June 2001

Interviewed by Roslyn J. Bradford


We first saw Raven twelve years ago as little "Olivia Kendall" on the classic sitcom "The Cosby Show". Following a four-year stint playing "Nicole Lee" on the television series "Hanginí with Mr. Cooper" co-starring Mark Curry and Holly Robinson Peete, Raven landed the role of Eddie Murphyís oldest daughter "Charisse" on the hit film "Dr. Dolittle". Today, this intelligent, grounded, 16-year old Atlanta native is poised to move into the next phase of her acting career as a well-prepared, professional young woman. Raven spoke with us in Los Angeles about her role in 20th Century Foxís "Dr. Dolittle 2" and her life as a teen star.

Tell us about your role as Charisse in "Dr. Dolittle" and what we should look forward to seeing in "Dr. Dolittle 2"?

Charisse is 16 in this one, and she has a boyfriend (played by Lilí Zane) so sheís going through that. Since her father talks to animals, there is a lot of publicity around her family, and she doesnít like that. She just wants to be a "normal" family, so she rebels. But, in the end she gets a surprise which brings her closer to her father. Charisseís character has really expanded; you see how she really feels about the family, and you get a real feel for her, rather than in the first film.

How did you land the original part?

I went through a strenuous line of auditioning, just over and over again. They first had me audition for the younger sister (played by Kyla Pratt); they said I looked too old, so I tried out for the older sister. It was funny because they first wanted the character to be prissy, and kinda valley-girlish, but I went in there and kinda flipped it a little bit and changed it to hip-hop.

How do you go about choosing which parts you pursue?

When I get the audition, I first make sure that I like the part. I donít get a lot of things to choose from because there are not that many roles for young African-American females. But when I do, I make the best of it. And I have been fortunate enough to have great roles just come to me.

What is it like working with Eddie Murphy?

Itís great, I mean itís MR. EDDIE MURPHY; heís a legend. Heís really funny on the set, really sweet. I learned a lot.

What was a typical day on the "Dr. Dolittle 2" shooting set?

Call time averaged 7:00 am, I get there, go into hair & make-up, wardrobe and get dressed. Then I go to school until they need me and we might have rehearsal. Itís pretty much a "hurry-up and wait" situation. You think that youíre going to be working the whole day but for the kids, Iím usually in school all day; get like 30 minutes on the set and then go back to school. Play around with the ADís (Assistant Directors). Me and Kyla Pratt used to take their carts away [Raven smiles mischievously]. . . weíd just love to annoy them because itís either that or go back to school. We love school, donít get me wrong, but itís fun messing with the ADís.

Then, we go to lunch; we used to play cards all the time, spades and "21". Go back to work, shoot, shoot, shoot, tutor on the set. Itís actually kinda fun for us kids because we get to go to school, play games and do our work of course, while the adults have to sit in a trailer and wait awhile.

How do you juggle your schooling with your acting schedule?

I have a tutor. Iím in independent study right now, I just changed over because I used to go to a public school in Atlanta.

[Raven then proceeds to give a "shout-out" to her friends in Atlanta, you "Peachtree Street People, I remember yíall", and shares that although she is Georgia Peach, she cannot explain why so many streets in Atlanta begin with the word "Peachtree".]

I bring my laptop, and I just do my work. I have to do at least 3 hours of school every day, so that when they do need you for long periods of time on the set I donít have to worry about "rush me to school so I can finish my work". I have to keep my grades up, otherwise my mom and dad will be pissed . . . and I will, too, because I want to go to college.

Are you a junior?

[Raven becomes so excited she can barely contain herself] You know Iím like ecstatic about this (laughing). In Atlanta, my friends all graduated last Friday (June 1). So, in spirit, I am with them (laughing), I am now a junior (proudly). Here in California, Iíve heard that we get out around June 22, but Iím claiming junior status now.

What do you want to study when you go to college? Where would you like to go?

I really want to go to Cal Arts or Pepperdine, and I want to major in Art History, I love to paint. People ask me why donít I want to major in acting or something like that. (Answering her own question) Because just in case acting doesnít go, I want to fall back on something that I love to do. And thatís my third favorite thing to do.

Behind acting and what?


What is the status of your recording career?

I was in the studio yesterday (June 3) trying to put some things down. Getting everthing together. There is going to be another one (CD) soon. . .


[Raven purposely stammers, implying donít hold your breath for a release date]

How much time do you spend here in Los Angeles versus in Atlanta over the course of year?

Usually, before last year, I was in Atlanta more than I was here. I would have a job here, then move right back to Atlanta. Unless I have a television show, then I spend 6 months out here and I go back six months to Atlanta. But now, my family has decided that Iíve gotten a little older, so we can come out here and take full advantage of anything that comes. And Iím going to stay out here for awhile, hopefully go to college here.

I read that you shot a TV pilot for Disney?

Yes, itís called "Absolutely Psychic". There are 3 main characters, Stacy, Rose and Hitch. Rose is psychic; she can see visions, but doesnít know how things are going to turn out. I play Stacy, one of her middle-school friends who helps her figure out how things are going to end. Thereís lots of detective work, lots of physical comedy. Itís hilarious.

Has it been picked-up for prime-time?

We donít know yet. . .still waiting. Crossing our fingers. Out of all the scripts that I have auditioned for recently, I liked this one the best.

Do you have a preference for TV or film work?

TV is actually harder than film. With film, everyday you get one scene youíre going to do, and you just have to memorize that scene. But with television you have to get the whole script and memorize the whole script for Friday. . .although film takes longer, and is a lot more emotional, unless youíre doing "The Practice" or something. I like television because you get to stay with the people for a longer period of time and you create a bond. In "Dr. Dolittle 2", I created a bond with my little sister, and although we still have it, I donít get to see her every day like I did, and I miss her. But with "Hanginí with Mr. Cooper", I saw them for four years, and itís just a tighter bond.

Is it hard when a series comes to an end?

[Emphatically] I was "boo-hooing" on "Cooper". Na, na, na no. . . I was in the school room with my teacher and my mom and I was like [pretending to cry] "Why does this have to end? . . .I donít understand", because I was only 11. They ("Cooper" cast) were so close to me, I still talk to them today.

Do you ever feel like youíve missed out on anything by pursuing this career?

No, Ďcause Iíve been to public school. I have sleepovers, I go to parties, I go out with my friends. Iím going to the prom [Raven sternly reminds her prom date of his promise to take her, just in case heís reading this]. I get to live the "normal" life and the fantasy life. I have the best of both worlds.