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‘Raven’s Home’ star Navia Robinson talks with LI kids

Actress Navia Robinson with Kidsday reporters Alvin Lopez,

Actress Navia Robinson with Kidsday reporters Alvin Lopez, left, Neuville Brown, Asia Dowe and Erin Timmes. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We were able to meet and interview actress Navia Robinson, who stars as Nia Baxter-Carter on the Disney TV show “Raven’s Home.” When she is not working on this series she also stars on the Netflix show “Free Rein” as Rosie.

Do you feel you and your character are alike or different?

I think we’re actually really similar in so many ways. I think we’re both independent and we both care so much about our family and we’d do anything to help them. We’re both levelheaded and almost the glue that holds the family together, keeps everybody sane. Because we love Raven, who is super eccentric and energetic. We’ve got Booker, who’s obviously super crazy, and you know, between Annaliese [van der Pol], who is Chelsea in the show, and Levi and Tess, we just got a lot of personalities, and I think Nia almost keeps it all in one piece. That’s a great way to describe it. Yeah.

What do you do in your free time?

I play basketball with my brothers. I just spend time with family, really, because as soon as I get free time, they’re all that I really think about and all that I really want to do. Me and Sky [Katz, who stars as Tess] when we get free time on the set during lunch, we always play basketball together. I love drawing — that’s something that I’ve always really liked. Not to say I’m very good, but I like drawing a lot.

How does it feel when kids look up to you?

Oh, my gosh, it feels really crazy. It’s so weird because I’ve looked up to girls who are my age when I was younger who are on Disney Channel. It’s crazy to think that some kids think the same as me. And also at some times it’s like, not pressure, but almost something on your shoulders that you feel like you need to carry yourself in a certain way because you know people are inspired by you, and that’s so amazing. And I think girls can be inspired, girls and boys can be inspired by that.

Which celebrity inspired you first?

So many, really. Like honestly, Disney Channel always inspired me to become an actress because that’s the first thing that I saw, watching Disney Jr. and all the fun shows and “SpongeBob” and “Phineas and Ferb.” Those are all cartoons, but that was when I really realized that that’s what I wanted to do. That’s what I thought was fun, and it got to the point where I was like begging my parents to put me in acting classes. So there wasn’t ever a specific actress, it was always just multiple actresses who I loved and admired for their craft and their personalities and for how they carried themselves and how successful they were at such a young age.

How do you handle the haters?

Oh, that’s a good question. It’s weird because people that you don’t even know will find something to say about you. And that’s really hard, and online bullying is just as bad as bullying in real life, because people who don’t know you are saying things about you that if they haven’t met you, they can’t really tell who you really are. I deal with it by kind of ignoring it. I’ve got great parents and my guardians who help me ignore that and who monitor my accounts, and so if there’s any negativity, they can handle it, and I can choose to handle it if I want to.

We know that you worked with celebrities like Nicki Minaj. Do you have a favorite person like her that you would like to work with?

Some actresses that inspired me were Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. I think I’d want to have people who are part of other Disney Channel shows and movies to come work with us in “Raven’s Home,” because how cool would that be to have like crossover episodes and cameos in our show of other people who have been on Disney shows?

What is the most helpful thing that you learned from going to acting school?

We always played fun games and we always did improv, and it helped us learn how to think on our feet, which is really important, not even in acting, but in life, to be able to think on your feet and to be able to be prepared for any situation and its outcomes. So I think playing those games like that trained me to realize that I have to be on my feet at certain times and I have to be prepared for certain situations.

How do you prepare for different emotions on the spot, such as crying?

I think about situations where I would have cried, or I would have felt really happy, if it comes to that. It’s always hard because you don’t want to make yourself sad, but honestly, you can find happy memories that you might have teared up, but out of tears of joy, and you can use that to help you cry if you need to.

Do you re-watch the episodes to improve your performance?

You know what, before “Raven’s Home” on the other projects that I did, I never wanted to watch myself. I thought it was the weirdest thing, like seeing double me, and then critiquing myself on what I’ve done, what I think I can do better. Looking back at things that you’ve done before and seeing how you’ve improved is so, so good for your personal development and growth, and so recently I have been watching episodes of “Raven’s Home.” I can just think about what I’d like to work on and what I’d like to improve on, because there’s always going to be something that I’m going to want to improve on.

If a child wanted to become an actor or actress, what advice would you give them?

You have to go for it. And that can be acting, and that can be anything else. We always think that we have to postpone ourselves or wait for something to happen. But we have to put effort into it to make things happen. That’s what helped me get to where I am today, because I talked to my parents about what I wanted to do, whether it’s acting or not acting at all. You can talk to your guardian and somebody that you trust who you think maybe could help you advance yourself and what you want to do. And so I think that’s important in acting.

Do you ever give ideas for the show?

We all give ideas. We constantly are busting into the writer’s room on set, and just spewing out ideas, and they go, wait, we’re actually writing a script right now, so just reel it back in and wait until next week when we actually have to have a new one. We’re going to see some of our ideas in Season 2. So that’s going to be really exciting. We always have these crazy story lines that we think of and these crazy elements that we want to add into the show.

Is your show filmed in front of a live studio audience?

It’s filmed in front of a live studio audience on Fridays. It’s an awesome experience. The energy is fantastic. And then you get that element of having people actually watch what you do, which can be nerve-wracking, like extremely nerve-wracking, because it’s not like an intimate setting of, you know, the director and the producers and your castmates. It’s a bunch of people that you’ve never met who are watching you and who are going to laugh at the jokes if they’re funny. And who aren’t if they’re not funny. So it gives you an idea of what you’re doing right, and what you can work on.

What is your favorite episode of “Raven’s Home?”

My favorite episode is probably when I run off to the cafe. Do you guys remember that one? And you know, one of my favorite parts is when Booker and Raven jump into the bush, because that was hilarious, and watching them film that, watching Raven dive over the bush, like she was a shark or something, was hilarious. And then watching Booker follow, that was so funny. The little stunt scene when the coffee curator thing, like crashed into the cupcakes — that was really funny. So watching all of that go down, that was like our biggest stunt episode. I loved that so much.

When you’re filming, do you feel like the cameras are watching you?

That’s a really good question. You have to be mindful of how you stand when you’re positioning when you’re filming in front of cameras, because we have a setup where you have four cameras. So you’ve got one over on the left. One over on the right. And then two that are kind of in the center. So you have to position yourself to where you’re favoring two cameras at a time. One camera at a time or maybe even all four. So it’s weird to have that in the back of your mind, but once you’ve gotten used to it, you don’t think about it, and you just act as if you live in this world.

Are you ever recognized during a typical day?

It’s happened a lot recently since the show has aired, the first season and all the episodes have aired. And because it’s been announced that we’re going to be doing a second season, it happens a lot. But it’s always fun. I love meeting people who love the show and support the cast and the crew and the whole entire Disney family and all the effort that’s gone into making “Raven’s Home.”

Mets or Yankees?

Yankees. Yeah, you guys like Yankees, yeah.

Would you change anything about your character?

You know what, because I think my character is so similar to me, I actually enjoy that, because it helps me act. So I don’t think I’d change anything about it. I think maybe I’d like her to be a little bit more vocal about how she feels, because you notice in the first episode, she wasn’t very vocal about how she felt. She had no privacy. And I think that’s something that Nia needs to work on. I think that she can become a little more vocal, and maybe that will happen in Season 2, I think. I’m very interested in seeing how she grows and how the rest of the cast grows together as the family unit.

Jaclyn Graham’s students, Plaza Elementary School, Baldwin

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