By Anne M. Raso
We were lucky enough to catch up with Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan who play love interests in the feel good movie of early 2012, Joyful Noise (due out from Warner Bros. on 1-13). We were lucky enough to get to attend the press roundtables at New York's Regency Hotel yesterday and after getting to speak to Keke and Jeremy, we had our chance to chat with director Todd Graff (of Camp and Bandslam fame) and the superstars of the film, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. All the other stars of the film seemed in awe of Dolly, but that goes without surprise--and director Graff told us that Dolly would bake him fresh fudge in the middle of the night for the next day's filming because he ate Hershey bars all the time and he explains it, "She wanted me to stop eating things with preservatives!"
In a nutshell, the film is a musical comedy about a null Southern choir trying to work themselves up to the finals of a national competition, and they do indeed make it to the finals in LA--but along the way, there's the off-again, on-again romance between Keke and Jeremy's characters, and a whole lot of fighting going on between the Queen character Vi Rose Hill's rough-and-tumble "survivor" character and Dolly's rich-lady-about-town character which includes a biscuit fight at a Southern diner! We can't give anything else away except to say that the great Kris Kristofferson plays Dolly's character GG Sparrow's husband Bernard who passes away early in the film--and that the meaning of the name GG is not revealed til about three-quarters into Joyful Noise! Not surprisingly, it means "Gorgeous Grandma"! (Dolly's not a grandma in real life, as you might know, though)!
Anyway, Keke's mom is played by The Queen and in real life, Keke and The Queen have known each other about ten years! Keke's character Olivia Hill seems to not like Jeremy Jordan's character Randy Garrity at first, but he seems more lovable to hear once he shows off his talents by joining the choir that all the characters belong to and are working so hard to get to the finals. He wears his heart on his sleeve and wears down Olivia in record time. The movie is clean, though, so parents do not have to worry about their kids seeing anything but a six-second smooch.
We spoke to Keke and Jeremy about their chemistry and they admit that when they met they hit it off immediately. But it comes as no surprise that Keke--whose mom was a real-life choir director, just like her onscreen mom Queen Laitifah--was terrified of doing her first big on-screen kiss. "My big make out scene might have only been about six seconds but I consider this my big coming-of-age movie," Keke confided to us. To which Jeremy adds, "It was animalistic and raw--but I am used to doing this kind of thing sometimes nine times a week on Broadway! (Laughs.) I was the understudy for the lead in Rock Of Ages, and I got this part through a twist of fate. (Director) Todd Graff was in the audience the first night I actually got to go on (in the play)!"
Keke and Jeremy both loved working with the affable Graff and are quick to point out his best attributes: "He knows how to work with larger than life characters and he is also great with nuances! He is very professional and always kind. He was a lot of fun to work with!" Keke went on to add that she was thrilled to work with Dolly Parton because "She always herself--and as funny and kind as you'd expect her to be!"
Keke tells us that she would like to do a "heavy love story" as her next film project while Jeremy tells us, "I would like to do a badass action film!"
We know that big things are ahead for both these rising stars. Be sure to check out Joyful Noise--it can pick you up out of the most blue of moods and it's a film you can go to with your mom and pop (or even your Sunday school class) and you'll enjoy the wacky and diverse cast of characters. And let's us add that's it great to see Dolly Parton back on the big screen after nearly 20 years (her last film was Straight Talk, believe it or not)!
(Choir shot from film courtesy Warner Brothers; all others by Anne M. Raso.)