is a satire, and 2. She doesn’t consider her character of Zayday to be “stereotypically Black.”
The 21-year-old actress opened up to ESSENCE.com and set the record straight on recent reports claiming that she said she didn’t mind playing Zayday Williams, a character who some might see as a stereotypical Black college student from Oakland.
“To me, Zayday’s not an over-exaggerated character,” Palmer told ESSENCE.com exclusively. “Zayday is just a young, African-American female who is a part of Black culture. That defines what the character is.”
Scream Queens, which premiered last month, centers on a college sorority who finds itself the target of a deranged serial murderer. Sounds frightening, but Palmer points out that the show is purely a satirical horror-comedy, noting that every character represents an image of one demographic or another, whether that be gay, privileged, a Millennial—or Black.
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“Did I notice that my character stood out to the community more so than the others?” she said. “Yeah, because she’s the only African-American female in the cast that’s a part of that age group…I don’t think that it’s fair how when you are the only African-American person in the cast, a lot of times, people can completely ignore all the positives and make it seem like you’re not being treated fairly. And that’s not true because the whole show is a satire.”
The significance of the moment—being a Black, leading, female character on primetime television—isn’t lost on the young actress. She said that when she booked the role, she told her mother that she wanted to play a character who both she and young Black viewers could take pride in.
“I’m an actor,” she said. “I have to play weird characters, quirky characters, strange characters, sometimes characters I don’t understand. But ultimately, I’m not going to play anything that I’m not proud of, and so I’m proud of my character Zayday…Zayday is not a stereotypical Black character. Does she have stereotypical moments? You could say that she has stereotypical moments just like anybody else in the cast could say that they have stereotypical moments. But this is not a Black and White thing. This show is a satire.”