INTERVIEW: Raven-Symoné Gets Into the Sister Act

The popular young actress discusses making her Broadway debut in the hit musical.

Raven-Symoné in Sister Act
(© Tristan Fuge)
Raven-Symoné in Sister Act
(© Tristan Fuge)

Raven-Symoné has literally grown up in front of the spotlight, from her first gig as the adorable Olivia on NBC’s The Cosby Show through her stints in The Cheetah Girls and the Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven. Now, the 26-year-old actress is finally making her debut on the Great White Way by stepping into the heavenly shoes of nightclub singer-turned-nun Deloris Van Cartier in the hit musical Sister Act at the Broadway Theatre. She recently chatted with TheaterMania about the latest chapter in her diverse career, being a role model to young women, and her outside hobbies.

THEATERMANIA: Deloris is a bit different from your other roles in that she is less wholesome than some of your previous characters. How much of a challenge was it to take on her edginess?
RAVEN-SYMONE: It wasn’t necessarily a challenge to take on her edginess. There is a lot of me that I don’t release to the public, so I just had to delve into parts of me that I keep under wraps because I work with kids. Our director, Jerry Zaks, is very smart and has a wonderful mind, so it was easy for me to get into her.

TM: You’ve had some success in the recording industry. How has that prepared you for a life in musical theater?
R-S: It means that I can sing a little bit. I love to sing out loud in my shower, so connecting with people now is great. My whole career has pretty much been getting me ready for this moment of acting and singing and blending them both together.

TM: What would we hear you singing in the shower?
R-S: The songs from Sister Act, so I don’t forget the words. The composition is absolutely gorgeous. After I’ve left Broadway and I’ve been sitting in my house I will probably still sneak in a couple of “Fabulous, Babys!” I love singing out, I’m like, “Alright! Woo-hoo! Chaka Khan!”

TM: People call you “That’s So Raven” as if that is your actual name. How much was that Raven like Raven Symone?
R-S: I am the “character” Raven, so it’s hard for me to tell you. On one hand, she is a psycho, she is crazy — it took eating a lot of peanut M&M’s to do her! She’s also very energetic, fun, trusting, truth-telling, and loyal. And that’s how I aspire to be too!

TM: There are so many girls who look up to you, and there’s been a lot of discussion about your body image. How do you feel about this?
R-S: It’s difficult to not be able to just be yourself without criticism in any position, whether you’re in high school, college, or this industry. I think our society is all about judgment, which is so rude and disrespectful. I think anyone can understand the fact that it’s hard just to live in this society right now. You can be super skinny and then be labeled, “Oh my God, are you sick, what’s wrong with you?” or you can be criticized while being the right size but not looking a certain way because of your hair color or because your eyes are purple. It’s just ridiculous. It’s hard to just be, sometimes. But with my generation and the generation after me, we’re kind of just saying, “We don’t care anymore.” I love that! You still have to be respectful and understand that what you put out into the atmosphere will come back to you.

TM: What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?
R-S: I paint a lot. I just signed up for digital art courses, so I’m probably going to be in my house learning how to do Photoshop. And I love quantum physics. It sucks that women aren’t usually into science. They need to get it together! I’m always trying to expand my mind outside of the industry because there’s more to life than the coolest designer clothes. And I used to breed poodles. I liked them because they were fluffy and so cute — and honestly, they make a lot of money when you sell them!

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Sister Act

Closed: August 26, 2012