Raven-Symone Breaks Down 'Raven's Home' Cast Switch-Up and Adrienne Houghton Reunion (Exclusive)
The Disney Channel actress opens up about the casting shakeup on season 5 of 'Raven's Home,' premiering March 11.
Raven-Symoné is starting a new chapter on Raven's Home.
The Disney Channel sitcom is returning for its long-anticipated fifth season this month after fans were worried the show wouldn't be renewed after its seemingly definitive season 4 finale. When ET spoke with the actress in May 2021, before the network announced the renewal, she acknowledged that the season finale was created to serve as a "good cliffhanger" if the series were to end with its fourth season.
"I directed it. So yes, I do know what it looks like, but I also know there's been many series in the history of television that have ended but also have come back, and have ended and not come back," Raven explained. "So I think it's a good cliffhanger to whatever happens, and I think that that chapter in [Raven and Chelsea's] life as a whole is done. And I think that we encapsulated this series in a really nice way. And who knows what could happen in the future."
"If I knew exactly whether it's done, whether it's not, I would tell you," she added. "But as of right now, there is no set answer for you."
Of course, five months later in October, Disney Channel announced the renewal of the hit sitcom, as well as a significant change in setting and a cast shakeup.
Season 5 will serve as what Raven tells ET is a "soft reboot" that features the return of her and Issac Ryan Brown as the somewhat psychic Raven Baxter and her son, Booker, who has inherited his mom’s gift to catch glimpses of the future, as they relocate from Chicago to San Francisco. The move welcomes back Rondell Sheridan as Baxter's lovable father, Victor Baxter, but also results in a departure of several series regulars, including Navia Robinson (Nia), Jason Maybaum (Levi), Sky Katz (Tess) and Anneliese van der Pol (Chelsea).
When ET spoke with the entertainer to chat about the show's reinvention, the 36-year-old opened up about reuniting with Adrienne Houghton, who originated the role of bully Alana on That's So Raven, introducing new characters, like Baxter's niece, Alice, and the absence of the fan-favorite characters from the previous seasons.
The actress shared that her hope for the upcoming season is to have different generations "sit down again."
"You have a grandfather, you have a young niece, you have a millennial and you have a teenager. We are tackling subjects of society that everyone can bring their knowledge to and help solve the situation if necessary," she explained, adding that the goal is to show how communication can work within any family.
"That's what we're here for. We're here to entertain you and start conversation. I'm excited for all of our supporters and the watchers to laugh. I just want you to laugh, I want you to enjoy yourself. One of the things that I loved about That's So Raven is, yes, we tackled body image and all of this, but we did it with a spoonful of sugar. Whether you felt it deep down, because it triggered you in some way or because it was happening with you, you also laughed. That's what we hope to do with this season as well."
Despite referencing the show as a "soft reboot," Raven said that there was never a point where she felt they should rename the show or brand it as something else because this season of Raven's Home is a continuation of the story that began in 2019, even with new characters.
"We are characters living the same type of story, just in a different city. This is not a different show. This is just, in everyone's life, you create different families as you grow up," she asserted. "You go and visit old family. You bring in new friends. This is just a continuation of Raven Baxter and Booker's life as he grows into a young man and she figures out what she's doing with her life."
That being said, the actress also understands that fans of the show will be wondering about characters like Nia, Chelsea and Levi, which she promised would be explained in the show.
"Listen, they're a part of our family. There are references and we definitely explain what's going on. I think that's very important, because we respect the people that are watching the show," she said. "Like I said before, everybody grows and your family changes eventually and the people close to you change and it's not... It doesn't change you. It hopefully will help you grow as a human. It's always good to have those people that know you from your past and you call on them and you reference them. It's about moving forward. Of course, we pay homage to those who have got us here."
Raven added that she is a "believer" in trying to bring "as many people as we can" to the show, including iconic characters from That's So Raven. Fans can rest assured that the actress is "working on it," which sounds promising considering how season 5 has managed to reunite Raven with her fellow Cheetah Girls star, Adrienne Houghton.
The Real host is a blast from the past for That's So Raven fans as she's reprising her role as Alana, Baxter's former high school bully. But even as grownups, Houghton's character manages to make Baxter's life quite dramatic after she learns Alana's the principal at Bayside High School. It's the school where Baxter's son, Booker, is enrolled after the family relocates from Chicago to San Francisco.
Raven explained that the first thing discussed in the writers' room was "what's going to be the first big thing," and the idea snowballed from there.
"Bringing in a nemesis is always the best because it just brings conflict and funnies and all that kind of stuff. Not only does Adrienne come back, but she has such an important role in the dynamic with myself, but also Booker, which you'll find," she explained. "It's integrated and interwoven into each other in such an interesting way that I'm happy that she's back for more than just one episode. She is an important part of the story and we keep her alive. I love that."
The actress added that it was "really easy" working with Adrienne again, and as they worked on their episode together, "we just fell right into place."
"Her name on my phone is Chuchie, which is the name that we used to call each other on Cheetah Girls," she admitted, adding that being adults has ushered in a new level in their friendship. "Just being able to talk to each other now that we're adults and reminisce and shine a light on the triggers that have been a part of our lives -- because every life experience has triggers -- but also [to] overcome them and root for each other in our success has been such a pleasurable moment."
Filming season 5 was a trippy experience overall for Raven, who said that she "has no problem with age" but it's been weird at times to step back into the space she occupied during That's So Raven, especially with Sheridan back as her character's father.
"I'm embracing that I'm old and, to be able to step in a scene and see Grandpa Vick, myself, Booker and Alice, four generations having conversations, finding common ground, is amazing. That's what half the families out here can hope for, just to see eye-to-eye on certain things and know how to resolve conflict. Hopefully, we do that. It's been a pleasure," she shared.
"[But] it is very trippy. There's an episode where I'm helping my father out and I'm like, 'Oh, if these walls could talk,' and he goes, 'What could they say?' I'm like, 'Nothing. They're not saying nothing.' It just, even when I said that it truly made me think of the time that Chelsea and [Raven] turned into cows. The time that I got my room redone by a crazy person and moved into the basement. There have been so many stories that I've been a part of within this house and within this character, I can't. It's just a lot."
That said, Raven can't give any promises for a season 6. "We are really focused on creating this content that hopefully will get us another season, but who knows," she said, coyly. If only we could see into the future!
Season 5 of Raven's Home premieres Friday, March 11 on Disney Channel and DisneyNow.