October 16, 2018 at 12:00 PM EDT

In the new film Pimp (out Nov. 9), Keke Palmer plays a struggling pimp named Wednesday whose fortune changes after her girlfriend Nikki (Haley Ramm) hits the streets. But when Wednesday comes face to face with another pimp (Edi Gathegi) who plays a much more dangerous game, her dreams of ever escaping the life are put at risk.

“The movie takes place in the Bronx, N.Y., and my character, Wednesday, it kind of paints the picture of her life,” explains Palmer. “Her mother was a prostitute, her father was a pimp, and that’s the only world she knows. The movie is really a coming-of-age love story with a backdrop of the pimp industry.”

Can’t imagine the star of Akeelah and the Bee and Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP playing such a character? Neither could the folks behind Pimp — at least initially.

“I heard about this project when I was coming out of doing a lot of kid work,” says the actress and singer. “I’d just turned 18, I’d been working a lot with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, and I really was looking for some cool, interesting projects that could give me the opportunity to show different female characters. I wanted to do something different and give a voice to a character that really doesn’t often get a voice. So, I came across this script Pimp and I loved it, and I thought it was going to be challenging, so I immediately wanted to try and get an audition. I couldn’t get one because they said they weren’t really sure it was something that would be a good fit for me. So, I went to my old neighborhood and a created a documentary-style acting tape, and I sent it in, and that’s why I got the role. And that tape was used to help us get the money to make the film.”

Written and directed by Christine Crokos and executive produced by Lee Daniels, Pimp‘s cast also includes Aunjanue Ellis, Vanessa Morgan, Mike E. Winfield, Edi Gathegi, and DMX.

Vertical Entertainment is releasing Pimp in theaters and on demand Nov. 9. Watch the exclusive trailer for the film above.

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