Keshia Knight Pulliam grateful ‘House of Payne’ brings ‘laughter into everyone’s lives’
Exclusive: "We've been working together so long and I'm grateful just to have the opportunity to come into people's households on a weekly basis and just bring a little bit of joy," Pulliam says about working on 'Tyler Perry's House of Payne'
Keshia Knight Pulliam captured the world’s attention as the lovable Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. She’s grown up before our eyes—booked and busy as she continues to draw audiences in with her many talents.
Pulliam is the youngest actor to ever be nominated for an Emmy because of her role as Rudy. The tone was set early in her iconic career as she’s gone on to win several NAACP Image Awards, four in particular as Miranda Lucas Payne on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. Miranda isn’t for everyone but all eyes are on her all the same.
“People have an opinion,” Pulliam tells theGrio about her polarizing character. Fans were left with a cliffhanger last season after Miranda asked Calvin for a divorce, the latest turn in their merry-go-round relationship.
“It’s just continuing on this journey: divorce and co-parenting Christian and what will happen in terms of the relationship. And the end of the day, we’re still family, but we share a child. It’s really just enjoying journey and the ride that we’ve been on.”
Miranda was only initially meant to be a guest-starring role for Pulliam. It’s now almost 300 episodes later—with both the veteran actress and her former con artist alter ego becoming integral parts of the popular series.
Pulliam belongs to a rarified group of actors who have made lightning strike twice with successful shows in a very fickle industry.
“We continue to get renewed which I’m grateful for. At the end of the day, as an actor, that’s a dream to be on a long running television show. And the fact that I had two in my lifetime, I’m just really grateful for and to do characters that resonate at such a visceral level with the audience.”
The multi-generational modern family show was the #1 comedy for African Americans 18- 49, 25-54 in 2020. Tension may be thick at times on screen but it’s all love between Pulliam and her co-stars such as leading man Lance Gross (Calvin), LaVan Davis (Curtis), Cassi Davis Patton (Ella), Demetria McKinney (Janine), and Larramie “Doc” Shaw (Malik). The chemistry between the actors is just as strong between takes.
“We’re definitely a family. We’ve been working together so long and I’m grateful just to have the opportunity to come into people’s households on a weekly basis and bring just a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter into everyone’s lives.”
Providing a respite to viewers is a reason why COVID-19 will not be weaved into current storylines. The Payne’s won’t be seen navigating the once in a generation pandemic.
“We’re bombarded with that every day. Sometimes you just need to sit back and laugh,” the actress shares. She continues, “it creates a space.”
Pulliam is the proud mother of daughter Ella Grace who was born in 2017 and became engaged to actor Brad James last December. The pandemic offered her an opportunity to check in with herself.
“I’ve dealt with a lot, not only from a mental and emotional state, but I look at every opportunity of a place of abundance, and what are the blessing and really focus on that,” she says. “So, I enjoyed the time to just slow down, enjoy the time to be at home with family.”
The Cosby Show alum didn’t stay idle for long, pivoting from barbeques on Tuesday’s to filming the Lifetime Christmas movie The Christmas Aunt and returning to the House of Payne set. Recently, she was named the new Global Education Ambassador for Mielle Organics. The philanthropist will be helping Black women entrepreneurs get venture capital.
She was also a passionate advocate for underserved communities as a Bonner Scholar and member of Delta Theta Sorority at Spelman College which she graduated from in 2001. Just this past summer, her nonprofit Kamp Kizzy celebrated its 10th anniversary of creating free mentorships for those aged 11-16 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Giving back is a natural extension of her long-standing commitment to pay it forward as Pulliam remains “an eternal optimist.” She is mindful of where her energies are focused.
“Your energy flows where your attention goes and I am very diligent about … staying in a place of abundance, staying in a place of love and just enjoying the small things.”
The eighth season of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne premieres Tuesday at 9 PM ET/PT on BET and BET Her.
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