Raven-Symone, who was a “Cosby Show” tyke and then a Disney teen queen, has taken over the lead in Broadway’s “Sister Act.” She’s stepping into the habit of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprise turn when she witnesses a crime and winds up hiding in a convent.
Symone has signed on for six months with the musical at the Broadway Theatre, taking over from Patina Miller. “Sister Act” is her first leading turn on Broadway, as well as a chance for the actress, 26, to continue a transition to adult roles that hasn’t always come easy for young performers. She chatted with NBC 4 New York about her not-so-cloistered career.
NBC4NY: You’ve been in front of an audience since you were 3. How do you keep a level head?
Raven-Symone: Well, this is something I don’t want to mess up, not just because of the people who were doing it before me, but for my own personal success.
NBC4NY: Who do you think has made that transition well?
Raven-Symone: Natalie Portman. Neil Patrick Harris. Jodie Foster. They just did it and lived their lives. It’s about their work. I have to make decisions that don’t embarrass myself. I don’t have kids yet, but I always think ahead of the game. I want my kids to look back and say “Mom did stuff that was age-appropriate.” So that way, when I tell them not to do stuff, I can point and say “Here, look at my track record.” I want to stay on the blueprint I created.
NBC4NY: You revealed that you were taking the role during an appearance on “The View,” alongside Whoopi Goldberg, who starred in the 1992 film, and is also one the show’s producers. How was that?
Symone: Yeah, it was freakin’ awesome, plain and simple, because I watched her all my life. She’s such a wonderful role model for African-American females, so it’s amazing to be able to step into a role she created. I have big shoes to fill.
NBC4NY: Did she have advice?
Symone: She said, “Do what (director) Jerry Zaks says.” She has confidence in him. And that’s the best advice you can give: Trust your director and have fun.
NBC4NY: How do you have fun when you’re not rehearsing?
Symone: I’m in my house, painting. I’ve been learning Photoshop and Corel 12 on my computer and I’m trying to make my drawings look realistic. I can’t go to school right now, but eventually I want to be a graphic designer. The last image I painted was a “universal portrait” of a friend, an abstract piece. Their face was the sun at the center of the universe, with images of their personal universe around them.
NBC4NY: Thanks to your time on the Disney Channel, you come complete with your own catchphrase: “That’s So Raven!” You must hear that a lot.
Symone: I love the phrase. It’s a way to identify me in a crowd. I think it’s funny!