Anneliese van der Pol’s character Chelsea was a big part of the childhoods of many ‘90s kids. She was the lovable and goofy best friend of Raven Baxter on the Disney Channel show That’s So Raven. She was loyal, funny, and always willing to help Raven with one of her schemes to make sure that her visions did or didn’t come true. However, Anneliese is much more than the character she brought to life during our childhoods. She is a great singer and stage/theater actress. Ten years after That’s So Raven’s end, Anneliese is back as Chelsea, reminding us why she is one of pop culture’s favorite best friends, making us feel nostalgic and genuinely laugh again. Now that she’s back on our TV screens every week, we couldn’t be happier about it.
Anneliese van der Pol loves Raven-Symoné as much as her character Chelsea Daniels from That’s So Raven loved Raven Baxter. In fact, that love and lasting friendship is the reason they came together to return to their Disney roots and co-star in the new reboot Raven’s Home, which follows Raven’s twins and Chelsea’s son as they navigate psychic visions and childhood, all while Chelsea and Raven navigate being divorcees and parenting.
Long before she was Chelsea, Anneliese belonged to the theater. She played Lucy in a production of The Good Times Are Killing Me. The role granted her an equity card at the age of 9 and her love of theater has only grown stronger since.
“I would say what I love most about the theater is both the live performance aspect and how much traveling it can allow, especially if you book a tour. In those instances, you can travel all over the world,” she says. “But lastly, it is the people. I like leading a large cast. It is a powerful feeling without having to bear too much of the power. I have met some of the funniest people I have ever met while being involved in the theater.”
Anneliese is also a wonderful singer, a fact many readers may know from the song “Over It” featured on the soundtrack for Disney Channel’s original movie Stuck in the Suburbs. Though the song was released in 2004, Anneliese has lent her vocal talents to many places since then in her turn as Belle on Broadway’s Beauty and The Beast, as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and more. Though she says she isn’t sure if singing has helped her with her acting, the reverse is true.
“When approaching music or a particular song, you have to come at it as you would with any scene or monologue, of course, by figuring out what you want and what is standing in your way,” she explains. “For example, where the character is coming from and how that relays to his or her sound quality, as well as phrasing.”
Viewers of Raven’s Home haven’t heard Anneliese sing yet on the show, but many ‘90s kids and fans of That’s So Raven have. Who could forget the episode where Raven and Chelsea were booked for the same spot in the talent show in “A Fight at The Opera” and while Raven sang about shopping at the mall, Chelsea sang about dying trees. The episode, despite its comedic nature, showed off Anneliese’s vocal ability.
The show itself, in tandem with its comedic stylings, touched on serious issues during its run. There was the episode when Chelsea helped Raven expose racism via the shopping store manager who refused to hire black people. There were identity and body image episodes, and episodes about family; the kind we create and the kind we are born into. That was the magic of That’s So Raven, the ability to perfectly blend comedy and real-life issues. Anneliese agrees. In her opinion, what stuck with viewers about the show was that Raven and the cast were funny and there were subtle, yet poignant messages. Not to mention the diverse casting made the show special.
She hopes that this rings true for viewers of Raven’s Home, which she says has the same amount of faith in its viewers, comedic magic, great writing, actors, and care for the subject matter. One of the biggest issues surrounding children’s programming now is the lack of attention paid to plot, idea, and writing. Anneliese believes that, in part, it is a result of laziness and because someone gave the green light. There is a lack of finesse in the programming because children often watch whatever you put in front of them, causing networks to become lazy. Raven’s Home hopes to change the landscape of children’s programing.
No one will break our unit. That goes for our characters as well as Raven-Symoné and Anneliese van der Pol.
Though the show is only in its first season, it is clear that the change is taking place. Raven’s Home stands on its own; it takes the children of the show and the adults seriously while still keeping the intended comedy of the show. Raven’s Home picks up with Raven and her two children, twins Booker (Issac Brown) and Nia (Navia Robinson), Chelsea and her son Levi (Jason Maybaum), and their next-door neighbor, Tess (Sky Katz) when Booker discovers that he has psychic visions and sees a vision where his sister gets hurt. Instead of confiding in his mother “who couldn’t possibly understand” his new powers, he entrusts Levi with his plan to help his sister, and hijinks ensue.
According to Anneliese, playing Chelsea then and coming back 10 years later has been a dream come true. She says making anyone laugh is a great comfort to her and she loves the fact that she gets to work with her best friend and make money while doing so. She also assured us that both fans of That’s So Raven and Raven’s Home will enjoy Raven’s iconic physical comedy. On Raven’s Home, Raven and Chelsea are as close as ever, and although Anneliese kept mum about who from the That’s So Raven cast might be popping up, she had this to say about her co-star Raven and their bond: “We never stop believing in each other. And we never take both eyes off each other’s backs. It is the only way. No one will break our unit. That goes for our characters as well as Raven-Symoné and Anneliese van der Pol.”
When she isn’t on set, Anneliese enjoys eating and sharing the best #TBTs Instagram has seen. We’ll get to hear more of her music in the near future because outside of the show, she is busy recording new music. If her past work is any indication of her new work, we can’t wait to hear it and see more of what trouble Chelsea and Raven can get into.
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Anneliese van der Pol On ‘Raven’s Home’ and Friendship With Raven-Symoné: photos courtesy of Bobby Quillard