LOS ANGELES – After conquering the world of music, Alicia Keys is expanding into movie and television production.
Keys, 24, and her longtime manager, Jeff Robinson, said Thursday they have formed a company whose first project will be a UPN TV series inspired by Keys' experiences as a biracial youngster growing in New York.
"A lot of times I watch TV and I watch film and there's so many things I'd love to talk about that I feel don't get the opportunity to be shown," Keys told The Associated Press. "Sometimes things become very stereotypical and one-sided, and I feel like it's such a colorful world."
Their company, New York-based Big Pita, Lil' Pita, will provide "the opportunity to expose that array," Keys said in a phone call.
She's also intent on developing projects that give women their due, she added.
"I was mostly raised by very strong women, and I consider myself one as well. So I'd like to see things explore that and see that strength shine through," she said.
Keys, a singer, songwriter and musician, was born to a white mother and black father. Her parents split when she was 2 and she was raised in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York by her mom, Terri Augello.
The new company's eye-catching name has a special meaning for Keys and Robinson, who have worked together for more than a decade: "Pita stands for pain in the a--," Keys said. "That's what he and I both are — so watch out."
The two will serve as executive producers for their untitled TV drama, which has a script commitment from UPN and which Robinson said may be on the air by next fall. The pilot, not yet cast, will be written by Felicia Henderson ("Soul Food," "Moesha,").
Keys is making her film acting debut in the upcoming "Smokin' Aces," which stars Ben Affleck and Andy Garcia.
Asked about movies their company will produce, Robinson and Keys declined to provide details.
"I couldn't give away all my secrets," Keys said in her trademark husky tones. But she said the films will be "the most thrilling" aspect of the company's work.
The goal is to create projects she's proud of, Keys said — and some with juicy roles for her.
"One of the great parts of being able to produce your own movie is to come up with a story that you find interesting. ... You don't have to wait for someone to tell you what they think" you should do, she said.
She labeled herself a "very independent person. People do tend to call me a control freak, and I will gladly say that I am, in a good way. I'm totally involved in what I do."
Keys began playing piano when she was 7, with dance and voice lessons following. She studied at the Professional Performance Arts School in New York, graduating at 16 and studying at Columbia University briefly before deciding to devote herself full-time to music.
Her first album, "Songs in A Minor," debuted atop the Billboard chart in 2001 when she was 20.
With nine Grammy Awards to her name, Keys is nominated for five more at next month's ceremony, including best R&B album for "Unplugged."
She vowed that her music won't suffer as she expands into new areas.
"I'm a juggler by nature, that's how I've always been. My dream is to be part of a multitude of things. ... These activities feed back into my music, my music feeds back into these activities."
Asked about her next album, she said: "It's bubbling. I'm very excited about it."
Robinson, president of MBK Entertainment, attests to Keys' ability to handle a heavy load.
"Alicia is a very energetic workaholic. She's always thinking. We're always feeding ideas off each other — which generates huge cell-phone bills, by the way," Robinson said.
"I'm constantly telling her to slow down, let's not conquer the world in one day. But she wants to do it all."