'That's So Raven's T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh on Returning as Tanya Baxter After More Than 16 Years (Exclusive)

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Mama Baxter is home! That's So Raven alum T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh makes her anticipated return as Tanya Baxter on the Disney Channel series, Raven's Home, after more than 16 years -- and the actress spoke exclusively to ET about her long-awaited homecoming.

ET first broke the news on June 21 that Keymáh would be appearing on Raven's Home. She last appeared on That's So Raven as Raven's mother in a season 3 episode that aired in 2005, leaving the series to care for her grandmother. At the time, it was revealed that Tanya had left for London to attend law school. Keymáh returns in the upcoming season 5 finale of Raven's Home, when she surprises the family with her unannounced return to celebrate Victor’s 60th birthday.  

"It is so exciting. I can't even believe it," Keymáh told ET's Deidre Behar on Monday of her onscreen family reunion. "I was telling my sister, Karen, that I've done so many huge things in my career. And usually you don't realize how big they are until after... But I'm very, very aware of how excited people are about this return because they've been clamoring about it for years."

"I didn't learn till years later that people noticed that I was gone. Then it's like over the years, 'Where is she? Where is she?' And when Rondell [Sheridan, who plays Victor,] did a guest spot, I was like, 'Whoa, I see the dad. Where's the mom?'" she continued. "I'm just thrilled for me and for my fans that finally, finally I get to play a character that I created 20 years ago."

Recently, Raven-Symone revealed that a call was out to Keymáh to potentially reprise her role on Raven's Home. Keymáh shared that it was an easy decision for her when they reached out.

"They asked me if I wanted to come play with them and I said yes. It was kind of just that simple," she said, adding that she had one window in her schedule that worked. "I think they always planned to have me come back on the last episode of this season. And so I'm so glad it worked out perfectly."

Keymáh acknowledged that while she and her That's So Raven family keep in touch off and on, they're not as close as they used to be. But Keymáh shared that she didn't feel there was an "obligation" to appear on Raven's Home, though she revealed they initially reached out pre-pandemic.

"I'm not good at keeping up with my TV daughter, but we've stayed in touch," she said, adding that Raven's Home "felt like it is a different show and it's not the original show and we don't have to be on it... But I'm a fan of shows too. And I like when people come back and you go, 'Oh wow. Now they're all together!' I have that same excitement. I don't think I would ever have said no, but I never felt like, 'Hey, how come...?' It was a different show."

"I would do anything for Raven. She's just my heart. I love her so much. I'm so proud of her. I told a lot of people, if Raven is asking, the answer is, yes. We'll work out the details later," Keymáh added, praising her TV daughter.

Keymáh admitted to feeling nerves before she went to set, but once she arrived, she felt like nothing had changed. "I thought, 'Oh, I'm home. This is my living room. Me, Tanya Baxter. This is my kitchen. This is my husband's restaurant, The Chill Grill. I'm good,'" she recalled. "It just felt like I've been away for a minute and then came back."    

"She, Tanya Baxter, was so familiar to me that it was easy to jump back into her shoes -- literally," Keymáh said. "And to have Rondell there and to have Raven there, it just was so familiar. Because I've seen this show, when I looked at Isaac [Ryan Brown, who plays Raven's son, Booker], I thought, 'Well, that's my grandson!'"     

She played coy when asked specifically about her season 5 finale appearance, only telling ET that "it's a surprise to everyone when I show up" and the Baxters initially have "a mixed reaction, but they're happy to see [Tanya]." And Keymáh promised Easter eggs for the loyal That's So Raven fans during her appearance. "There's actually a few moments, but there's one moment in particular where you'll go, 'Yeah, that's them. That's them from 20 years ago,'" she said.     

If Raven's Home is renewed for a sixth season by Disney Channel, Keymáh was enthusiastic about wanting to dip her toe back into the world as Tanya. "With or without me, I really hope there's a season 6 because it's a wonderful show," she said, adding that she'd be more than open to return in the future. "If they asked me, I'd come back. Of course. And I think it would be lovely and cute."

Though That's So Raven's Kyle Massey wasn't there in person to welcome Keymáh back, she revealed that she was able to FaceTime him -- with Raven-Symone's help -- for a surprise virtual reunion.

"For the first minute, he was just screaming!" she remembered. "[Raven] called him first, so he just saw her. And she goes, 'Guess who I have with me.' And he was, 'Is that...? Is it? Ah! Ah!'... That was lovely."      

Keymáh took a moment to reflect on the impact she's made with her character.

"This experience, because it was such a slow boil, I'm enjoying it so much -- the fans and Raven and Rondell, everyone made this happen," she credited. "That the work that I did 20 years ago was so much in the hearts of everyone that they really wanted me to do it again just means the world to me. I've always said I have the best family in the world. And that includes all of my fans and I really, really, really appreciate them."

Raven's Home airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel.

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