Yara Shahidi Says ‘black-ish’ Spinoff ‘grown-ish’ Is ‘More Cultural’ Than Sociopolitical in Its Issues

Craig Sjodin/Freeform
Freeform's "grown-ish" stars Yara Shahidi as Zoey Johnson.

Zoey (Yara Shahidi) has always been the most effortlessly cool member of the Johnson family on ABC’s black-ish. But now that the teen is starting her freshman year at California University? Well, let’s just say that it’s a different world.

The new spinoff grown-ish—airing, appropriately enough, on younger-skewing sister network Freeform—will track Zoey’s college journey, one growing pain at a time. (Not to worry: Mom, Dad and the sibs are just a short drive away, so crossovers are inevitable.)

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Here, Shahidi (above) offers a peek at what’s on her syllabus.

Popularity has always come easily to Zoey. Not so much at C.U.?
Yara Shahidi: In the context of her family dynamics, very rarely have we seen her being uncertain or unsure. But in this new environment, she’s struggling to redefine herself—while simultaneously having the scary realization that she has no idea who she is. Zoey acting awkward is probably the most I’ve gotten to pull from my own life!

Black-ish is known for addressing heavy issues with a light touch. Considering that Zoey pops Adderall in Episode 2, is it safe to say that her coed experience won’t be sugarcoated?
First and foremost, black-ish is sociopolitical—I think grown-ish is more cultural in terms of its issues, and we’ll be addressing college culture more than anything else. And in the same ways that black-ish has pushed the boundaries of what’s expected, we’re going to turn some stereotypes on their heads.

Last spring, you got into Harvard University. What’s the plan?
I’m in my gap year right now, so I’m in the process of figuring out the details. It’s possible to defer for a second year, which I might do, because I’ve put in too much work to be mediocre at school—and I also want to give the show time. Zoey takes more risks than Yara ever will!

grown-ish, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 8/7c, Freeform