By Jennifer Armstrong
Updated February 19, 2009 at 12:00 PM EST

Yes, onetime Cosby Show moppet Keshia Knight Pulliam plays a prostitute named Candy in Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail. Here, she talks about living down the Huxtables and joining Perry’s band of players.

You really play a prostitute?
She also has a little drug problem. Like all of Tyler’s movies, it’s really good at getting you laughing, but it also gets a message in there. Her story’s a universal one about choice. It was definitely the most dramatic role I’ve played to date.

But Rudy Huxtable as a prostitute — really?
What people forget is that I’m an actress. That’s the wonderful thing about what I do. I get to play different roles. And Rudy was a really, really long time ago. I will be 30 on April 9.

You have a recurring role on Perry’s TBS series House of Payne. Is that how you got this job?
Actually, he had me in mind for a different role, Derek Luke’s character’s fiancée, the young DA from a good family. The sort of Huxtable trajectory. But being the Keshia that I am, I said, “I’m thankful. However, I really want to play Candy.”

And he just handed the role over to you?
He said, “If you believe you can do this, I believe you can.” But of course I did a table read before it was officially offered to me, because there were a lot of naysayers. They were like, “Rudy as a hooker?”

What’s your dream role then?
If Janet Jackson does the story of her life and I’m still young enough, I am there. No one can pull her off like I can. I have a dance background. I’m definitely not cutting an album anytime soon, but I can lip-synch all day. I can’t sing, but I can act like it very well.