Raven-Symoné Wasn’t Originally Cast As The Lead On ‘That’s So Raven’
If the Disney Channel could see into the future, they’d probably take back their original casting decision for their hit show That’s So Raven.
In a recent episode of the podcast Vulnerable, hosted by actress and former star of the Disney series Even Stevens, Christy Carlson Romano, Anneliese van der Pol revealed that the channel’s original idea was to have the Cosby Show alum play the sidekick to another lead character before they realized Raven-Symoné should be the star. Van der Pol, who played Chelsea on the series, said the show’s concept was not written to center around the former The View co-host.
“When I went into audition, the show was called Absolutely Psychic — it wasn’t called That’s So Raven at all,” she explained. “At the time, Raven wasn’t the lead, she was the sidekick. They were looking for a lead. I came in to audition for the lead. I think the character’s name was Molly. I auditioned and a couple other people auditioned. I didn’t get the part — somebody else got the part — but when they filmed, they realized that Raven was the funniest one and had a following, and so they bumped her up to first position and started auditioning people again.”
Van der Pol went on to say that she felt the original decision was racially motivated. “I went into a big cattle call and I finally got the part,” she said of landing the role of Raven’s best friend on the series. “I think the character’s name was like, Molly, then Emma, and then it became Chelsea. And I think it was kind of like racism at a low level, if that’s even a possibility. They couldn’t really see a Black girl leading a show.”
Raven-Symoné went on to become the youngest Black woman to have a show named after her when That’s So Raven premiered in 2003. The show ran for four years and became one of the most successful series in Disney Channel history. A sequel to the series, Raven’s Home, debuted in 2017 and is still in production for the network.
It seems the vision became quite clear after all.