Keshia Knight Pulliam
Keshia Knight Pulliam wants you to know: She's not Rudy Huxtable anymore.
The 30-year-old actress may forever be remembered for her adorable character on The Cosby Show, but the work she's churning out now is a far cry from days past. In Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail (now on DVD), Pulliam plays Candie, a young woman whose choices land her in the slammer.
See photos from Madea Goes to Jail
"She's a girl who's made some bad decisions," Pulliam tells TVGuide.com. "Due to some unfortunate circumstances, she dropped out [of college] and that's where her life took a downward spiral. She got into drug abuse and prostitution, and it's just a story about choices — and how you rebound from those choices."
That story resonated with moviegoers who poured into theaters to make the film Perry's biggest box-office success to date. Pulliam first worked with Perry as con artist Miranda on his TBS sitcom, House of Payne, which is now prepping its third season. Pulliam likens working with Perry to her experiences with Bill Cosby, noting that both men are innovators.
"They both have done something which was thought impossible to do within their given time," she says. "The Cosby Show was a trailblazer [because] it was unheard of to have an African-American family with such affluence. It was thought that wouldn't sell, that people wouldn't believe it, that it didn't exist. In actuality, it's the exact opposite. It's survived years and years later, and is still being watched and enjoyed today as it was the first time it aired. It's become a part of history.
"Tyler has taken from Mr. Cosby's solid foundation and blazed his own path," Pulliam says. "He's filming a sitcom in Atlanta while everyone says you have to be in L.A. or Hollywood. He's turned his production company into a multi-million dollar empire. People never saw how that could happen — and he's proven them all wrong."
Check out photos from House of Payne
Pulliam is keeping her plate full. In addition to House of Payne, she's launched her own production company. She's also currently working on a reality show for Oxygen, which she hopes will give audiences a chance to get to know her as a grown-up. Still, she doesn't discount her roots as a Huxtable kid.
"I'm very honored to have had such a solid foundation and play a character who's so memorable — one that people still love and adore," Pulliam says. "I'm everyone's sister, everyone's daughter, and that's definitely an honor."
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"But I plan on continuing to do different characters and great work because at the end of the day that's what it's about, Pulliam continues. "That's why I'm an actress, and that's the fun of it. You can't really compare a five-year-old and a 30-year-old in terms of roles. I look forward to playing a variety of different things in the future."
Buy Madea Goes to Jail at Amazon.com.