The Disney Channel sitcoms of the aughts may seem cheesy today, but many people watching them feel a deep sense of nostalgia and affection for these shows. The popularity of old sitcoms on Disney+ shows that, while very of the time, these sitcoms still have watch value today. Additionally, many of these shows focus on an idealized family dynamic which can be comforting to watch.
Parent characters like Robby Ray on Hannah Montana and Carrie on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody often grow on viewers as viewers grow up and start to experience adulthood. That’s So Raven’s family dynamic was particularly important — but seemingly quite abruptly, Raven’s mom stopped appearing in episodes in the middle of season 3. Why did this central character stop appearing on the show?
Raven’s mom was played by T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh
On That’s So Raven, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh played Tanya Baxter, mother of the main character Raven Baxter. On the show, she’s shown to be an attentive mother who stopped attending law school to care for her children. However, since the show features Raven and younger brother Cory at slightly older ages, Tanya is getting back into studying law.
She’s a major character on the show: the very first episode features Raven impersonating her to get out of trouble in school! Another episode featuring Tanya has her taking up a position as an English teacher at Raven’s school, and other episodes show her taking on a parental role to Raven’s friends, too.
Tanya was a pretty important character on the show, and yet, in the middle of season 3, she simply stops appearing. The show explains the absence of this character by saying that Tanya is in England for law school — and in the spinoff show Raven’s Home, this is elaborated upon a bit more. But is this really what Disney intended for the show?
Why did Raven’s mom leave ‘That’s So Raven’?
While That’s So Raven was being shot, Keymáh was juggling her job as an actor with caring for her grandmother. According to Madame Noire, Keymáh’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and while Keymáh hired caregivers, she also needed to be present to help care for her. Therefore, Keymáh only signed on for three seasons of That’s So Raven, as Disney sitcoms rarely ran longer.
However, in the middle of the third season, Keymáh was starting to struggle. She would bring her grandmother with her when the show was being shot, but she felt like acting was interfering with caring for her grandmother. According to Keymáh:
“There was no choice to make, really between work and her. So I chose her and focused on her care. And that became my life until she passed away. And after that, I just didn’t want to work.”
T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh has acted since
Keymáh entered a retirement of sorts for a period. However, she did decide to return to acting and performing. She participated in several film projects throughout the 2010s, including Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, and in some episodes of TV sitcoms. Additionally, she appeared in the fourth Sharknado film.
On top of acting, she’s started writing, and has two published books: one about performing, and one about taking care of Afro-textured hair. Her demonstrated intellect, acting chops, and her attentive care for her family really are quite impressive in combination, and hopefully we will hear more from her soon.