Yara Shahidi is the fu­ture of act­ing and ac­tivism.

ELLE (Canada) - - Storyboard - ByCar­liWhitwell

HERE ARE SOME THINGS I cared about when I was 18: guys, soc­cer, my fake ID, my Chanel Beige de Chanel lip­stick and get­ting out of do­ing as many chores as pos­si­ble. Here are some things 18-year-old Yara Shahidi cares about: get­ting Gen Z to vote, March for Our Lives, Black Lives Mat­ter, #MeToo and gen­er­ally mak­ing the world a kin­der, bet­ter, more tol­er­ant place.

“Is it wrong to be jeal­ous of you?” I ask the im­pos­si­bly-pulled-to­gether teen over the phone. She laughs. (Yep, she’s even po­lite enough to laugh at my joke.) “What’s nice is that my char­ac­ter does the things I don’t do, so there’s re­ally no need for me to ex­per­i­ment be­cause I get to do it on-set,” she muses.

She’s talk­ing about Zoey John­son, the head­strong, pop­u­lar el­dest daugh­ter of ad­ver­tis­ing exec Dre and doc­tor Rain­bow on the sit­com Black-ish. Shahidi’s char­ac­ter re­cently got her own spinoff, Grown-ish, which sees her leav­ing the very com­fort­able fam­ily nest and at­tend­ing col­lege.

The fi­nale of the fourth sea­son of Black-ish is air­ing a few hours af­ter we talk, but Grown-ish was just re­newed for a sec­ond sea­son, which means Shahidi is so busy film­ing that she can’t join in the cel­e­bra­tions tonight. “Un­for­tu­nately (and for­tu­nately), I can’t go to a party be­cause I have to work in the morn­ing. I need a solid eight hours of sleep,” she says. “But I did a screen­ing a few days back.” Credit for this de­cid­edly ma­ture at­ti­tude goes to her close-knit fam­ily (her dad, Af­shin, was Prince’s pho­tog­ra­pher, her mom, Keri, is an ac­tress and her two younger brothers, Eh­san and Say­eed, are also in the busi­ness), who keep her grounded, even when, say, Drake puts her in his “Nice for What” video or she gets to hang with Oprah.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM PLAY­ING ZOEY? “She has taught me to be even more open and ac­cept­ing. I’m a po­lit­i­cal-lean­ing per­son. To play a char­ac­ter who isn’t, or who is at least grow­ing into her own po­lit­i­cal [per­son] and self-iden­tity, has been in­ter­est­ing be­cause there have been times when Zoey has had an opin­ion that I don’t nec­es­sar­ily agree with. I think it has been a jour­ney of re­al­iz­ing that her opin­ion is valid and how to have that con­ver­sa­tion. And I guess it’s kind of meta be­cause I’m hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion within my­self.” HOW DO WE EM­POWER PEO­PLE WHO PER­HAPS LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN OR FEEL A BIT ISO­LATED TO EF­FECT THE KIND OF CHANGE YOU’RE ROOT­ING FOR? “I think it’s about spread­ing in­for­ma­tion in a way that brings hu­man­ity to the sit­u­a­tion. So, un­der­stand­ing how some­thing has an ef­fect on us as peo­ple, or how it af­fects our com­mu­nity, is ex­tremely im­por­tant. It’s hard to make a de­ci­sion that will go against other hu­mans. So of­ten when we talk about pol­i­tics—or any is­sue, re­ally—we talk about what it’ll do to our money. We some­times un­der­play the im­por­tance of in­vest­ing in our so­ci­ety.” HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED IN THE BUB­BLE THAT IS L.A.? “By re­al­iz­ing that there’s a life out­side of Hol­ly­wood. There’s no rush to do any­thing be­cause it’s not go­ing any­where. It has al­lowed [my fam­ily and me] to re­ally live life with­out the fear of miss­ing out. We’ve been able to go trav­el­ling as a fam­ily; we’ve been able to say ‘We just want to go to a mu­seum to­day.’ It might seem su­per­sim­ple, but just es­tab­lish­ing a life off-set is so im­por­tant; oth­er­wise it be­comes your ev­ery­day.”

WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO FOR FUN? “I love read­ing. When I have time, I will go through a book so quickly. I’m cur­rently read­ing Shan­taram. I’m only on, like, page 200 of a ba­jil­lion. I’m try­ing to get into more fic­tion. I love James Bald­win and Kurt Von­negut. I also just started White Teeth by Zadie Smith. And I adore pod­casts. They’re how I get most of my news. Hid­den Brain is a great one. And I love Pod Save Amer­ica and Code Switch.” ARE YOU HIT­TING UP ANY FES­TI­VALS THIS SUM­MER? “I love and adore mu­sic of all sorts, and what’s nice is that three of my cast mates have al­bums out. Chloe x Halle have The Kids Are Al­right and Trevor Jack­son has Rough Drafts Pt. 1. I’m lis­ten­ing to both on re­peat. And I’ve been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Su­perDu­perKyle and Bob Mar­ley.”

DO YOU SING AT ALL? “Not in a way that I will pur­sue! You know what I’ve al­ways wanted to do? Even though I’d have to start now and re­ally start learn­ing, I would love to pro­duce mu­sic. I have such an ado­ra­tion for pro­duc­ers be­cause it takes such a skill set to have that over­ar­ch­ing vi­sion. So I would love to be in that po­si­tion if I had the abil­ity or tal­ent.” AND YOU’VE BEEN AC­CEPTED AT HAR­VARD. ARE YOU GO­ING THIS FALL? “We’re ac­tu­ally fig­ur­ing that out now be­cause I have made a com­mit­ment to a show and a com­mit­ment to a school, and I plan on keep­ing both.” IS THERE ANY­THING ZOEY HAS DONE THAT YOU WOULD NOT DO WHEN YOU GO AWAY TO UNIVER­SITY? “Ad­der­all. No Ad­der­all for me!”

Yara Shahidi with Abra­ham D. Juste on Grown-ish

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