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THE SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Keshia Knight Pulliam talks about her future and her bank account

February 08, 2009|Choire Sicha

Keshia Knight Pulliam lives in Atlanta with a teacup Yorkie and a cocker spaniel. This month she appears in the Tyler Perry film "Madea Goes to Jail." Once upon a time, she played youngest daughter Rudy Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." She is all of 29.

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So you went off to Spelman College in the late '90s and never left Atlanta?

That's pretty much what happened. Oh, my goodness, I'm telling my age. I think it was '97 [when] I entered school. I've always loved the city of Atlanta.

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What is this Atlanta scene? Everybody lives there!

I know, it's kind of crazy! It wasn't like that at first.

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Is it like, everywhere you go, you run into Usher's wife and Sheree Whitfield from "Real Housewives"?

The one thing about Atlanta is you can have your little niche and do your own thing. But if you go to certain events you run into that whole contingent. It's changed a lot -- there's a lot more than the Waffle House.

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And then there's the Tyler Perry compound.

Mmm hmm. He has an absolutely wonderful studio. It's the only thing like it probably in the South! It's huge. It's beautiful.

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Everyone always says he's like the nicest, sweetest guy in the world. That's so boring!

I mean, he is wonderful to work with, I must say. I think the thing I definitely appreciate -- he's wonderful and all this -- but the thing I'm most intrigued by and want to learn most is his great sense of business. He's turned this whole Tyler Perry thing into such a great brand, from pretty much nothing into this whole empire. Of course he's a nice guy and wonderful to work with, but he has a tremendous business mind.

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White Hollywood is slowly catching up to that.

Yeah. He's kind of come in out of nowhere and has kind of done it in a formula that's all his own. And you have to respect that. He had a vision and no matter how many naysayers, he made that happen -- no matter what color you are. At the end of the day, green is only one color.

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Are you a single lady?

Um. I enjoy life every day!

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Now that you've seen an empire like this from the inside, do you want to produce?

Oh, I definitely do. I started PullPenn Productions last year with a business partner. We're looking forward to the future and doing stuff that's out of the box, from going straight to Web on our website to a couple projects we're working on for television.

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What are you looking to do?

To me, it's about good work, a good story, and tastefully done. There's so many stigmas -- oh, you're on the small screen or you do films or you do reality. It's about the project and not the medium on which it's delivered. It's the story you tell, period.

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Is there room for innovation in reality?

I think there is! There's always room for innovation everywhere. Things become a formula, you plug this crazy person in here and it becomes this train wreck. I don't think it has to be that.

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It's gotten a little better, but for a while there was a really weird strain of African American reality show tropes.

In my opinion a lot of it isn't really reality -- it's a simulated reality. A lot has been done in the outrageous, sensationalized realm. I don't think it has to only be that.

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Sure. This stuff came out of actual documentaries, which have rules.

I love watching the National Geographic channel. That show "Taboo"? I love it! So yes. It's like how your mom says: It's not what you say, it's how you say it.

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So no less than Karl Rove has said that "The Cosby Show" was basically responsible for the Obamas. I was like, but the Huxtables were made up.

What the show did was show how much more we were alike. "The Cosby Show" -- no one thought there's doctors and lawyers who are married and live in brownstones! Back then no one would have thought we would have an African American president. They would have laughed in your face.

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How are your life savings doing?

You know, I must say, that is the most interesting way I've ever been asked about my bank account. It wasn't as offensive as most. Of course, we're in a recession, so everyone's thinking twice about spending and planning for the future. But I'm doing OK.

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I'm not. I'm a mess.

You sound like you shop too much. No, I mean, it's hard! I fall back into it myself! A fabulous pair of shoes? I have to have willpower. But I'm working hard these days. So I can treat myself.

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calendar@latimes.com

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