“A Girl Like Grace” is a riveting coming-of-age drama traveling the film festival circuit and, on the Milwaukee Film Festival opening of the film, several special guests came to support and promote the film. On Saturday, September 28, Raven-Symoné visited Milwaukee as a special guest, along with Director/Writer/Producer/Actor Ty Hodges, lead actress Ryan Destiny, and co-star Garcelle Beauvais. Just minutes before the screening, Raven was kind enough to give a last-minute interview on the film, her role in it, and coming out via Twitter.
Raven-Symoné has come a long way from growing up as a child star on “The Cosby Show” to life as a Disney Channel star in “That’s So Raven” to her current role as feature film actress as co-host of “The View.” At only 29, she has established a name for herself as an actress, comedian, model, singer, songwriter, dancer, television producer, and talk show host. Raven is currently promoting “A Girl Like Grace” across the film festival circuit, where she plays her darkest, most complex role to date, as the leader of a group of high school bullies.
“A Girl Like Grace” is a coming-of-age drama following Haitian-American Grace, who struggles to find herself and recover after her best friend’s suicide. Growing up in high school is a struggle in itself, but between a group of bullies terrorizing her and her friends, a less-than-present mother, and the tragic loss of her friend, Grace is faced with a a world of challenges that leave the audience with important food for thought on bullying, sexuality, and self-discovery.
Emily Carl: What drew you to this project and this particular role?
Raven-Symoné: In general, it was the director and producers. Ty Hodges, I’ve known for a long time, and I met Matt [Keith] and everyone else afterwards, and then I read the script and I just thought it was a wonderful story to be able to be a part of. I think it could help a lot of people in the future.
EC: We’re so used to seeing you as the best friend with the sweet disposition. What did you draw from to play the role of a bully?
RS: I drew from internally.. just because I play sweet disposition and cheery nature on TV doesn’t mean I personally don’t have a dark side. I.. have issues! [Laughs] I think Ty wrote a character that wasn’t corny. It was very realistic and being able to touch into that person that I see in public and that sometimes, in me, happens and I have to curb because I know that’s not how you’re supposed to be in society.
EC: Given your Twitter announcement and the topic matter of this film, do you have any advice for people who are struggling with their identity and coming out?
RS: If you’re struggling, find a friend. Find someone to confide in. You have to do what’s best for you. My Twitter announcement was really just me living my day and other people took it and then it turned into something. I wasn’t saying, ‘Guess what, I’m gay!’ It kind of turned into this thing and I was like, ‘Oh, I was just excited…’ Sometimes it’s good to be a mistake, sometimes it’s good to plan it. It just depends on who you are as a person. I can only give advice for someone who has been in my position. I was going to wait a longer time than when it actually happened.
“A Girl Like Grace” has one final screening at The Milwaukee Film Festival on Wednesday, September 30 at 3:45 p.m. at The Oriental Theater. Tickets are available online or at the Milwaukee Film Box Office. For more information, please visit the Milwaukee Film webpage.