By Allison Kugel
Raven-Symone has been in the spotlight since she was three years old and has grown up to have an amazing career. Syndicated columnist Allison Kugel recently caught up with the Raven’s Home star in an exclusive interview. Below are some of the highlights.
FROM THAT’S SO RAVEN TO RAVEN’S HOME:
Allison Kugel: Did the success of That’s So Raven give you the cache to have a hand in developing the direction of Raven’s Home?
Raven-Symone: I had a lot of input from creative to writing to visual. It’s also important, in my position as executive producer, to understand that when you hire someone, you hire them because they know what they are doing. I did not try and say, “I know everything because I was on That’s So Raven.“ It’s also a learning experience for me. I’m allowing these masterful artisans to shine through the show with their writing. set design, and all these beautiful components. I directed an episode this season. I’m hopefully going to write an episode this season as well. It’s like a crash course.
ON ISSUES SHOWN ON RAVEN’S HOME:
Allison Kugel: Single parent families and blended families are becoming something of a new normal. There is no conventional family anymore. Was it your idea to play a single mom and to portray this blended family dynamic on the show?
Raven-Symone: It’s a combination of The Disney Channel, the creators of this new installment of Raven Baxter‘s life, and myself. We all had to agree on showcasing a family that is within the fabric of today’s society. It pushes forward the idea of positivity within any family structure, as long as it has love and respect for one another.
Allison Kugel: Are you going to explore weightier issues this season, of course in a way that is digestible for kids and early adolescents; maybe things from race to sexuality, or kids lamenting the fact that they don’t have a traditional family unit. Will any of these issues becovered?
Raven-Symone: It will touch on the kids’ feeling the weight of mom and dad not being together, and the kids feeling that maybe they want their parents together, or maybe they don’t; all those mixed emotions will be explored. The topics we deal with are within the fabric of society, but we deal with them in a Disney fashion. We want to make sure that we respect the viewers that are watching, and their age range.
Allison Kugel: You’re not yet a mother in real life, but you play one very convincingly on television. You play it with a lot of texture; a lot of interesting notes. Where does that come from?
Raven-Symone: I built [the character] from my own mother, from (actress and dancer) Debbie Allen, from the mothers that I have seen on TV; from the mothers that I have seen on TV that I don’t want to be, and based on who I want to be as a mother. I know that I am part of that generation where they say, “You are trying to be friends with your kids.” But I’m absolutely crazy and I want my kids to know that it’s okay to be your authentic self every morning, every day. I’ve been all over the world and I really want to take in a little bit of how they’re raising their children, and not putting such a stigma on certain things. It also comes from the way I was raised, knowing my manners, and saying “Miss“ and “Ma’am“ and “Mister.“ Even today, my mom has to remind me, “Raven, you’re thirty–three. Stop calling someone who is forty ‘Mister‘ or ‘Miss.‘“ I can’t help it. But I run into some kids and they’re like “Hi Raven.”
Allison Kugel: So, you do see having kids in your future. You do plan to become a mom?
Raven-Symone: Oh, for sure. For sure! Being in the [entertainment] industry from the time I was a kid, you get pushed into only thinking about your career, career, career. And it’s a little bit more of a conscious effort, especially in my world being within the LGBT community, to plan out [motherhood]. It’s definitely in my future. I have a timeline-ish. But it is malleable because not everything can be planned.
ON ADVISING THE NEXT GENERATION:
Allison Kugel: I get that. Speaking of being a child actor, because you lived the experience, I would assume the kids in the cast of Raven’s Home come to you for advice.
Raven-Symone: They’ve been very open with me and talked to me about things, and I’ve given advice. I appreciate that they respect what I have to say, but they still have to go through that journey on their own. They are starting their journey in the entertainment industry, so they don’t want to say “no“ to anything. They want to take every opportunity possible. I tell them they need to take a break. Of course, my journey was different from theirs; I grew up in a different time period. Now, there are so many more rules regarding child actors, and people who are looking out for their safety and well-being. Back in my day, I’d be working Monday, Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and then I was told I was speaking somewhere on Sunday. It was just a hot mess. Hopefully, what I’ve earned in the industry will settle into them, and they will grow up without having that arrested development… aftertaste (laughs).
ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
Allison Kugel: When you started in the business as a small child, there was no social media. Can you imagine the schedule you had back then, plus posting content to Instagram and Snapchat?
Raven-Symone: One good thing is that cell phones are banned from sets. Disney has a great policy of not posting anything prematurely. Instead of taking a break, I see people posting and Instagramming all day. I remember when I was on That’s So Raven and there was a break; I tooknaps. Now there‘s this extra element of having to stay current in the eyes of the consumer, and you get even more depleted. Taking needed breaks is healthy for the sanity of the human being,rather than the “celebrity.“
ON THE FUTURE:
Allison Kugel: Where do you see things going for you in the next five to ten years? Would you love to be behind the scenes more, producing and directing for a company like Disney?
Raven-Symone: I see myself creating more content with Disney where my face is not in the front, but behind the scenes. I see myself creating more feature length content as well. I see myself graduating from school. I just want to graduate; I am the slowest student! I can only take one class per semester, and my mom would have a fit if I turned in anything less than a B-. So, it’s hard with my schedule. I want to take more classes in directing. I got to direct an episode for Raven’s Home, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Raven-Symone: Most definitely. That’s the goal. Another goal of mine is to be a musical director. I love the Disney musicals and I love theatre. At fifty years old, I would love to direct in the capacity of feature lengths and musicals for sure.
Season three of “Raven’s Home” premieres MONDAY, JUNE 17 (8pm ET/PT) on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW. Follow Raven-Symone