Keke Palmer stepped onto her first set when she was only 10 years old. After making her acting debut in 2004's Barbershop 2: Back in Business, she broke out in the 2006 family drama, Akeelah and the Bee, playing the daughter of Oscar nominees Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.
Now, at age 28, Palmer has more than 100 credits to her name, including three films this year alone: Alice, which premiered at Sundance; Disney and Pixar's Lightyear; and Nope, the newest horror film from Oscar winner Jordan Peele (Best Original Screenplay for 2017's Get Out). Nope stars Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya (himself a Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for 2021's Judas and the Black Messiah) as horse ranching siblings fending off an alien invasion.
Which is to say, Palmer knows a thing or two about acting. Below, she shared with the Academy her takes on what an actor should and shouldn't do on set, and what sort of behavior elicits a big "nope!" on set.
Nope: Arriving early to set.
"I hate having to come to work early — I really do. If I do have to come early, then I try to bring a blanket so I can try to sleep in the car on the way or in my trailer. I try to sleep in the makeup chair! I try to sleep until I have to work on set. So, that's an absolute nope. C'mon now, no one wants to be up."
Nope: Only being sort of off book.
"Only being sort of off book is an absolute nope, okay? The only thing I'm sort of on is the performance that I'm going to choose, but you've got to know those lines if you expect to have a collaboration with the director on what the performance could or couldn't be. You have to know the lines. Because, if you don't know the lines, how are you going to play with it? You're going to be too busy worrying about what the lines are. And I don't want to hold up our whole crew and have everybody there for hours and hours because I didn't study my lines the night before. That's crazy."
"I definitely prefer to know if somebody wants me to do improv, because I actually really respect a writer's word. So, I don't want to add to it if it shouldn't be added to. But I do love to improv and I can have fun, but I like to get the signal that it's cool. So I don't disrespect the words on the page."
Nope: Phoning in a rehearsal.
"Phoning in anything on set is an absolute nope! You cannot do that! It's like marking a dance step. If you mark it the whole way, then, when it's time to really perform, you're going to be marking it. You can't phone it in. Now, yes, you don't want to tire yourself out, but you have to be true to it at least a couple of times with your director so you can really get into the vibe of it. And then, if you need to take a break because you don't want to overuse your muscle in that moment, that's understandable. But phoning it in totally? No, no, no."
Nope: Ignoring continuity.
"Ignoring continuity is an absolute nope. I come from the old school where, yes, I let the people do their job and I let everybody do their resets, but it's to the point where I will self-reset as well. Because I really take pride in continuity and things like that. That's one of the first things I learned on set. I did a movie with William H. Macy called The Wool Cap when I was 10. And I remember asking the people that kept bringing everything back, "What are you doing?" And they explained to me continuity and scripty and all that stuff. Ever since then, I've always took such pride in it. You've got to pay attention."
Nope: Thinking you know better than the animal trainer.
"You do not disobey what the animal trainer has said. Absolutely not. You have to really be really respectful of their job, because they know these animals, and they know how the animals want to be approached. You cannot disrespect them and what they're doing, because that's when things go wrong. I definitely always take my lead from animal wranglers and know what I need to do and when I don't need to do it."
Yup: Making friends with crafty.
"That's an absolute yup. Like, why not?! Especially if you guys end up really getting to know each other, and then, they can give you some special treats or special little sandwiches, you know? It's great. Crafty is like the unsung hero on every set."
Reporting by Erica Bardin