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  • Interview: Raven-Symoné of 'College Road Trip'

    Wed, 16 Jul 2008 12:34:58

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    Raven-Symoné is no shrinking violet. The young actress has made a career of going toe-to-toe with top-notch comedians. She got her start playing opposite comedy powerhouse Bill Cosby on the '80s’ most beloved sitcom, The Cosby Show. She may be in her early 20s now, but she boasts a resume of holding her own against notorious scene stealer Martin Lawrence in the airy Disney comedy College Road Trip. In the film, Symoné and Lawrence portray father-daughter tandem Melanie and James, who scout colleges on a road trip together. As Melanie fights to gain her independence, James tries to hold onto his little girl. It's a classic generational struggle, with the film playing up a mixture of touching family drama and situational comedy. Symoné weighed in on the dilemma parents and children face when college looms in the near future, her career as the feisty foil to legendary comedians, and growing up in the spotlight.

    How did you hold your own against Martin Lawrence? Or is that old hat, given that you held your own as a child against another comedy legend like Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show?

    Well, I think I would take the word 'against' out of the sentence, because you have to work with them and let them lead you and teach you by example by what they've done for so long. I basically take their lead and follow them and try to see what the deal is, and when it's my time to shine, I still watch them and see what they play off and let them play off me as well. That is what I learned from Mr. Cosby when I worked with him.

    Did you learn anything crucial or specific from Martin?

    He is the king of switching on and off. When the camera is rolling, he is exactly what you see on the screen. When they yell “cut,” he switches to very professional, but when the camera is on him, that's the person we all watch and it's all him doing his thing. When the camera is off, he goes into daddy mode. I have to say that he is professional but kind. But when camera is on, it's the same Martin you see in the movies. It's cool because it's like he saves all of his energy for his performance and that gives you something to look forward to when you are working with him.

    So he's not crazy and super energetic and running around on set like he does on screen, huh?

    Nope, not at all. I am the crazy one [laughs]. He is very involved in the script as well as the character analysis. He's not just interested in his character, but in every character. It makes sense, because when you put your name on something you want everything to be perfect and understand why it is done the way it is done.

    You're a child of showbiz, having been performing since your were a kid! Did you or do you have any college aspirations yourself?

    I still have college aspirations. I can go at any age, at the right time when I am not wasting money while doing it. I want to go when it makes sense. I have always wanted to go to school for culinary studies. I will. I know I will!

    It's amazing that you have that confidence and you definitely will get there one day. It goes without saying that you like to cook?

    I love to cook! I have DVDs coming out that show how much I love to cook and they will be available in Target and K-Mart.

    I did choreography on a moving bus at 60 miles an hour. Who can say that?

    You also have a musical background, illustrated in College Road Trip and its music sequences, such as Melanie taking over on the bus and getting everyone grooving. Did you do any of the choreography?

    I definitely talked to the writers and producers and director about it beforehand, but when it comes to my movies, I like to make sure I am in the mind frame of the character itself and I don't want to confuse the audience about who I am as an artist. My album came out and I am about to go on tour, so I am excited about that, but when I am doing a character on camera, it's always about that character unless, of course, I am playing Raven-Symoné. I had fun and did the choreography on a moving bus that was traveling at 60 miles an hour. It was hard, but who else can say that? I did a song and dance on a moving bus. Bang!

    College Road Trip is such a light film on the surface, but it belies the fact that going off to college is not only hard for a child but for the parent who has shaped his or her child's existence for 18 years. How does the film touch on the more serious aspect of leaving the nest?

    It definitely explores the father-daughter relationship and the difficulty in accepting [a child’s departure] will happen either way for both, and the mother as well. You see that in the film. They did a great job of developing it and delving into that. It is important to show that, and while the film is fun on the surface, I still talk to people who watch it and say to me, “That's what I have to look forward to? I am scared, but the movie showed me what it's going to be like.” I love that about a movie, especially when I am a part of it. I love to touch that core and show it's not just funny subject matter. It's speaking the truth.

    The film presents Melanie scouting colleges and her father James dealing with it. What do you think was the hardest thing Melanie had to face and accomplish on the trip?

    She had to face herself and how she had been treated by her father and she had to realize that she has to be the adult as much as he has to be the adult in order to grow. In the beginning, she was all like, “My dad is ruining my life,” and then she had to suck it up and realize, “We’re in this together.” She could no longer be selfish and/or a typical daughter wanting out from under the thumb of her father. Her dad was there for a reason and she had to enjoy the moment.

    Where do you think Melanie ended up after her freshman year of college? Since you played her, can you do a "fan fiction" move and write her next chapter right now?

    She would have become a lawyer and prosecuted one of the people that her dad, who was a cop, picked up. I envision that she went home after college and bonded with her father and they became better friends.

    What’s going on with your music career?

    I head out to tour this week and I am going to play at fairs and Six Flags all over the country.

    Anything else you'd like to recommend about the College Road Trip DVD?

    Fans should watch the extras, mostly the commentary and deleted scenes. My favorite scene was deleted because it was too long. I got to wrestle Martin in the movie. At least it's in the DVD portion.

    — Amy Sciarretto

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    Tags: Raven Symone, Martin Lawrence, Bill Cosby, College Road Trip

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