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Keke Palmer ‘really connects’ with alien surgeon she voices in new animated series: ‘She’s constantly trying to manage’ her mental health

In Entertainment
February 24, 2024

Keke Palmer and Stephanie Hsu play alien doctors and best friends who stumble across a potential cure for anxiety while navigating sexual exploration, family drama and workplace politics in the new animated sci-fi series The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy.

The new Prime Video comedy, out Feb. 23, follows Dr. Sleech (Hsu) and Dr. Klak (Palmer) who are intergalactically renowned surgeons who don’t mind bending the rules a bit.

They find themselves in a whirlwind as they “tackle anxiety-eating parasites, illegal time loops and deep-space STIs,” according to the series description. They risk taking on a “highly dangerous and potentially groundbreaking” case that puts existence in jeopardy, but could also help solve a big problem.

Dr. Klak and Dr. Sleech in the Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy

Dr. Klak and Dr. Sleech in The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy. (Prime Video)

As Dr. Klak likes to say nonchalantly, the worst that could happen is death.

The voice cast also includes Kieran Culkin, Sam Smith, Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne.

Reaction to the out-of-this-world script

Hsu tells Yahoo Entertainment she laughed a lot when she first read the script.

“I feel like I remember just giggling a lot and then also being kind of like, ‘Oh, what?’ There’s a sex closet, there’s love triangles … and alien hormones and intergalactic STIs,” she says. “Then getting to see the images, that was like such an aha moment of the world that we get to inhabit in this show.”

Hsu, who starred in 2023’s Academy Award-winning interdimensional sci-fi film Everything Everywhere All At Once, believes she “might just be weird” after landing another sci-fi role.

Stephanie Hsu at the series premiere of The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy.

Stephanie Hsu at the series premiere of The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“That might just be the bottom line. You know, it’s like just in my blood,” she laughs.

Despite the laughs, Palmer felt the script was “really deep and real.”

“For me, my favorite medium to talk about deep things is always going to be comedy because I love the idea of, ‘Oh my gosh, I made you laugh while you’re crying,’” she tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I think that’s when stuff is able to be received better. It’s like, let’s not be sad about it. Let’s laugh and cry at just the ridiculousness of life at times and I think that this show does that really well.”

Palmer’s connection to Klak

In the show, anxiety is a major storyline. Dr. Klak suffers from anxiety and her mother, a fellow doctor, has made a career out of it by writing a successful book about her daughter’s condition. In the series, Klak tries different methods to control her anxiety but ultimately hopes to cure it altogether.

“I really actually connect to my character’s storyline in my own way. Her relationship with her mother, her relationship with mental health and just how she’s constantly trying to manage it and understand herself and she’s searching and trying to find that balance,” Palmer says. “I’ve been very open about anxiety and depression and I’ve had a therapist since I was 16 or 17 years old. I’ve got two therapists now.”

Building chemistry

Palmer and Hsu worked to build great chemistry between their characters despite not recording in the same room.

“That is one of the drawbacks. With animation work, you know, you’re usually in there by yourself, you don’t get the opportunity to play off your cast member or your colleagues, so to speak,” Palmer explains.

Of working with Hsu, Palmer felt she knew “her personality from interviews and just sort of style. But then when they would play me her recordings, it would offer me an opportunity to also see how we exist together. So it was just a continued development of this character.”

Hsu echoes Palmer’s sentiment.

“I am such a huge fan of Keke’s and we luckily got to meet over the last year, sort of before we found out we were doing this together. … I think from the moment that we met, and also just being a fan of her work, I feel like I really feel her spirit. And so I really felt like I was able to imagine what it would be like, as if we were best friends, doctors in an alien galaxy,” she says.

Hsu says listening to Palmer’s audio playbacks gave her a way into “developing that friendship and relationship based on these hammy two that already exist as human beings.”

“That was really, really special,” she says. “It’s really rare when you can kind of feel that chemistry even through voices.”

The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy is streaming on Prime Video.

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