Keshia Knight Pulliam: 'You can't take back' Cosby Show's legacy
Keisha Knight Pulliam stars alongside Marques Houston and reality star Draya Michele in the romantic comedy Will to Love, available on DVD and digital release today.
The film centers on Jamal Hawkins (Houston), a handsome, eligible bachelor who will soon be a very wealthy man. As the primary heir to the “Let It Roll” toilet paper corporation, Jamal is set to inherit his grandfather’s empire. Jamal’s world comes crashing down when he discovers that his grandfather has placed a stipulation on his inheritance: the bachelor must find a wife before his grandfather passes away within the next 90 days.
With the help of his secretary, Rachel (Pulliam), he sets out on his quest to find love and protect his future inheritance.
Pulliam is best known for her childhood role as Rudy Huxstable on The Cosby Show.
The Cosby Show‘s legacy is uncertain after over 50 women accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault, a story which has dominated the news cycle over the past year.
In an interview with theGrio discussing her role in Will to Love, Pulliam defended the legacy of The Cosby Show.
“I can say that, based upon the people that continuously approach me and talk about how it’s profoundly impacted their lives, I don’t feel you can take that back. You can’t take back the impact that it’s had on generations of kids, and it’s continuing to have such a positive impact on them. So I feel like the place that it has in people’s hearts is such a nostalgic part of childhood and beyond, it’s going to be difficult to take back those memories.”
Pulliam also stood by comments that she made in January when she said the accusations of sexual assault against Cosby contradict the man that she knows and loves.
“My comment doesn’t really change, because, still, regardless of how many… that’s just not the man I know. That’s not who I experienced. I never had that interaction with him, so I can’t speak to it.”
Checkout theGrio’s full interview with Keshia Knight Pulliam below:
theGrio: What is your process when it comes to choosing an acting role?
Keshia Knight Pulliam: There has to be an authentic connection. It has to be something that I genuinely enjoy. I’m so grateful to be at a place in my career where I can do things I really like, enjoy and connect to. You don’t do it well if you don’t authentically connect. It’s about telling great stories. Stories that I would want to see. Stories that I find interesting and feel that others would too. I appreciate stories that people can look at and see themselves in. Everyone understands that feeling of wanting to be loved and finding love. The joy of it all coming together in such an unexpected way, because that’s life. I always say that our plan B is God’s plan A, and the sooner we relinquish that piece of control and live in a space of allowing, the easier it is.
There is a common thread in the roles that you take. Do you think you should be held to a higher standard because you were a child star on The Cosby Show and you have an audience that knew you from way back when?
I don’t feel that it’s a higher standard. I feel that everyone would be held to the same standard. Some people might say that I’m not a role model, but when you’re in the spotlight and you’re given this platform, whether you choose to be a role model or not, you are. You have people that are watching you, inspired by you, and looking up to you. Everyone’s human. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, but I do hold that in high esteem in terms of having so many people’s attention. At the end of the day, it’s what are you going to do with that. What are you gonna do to leave the world a better place than when you found it? Not just in the roles that I pick but in the life that I lead.
Whether it’s being at the White House and supporting “Let Girls Learn” with Michelle Obama or being a surrogate for the Obama campaign and getting people out to vote, I feel that when you’re given this platform, it’s about how to give back to others as a result of it.
Earlier this year, you were on Celebrity Apprentice. Your former boss, Donald Trump, is now in a tight race to be the Republican U.S. Presidential nominee. Are you okay with Trump possibly being the next U.S. President?
I definitely have been a President Obama supporter. My views are aligned with what Obama has accomplished and what he has done… so I think you can answer that for yourself.
So you won’t be a surrogate for Trump’s campaign?
We just witnessed history with Viola Davis recently becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in Primetime Drama. Have we reached an equal playing field for black actresses on TV?
I feel like there are some great actors doing some great things right now. Is there room for improvement? There’s always room for improvement. I’m grateful and happy to see that there are so many African-American men and women from Black-ish to Viola Davis and Kerry Washington and all of these people who are taking on amazing roles that are showing African-Americans in a different light that we’ve previously been portrayed. But the fact that we’re still quantifying it as African-American versus anything else means that we still have a ways to go, because we’re not looking at it as people or human beings. Until we come to a place where we’re truly on an even playing field, where it’s not just a couple, but many, we still have work to do.
We haven’t seen you yet star on a reality show. There was buzz at one point about you joining The Real Housewives of Atlanta, but you shut that down. What made you decide not to join the RHOA cast?
To each his own. I’m not here to judge what anyone else chooses to do. That’s their decision; it’s a personal one for them. For me, it’s not the choice nor the direction that I choose to go in. Anything I do, I do it with the integrity of who I am, and if it’s not authentically me, then it’s not for me. You’re telling the world firsthand who you are. As an actor, you’re playing different characters, but who you are as a person and as a woman is priceless, and I would never allow anyone to dictate who I am. If I were to ever do it, I would want to be involved as an executive producer through the process of editing. I would very much so be in the driver’s seat of how I’m presented.
A trending topic at the moment on Twitter is the Kardashian family gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and being called “America’s First Family.” What are your thoughts on that, as someone who was once a part of one of America’s most celebrated TV families?
I feel like they just missed the “reality” family. They just should have added that one word, and it would have completely changed the way it was perceived.
One of the biggest shows right now on TV is Empire. Do you feel like The Cosby Show opened doors for a show like Empire to exist?
Absolutely. Prior to The Cosby Show, it really changed the landscape of television. It really changed the landscape in terms of how people saw and related to African-Americans and African-American families. Prior to that, they’d never seen an example, and because they had never seen an example, therefore it must not have existed. In terms of a family unit, in terms of a successful mother, father, doctor, lawyer, children. The Cosby Show broke barriers, and no matter who you were, you were able to see yourself in us and you were able to see how much more alike we were versus different.
Do you feel that the Cosby Show‘s legacy has been irreparably tarnished over the past year?
I hope that it hasn’t. I can say that, based upon the people that continuously approach me and talk about how it’s profoundly impacted their lives, I don’t feel you can take that back. You can’t take back the impact that it’s had on generations of kids, and it’s continuing to have such a positive impact on them. So I feel like the place that it has in people’s hearts is such a nostalgic part of childhood and beyond, it’s going to be difficult to take back those memories.
In January, when you last spoke about the accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby, you said, “that’s just not the man I know.” Have these mounting accusations at all changed your perspective of the interactions that you had with Bill Cosby?
My comment doesn’t really change, because, still, regardless of how many… that’s just not the man I know. That’s not who I experienced. I never had that interaction with him, so I can’t speak to it.
Follow theGrio.com’s Entertainment Editor Chris Witherspoon on Twitter @WitherspoonC.