Raven-Symone, actress

For most kids, keeping up grades is a full-time job. For Raven-Symone, it was just one job.

For most kids, keeping up grades is a full-time job. For Raven-Symone, it was just one job. Despite launching her show business career as a toddler, she still managed to graduate with honors from the Atlanta magnet school she attended growing up. Raven credits her parents with "keeping it real" and giving her a childhood that she says was normal by entertainment standards. She went to football games and pep rallies, did household chores, got detention and even attended summer school to make up work that didn't arrive on time while she was on tour. As she moves into the motion picture arena, there too her talent and hard work will no doubt serve her well. She talked to Denise Abbott for The Hollywood Reporter about staying grounded through challenges and change.

The Hollywood Reporter: Did you ever imagine "That's So Raven" would be such a hit?
Raven-Symone: Never. And I still can't grasp the success of it all. The list of "Raven"-inspired products Disney merchandising has come up with is unreal -- games, board games, sheets, clothes, lunch boxes, fragrance, jewelry. Young fans come up to me and get all worked up because they actually think I'm Raven Baxter. Having been in the business so long, I'm fairly detached from all the hoopla. I know it could all end tomorrow. The more you wrap yourself up in the business and let it become your identity the harder you're going to fall.

THR: Why do you think the show has struck such a chord?
Raven: It's a family show, not a kid's show. The adult characters are all strong and funny. Every cast member is a seasoned professional who has brought their own audience to the show, which has added to the Disney Channel's already enormous fan base. And the writing is amazing. As Mr. Cosby used to say, "If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage."

THR: How are you different from the onscreen Raven?
Raven: Raven Baxter is kind of crazy and a thrill seeker, and I'm not that way. I mind my own business and kind of keep to myself. I rarely go out. I've got just a handful of close friends. My idea of heaven is a trip to Two Bunch Palms (in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.), where I like to go to chill.

THR: You're at the top of your game now, but were there times when you couldn't get roles?
Raven: I've been rejected far more than I've been accepted, let's put it that way. After "Doctor Doolittle" I came out here with my dad to meet with casting agents, and we really started wondering whether we were wasting our time and money. Then I got "Absolutely Psychic" (the original title for "Raven") and everything changed. But my parents raised me to believe that if I didn't get a job, it was because it wasn't the right part for me, not because I was inadequate. They also taught me to have more than one dream, so if one falls through there's a backup. I love to cook and would be happy going to culinary school in Paris, becoming an executive chef and opening a restaurant.

THR: You were named a producer for the show's fourth season. What did that entail?
Raven: I took meetings on special effects, got involved with casting and script notes. I really liked having the input. I'd like to continue in that vein, being the type of producer who works with actors -- the liaison between upstairs and downstairs.

THR: Any interest in directing?
Raven: I turned down an opportunity to direct ("That's So Raven"). Directing a four-camera show is a huge responsibility. I felt it was just too much on top of acting in the episode.

THR: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Raven: I want to have -- I will have -- an entertainment company that promotes self-respect in young people, especially girls, via TV, music, publications, content for mobile and broadband. I want to continue to act, but I also want to discover new people and put their dreams into fruition. I've had my turn. I don't need to hog the stage. Basically, I want to do good, touch as many people as I can, and change lives for the better.

THR: You sound like Oprah!
Raven: I sound like Raven!