From her work on The Cosby Show to That’s So Raven, television and movie audiences have watched Raven–Symoné grow up in nearly every phase of her life. Now the 25-year-old is back on the small screen as an ambitious showbiz seeker in her new ABC Family Channel sitcom, State of Georgia. The actress talked to BET.com about the new series, her new physique, reuniting with The Cosby Show kids and the secret to her successful transition from child star to mini-mogul.
You'll soon be starring on the new ABC Family sitcom State of Georgia, and it's the first time you’re playing a grown woman on TV. How has it been a different experience?
State of Georgia is my first adult role and it’s also my first sitcom that I don’t have parents speaking for me. When I started That’s So Raven my parents had to be on set, I was underage and then I grew into it. But now I have to implement everything that I’ve learned over the years on a TV show.
Here’s a Cosby Show six degrees of separation for you: Loretta Devine, who plays your aunt on State of Georgia, also played the dorm supervisor on the first season of A Different World, which starred Lisa Bonet’s character, who was also your stepmom on The Cosby Show.
Isn’t that funny? I enjoy Loretta Devine so much. I never thought I’d get a chance to work with her. She's become like my real aunt. We sit down and talk, we discuss things and have our little moments. She is the most real person in the world.
Speaking of The Cosby Show, what was it like reuniting with them for the TV Land Awards this year?
We had a lot of fun. But there were stories they remembered that I didn’t, because I’m pretty much learning about everyone for the first time. I really don’t remember them that well because I was only three. And you don’t have friendships with a three-year-old.
How often do you all see each other or keep in touch?
A lot of them I only see during the reunions. Malcolm [Jamal Warner] and I text each other every now and then. My mom lives in Atlanta and Keisha [Knight Pulliam] does too, so we see her. We might run into each other here and there but it’s not on an everyday basis. I’m friends with Ms. Debbie Allen so I hear Ms. Phylicia Rashad’s voice on the phone every now and then.
You also shed some pounds and have a brand new figure. How did you lose the weight?
I could say I went on a diet, I could say I exercised, but in all honesty the one thing that I did that I can share that everyone should do is examine their surroundings and see if there’s something in your life that is making you continue bad behaviors. Mine came from stress and manifested in other ways.
What were some of the things in life that made you stress out and caused you to overeat?
At 15-years-old I got a show called That’s So Raven and it had a wonderful ensemble cast. But at the same time everybody will try to single you out and put all of the weight on your shoulders. So at 15 I was dealing with a type of responsibility that adults have. A normal 15-year-old might be like, "I need my driver’s license," and that’s it. But my thing was I have to make sure these checks don’t stop coming to those 150 other people, the show’s cast and crew. They’re counting on me to be funny, to be on time and professional. And being from the South I’m not the person to go to the gym and exercise my problems away. That’s not what I do. If I gain weight and go up and down [in weight] it’s in my DNA—my whole family goes up and down. Actually, every woman in the world goes up and down. It’s just that I was on TV and in everybody’s face when it happened to me.
Even though you’re a very successful actress, producer and entrepreneur worth an estimated $40-45 million dollars, I hear you don’t like to be called a mogul. Why is that?
They always call me this mogul, but I don’t do it all alone. I have to be honest, even Oprah [Winfrey] doesn’t do it herself. I come up with all my desires and dreams. But there are lawyers, business managers, my mom and other people that do it [for me]. I go to my managers and I say, "This is my life plan. I want this, this and this. How can you help me? What do you think can be achieved at this time?" I surround myself with the right people to help me reach those goals. Whether it’s on a show, in my personal business or within my family, I have a wonderful circle of people that keep everything working. I can’t take all of the glory when it comes to my success.
State of Georgia premieres June 29 on ABC Family Channel at 8:30pm/7:30c.