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December 2004
Christmas at Water's Edge: An Interview with Keshia Knight Pulliam

Christmas at Water's Edge: An Interview with Keshia Knight Pulliam

By Wilson Morales

It's been a while since we have seen Keshia Knight Pulliam on the TV screen. Most fans will always remember her a little Rudy Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Since the show ended over 10 years ago, Keshia has gone to college and is making a "comeback" in the film industry. Earlier this year, we saw her in the Celebrity version of the Mole-Yucatan and most recently appeared in the "One Call Away" music video by Chingy. This holiday season, Keshia will be starring in the television film, "Christmas at Water's Edge".

Keshia stars as Layla Turner, a wealthy college student, who discovers the true meaning of Christmas when she helps organize a holiday concert at a youth center. The transforming experience, ultimately, has a positive effect on her commitment to her family, community and friends. The original two-hour television holiday family drama will have its world premiere broadcast as one of the first nationally syndicated made-for-TV movies in several years. Check local listings for dates and times throughout December.

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Keshia talks about producing the movie as well as getting back in the film industry.

As a first time producer how did this film come to you and how did you become involved as a producer?

KKP: Well, we had done a project before and eventually did it and I'm doing another and so I said well if that's the case then you can produce as well because its something that (a) I went to school for and plus I understand the importance of it in terms of you know controlling your image of the screen, and I wanted to be part of it, behind it as well as in front of the screen.

Now, as a producer what is expected on your end?

KKP: Well, it was more for this project I was more on the creative end in terms of I did everything from casting to scouting locations to everything, as much as I could possibly be a part of is what I was in.

This is not your first start vehicle but how does it feel when you're the leader of a film?

KKP: I think it's a great feeling. I mean you put a lot of hard work into it and you want the people to appreciate your work and enjoy it and I'm excited. I just really hope the people will enjoy it and see it for the holiday kind of spirit that it's trying to invoke in others and sort of bringing back to the importance of the holidays.

We've got a lot of Christmas films at the end of the year. Some of them are repeats. This is an original story, but at the end of the day when people look at this, what you do want them to walk away with?

KKP: I just want everyone to walk away from it really take a hard look at themselves and see what it is that we're doing well, what we may be doing better and recognize that you know. There are a lot of unfortunate people that need your help and a lot of times we get so caught up in our own lives and own turmoil's and tribulations that we don't stop and realize how blessed we are and how many other people out there can really use help.

You were able to get away from that child star syndrome and that has cursed other people. What kept you level grounded throughout the years?

KKP: I'd have to say neighborly. You know I'm a very people oriented person. My parents have always been there to guide me and to raise me not just let me raise myself at all, and I thank them everyday for how full and how grounded - just how they instill the need - the true values and not of like a superficial value of importance so it's all about family and of course your religion.

What was your major in school?

KKP: I was a sociology major.

As an actress and as a black actress, you've seen, you've been around the industry for a long time and you see the challenges that are out there, how do you feel about being in the business now that you have more awareness than you did when you were a child?

KKP: I mean, the reality of anything worth having you have to work hard for and I'm not shy of or afraid of hard work so I don't mind that if I was something else I would face a whole other set of challenges so I mean, the bottom line is you can have a goal, you have to do what it takes to accomplish it and be determined and diligent in that, and I have no problem with that.

Have you gone out and auditioned for other films before or are you just taking it slow and looking for projects that you feel you're good for?

KKP: Of course, I mean, 95% of this business is rejection, you know, even Will Smith had his share of rejections at one point. I mean that's the nature of this business. People have gone out for roles and it may not have worked out but I think that I'm coming into my own and I'm not worried, I want to continue to work hard.

What do you find more comfortable doing, acting, or producing? With this is your first time as a producer, is that something you'd like to continue?

KKP: Definitely, directing of films, producing. This is just step one in the rest of my life.

Can you talk about working with Richard Lawson, Ray J, and the rest of the cast?

KKP: It was wonderful. I just really enjoyed working with everyone. I was pleased with their performances and it was great because my mom remembers Richard Lawson from his soap opera days and it was just like - he's just like - woman swoon over him.

He was on All My Children?

KKP: I can't remember which - maybe it was. I'm not exactly sure but I don't remember him on the soap opera. It was really great working with everyone. I'm really happy about the way it turned out.

Where there any challenges in making this film?

KKP: Of course they're challenges, I mean there are differences in opinion and viewpoint and you know, one person you see it this way and it's a very big process of public relations and working together, but I mean of course there are things that maybe could have gone differently but overall I'm pleased with the outcome.

You've got Beauty Shop coming up next year. How was it working with Queen Latifah?

KKP: It was wonderful working with Queen Latifah. We had a lot of fun. It was a great project, great cast and I had fun working with her. It was a pleasure.

When you look at projects that you want to do, what's more appealing, the role or the film?

KKP: I'm much more of a character driven, script driven person. Not as much as the medium film, you know what have you or television, but I am leaning more toward films at this point.

I'm sure everybody has asked you this, but do you still follow up with the former cast members of The Cosby Show?

KKP: Yeah, we speak from time to time, not as much as we did in the early days, but we do always.

My friends had seen you in a music video. Is that something you do on the side?

KKP: I was only in one video.

Maybe so, but people still remember it.

KKP: I know. That was a one time thing. They came to me with the treatment and a DTP and deaf jams out there and they're definitely friends, I do live in Atlanta. My brother actually works with them, so it was definitely a favor for friends. I liked the concept, you know, there had to have be about exactly the imagery of the video, and what I was willing to do and what I wasn't willing to do and I think it came out really well.

Do you see a lot of films?

KKP: I do, but not as many as I like.

What do you think about the state of blacks in cinema these days?

KKP: I think the state of cinema period is a little questionable, but with releases like Beauty Shop and Barber Shop and Fat Albert I think that a balance is beginning to tilt and I hope it continues to grow and just good entertainment. You don't have to be naked or drug dealers. Film is fantasy but it needs to be a varied multi dimensional view of a people, so that's what's most important to me.

For every Beauty Shop and Barber Shop you still get a bunch of films that are not that favorable.

KKP: You know, you do, but that comes to us. This is about making money and if we continue to patronize those types of movies that's what they are going to make because it's about the dollars - that bottom line. So you know, it's up to us to put our dollar where our mouth is. It's important to show African Americans and a film that we can be proud of, so when we can do that we're going to continue to see that which makes money.

How was it working with Pooch Hall in Christmas at Water's Edge?

KKP: He did a really good job. He was great to work with and I think he brought a nice image to the project.

It was amazing thing to have Tom Bosley in the film. I haven't seen him since his Charlie's Angels days.

KKP: Wow, yeah, we were happy to have Tom Bosley. We definitely wanted the cast to reflect some multi cultural and not just strictly African American because that's not how the world is. The world is different types of people and different races, religion and colors altogether, and we were happy to have him. He was available and he was excited about the project. He liked it.

What about the kids? Did you do a lot of auditions?

KKP: Yeah, we did auditions for each character, and just each one captured the spirit of the role, that was the extent of it and you kind of - it's really different being on the other end - being on the trafficking end, and really it's funny because you see a lot of people who are really talented and who are very good, but when that person comes through the door that captures the role you know it.

So besides Beauty Shop do you have any other film on the pipeline or T.V. series?

KKP: Well, right know it's kind of down time for me here in LA. I'm just getting ready for the holidays right now, and I looking at a few different projects and I'll have a clearer idea in a couple of weeks.

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