We are on the Paramount Studios lot, stage 25, which was occupied for over 25 years by the last three shows filmed there – “Taxi”, “Cheers” and “Frasier”. They also occupied the top TV ratings slots.
Nickelodeon now commands this coveted sound stage with their hot new show “True Jackson VP”, starring Keke Palmer as “True Jackson”. Her best friend and assistant on the show is Lulu, played by 16-year-old singer/actress Ashley Argota.
Ashley’s lovely mom introduces us and we sit off to the side and chat before the taping begins.
Ashley is Philippine-American, very attractive, fun loving and easy-going but she has sharp perceptions of her profession and is very observant of people and her surroundings.
She started singing at age two and knew at a very young age that she wanted to sing, make music and act on TV and in movies. She became the youngest contestant ever to win “Amateur Night at the Apollo” five times in a row and went on to become a “Star of Tomorrow” at “Showtime at the Apollo”.
She followed her success at the Apollo by filming commercials and obtaining a role in the theatrical version of Disney’s Lion King as the young “Nala”. Now she is enjoying her role on her first TV show as well as having a new album out to support her singing career.
When asked to describe how her character Lulu might affect children viewing the show 10 years from now when they reflect on it, she laughs: “I don’t think kids will pick up on her ditsyness because I don’t want to go through America and see kids playing with random lines and refrigerator doors. But Lulu really wants to make the best of life and I hope the kids really pick up on that. She’s always optimistic and happy about life.”
Now that she is highly visible on the small screen every week how does she separate the hanger-ons from her real friends and what qualities does she look for in friends?
In show business it is so hard to find somebody you can really trust so when I pick out my friends, I really want to make sure they are somebody I can trust, that they are very loyal and they always have your back.” Then she adds, “And that they are really nice and have a great sense of humour.”
Ashley also emphasizes that she has never had a boyfriend and won’t have one in the near future because she is concentrating on the development of her career. Her favourite subjects are English, because she loves to read and write, and Algebra, because she is really good at it. You can also throw in history, especially the civil rights era during the 1960s.
“The era of Martin Luther King has always been so fascinating to me. When it comes up in my books I’m always so focused on it.”
What is her favourite thing on the set?
“The audience shows. I love the audience shows! Oh my gosh! Our audience gives us so much energy. I love it when they are here. My least favourite thing is when we tape episodes and there is no audience here. Our energy is like sky high when our audience is here.”
The young up and coming star has a new album out aptly titled Ashley, which she will be busy promoting.
Photos by Johnny Garcia for MoHo Productions