When actress and singer Keke Palmer came to New Orleans with the cast of “Scream Queens,” Ryan Murphy’s new horror comedy on Fox, the humidity made an impression. The show focuses on a sorority house whose pledges are the target of a serial killer, and shooting on location on the Tulane University campus was fine with Palmer — “but not when it’s super hot,” she said, laughing. “You get all sticky.”
The Los Angeles-based actress began acting at age 9 and starred in Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson VP” when she was 15. Palmer appeared in “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” numerous movies, and a revival of “Cinderella” on Broadway where she was the first African-American Cinderella.
She relocated to the Warehouse District in June to start shooting on “Scream Queens,” and will be in town through the end of October or early November when the first season wraps.
What happens when high school graduates face a literal Hell Week while rushing a sorority?
“American Horror Story” regular Emma Roberts plays Chanel, the condescending Kappa head who rules with the aid of her coterie of glamorous “Chanels” — other mean girls like herself whose names she can’t be bothered to learn.
Appropriately, Jamie Lee Curtis plays the dean of Wallace University, who decrees that the infamously snobby Kappa Kappa Tau must take all pledges.
Critics coined the phrase “scream queen” to describe Curtis when she starred in ’70s horror films, including the classic “Halloween.”
Like Murphy’s other shows, the performances are big and the performers are uniformly attractive.
In addition to Roberts, Curtis, and Palmer, the cast includes Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, Abigail Breslin and Oliver Hudson. “Glee” alum Lea Michele plays against type as a nerdy pledge whose head is propped up awkwardly by a metal neck brace.
With a large cast that thins out a bit by the end of its two-hour premiere, “Scream Queens” has a lot of secrets and a lot of subplots — almost too many.
It shifts gears quickly and unpredictably from creepy-lite death scenes to comedic moments that would almost have been at home in the parodic “Scary Movie” franchise. Many of its funniest moments are its most offhanded, including a round of golf played on Tulane’s Quad.
According to Palmer, the cast spent a lot of time together on set and off.
Her favorite hangout has been the arcade-themed Barcadia, and periodically she and actress Billie Lourd — Chanel No. 3 and real-life daughter of Carrie Fisher — left the Warehouse District to explore other parts of town and new places to eat. The Oceana Grill in the French Quarter stuck in her memory.
“The gumbo is everything,” she enthused.
Palmer has also been working on her debut album when her “Scream Queens” schedule allowed, and once shooting wraps she’ll soon start preparation for her role in the version of “Grease” that will be broadcast live on Fox on Jan. 31.
She’ll be one of the Pink Ladies, joining a cast that includes Julianne Hough, Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Tveit and Carlos PenaVega.
“I’ve never done this musical, but I’m excited and ready for whatever it’s going to throw me,” Palmer said.
Until then, Palmer is dividing her time between soundstages at Second Line Stages, where many of the interiors of “Scream Queens” are shot, and Cochon, Tulane, the PJ’s on Maple Street and a number of Uptown houses.
Working inside is easier where the atmosphere is controlled, but Palmer’s fine with the New Orleans locales.
“The weather is much more humid, which I like,” she said. “I always feel like I have a blanket on.”