“I was already in college for three days and there’s no one that could tell me I hadn’t mastered this place, the same way I did in high school,” character Zoey Johnson says within the first three minutes of her show Grown-ish.
Well, actually, the show is Yara Shahidi’s adaptation of college life for black-ish creator Kenya Barris —and its genius.
On Wednesday, the highly-anticipated Freeform show, Grown-ish, premiered on the channel previously known as ABC Family. Viewers got two back-to-back episodes that touched on classes, curriculum, house parties, drugs, drinking, crushes and developing into one’s personality. Shahidi’s character floats through the California University of Liberal Arts and freshman dorm life while breaking the fourth wall every so often to check in with viewers.
Shahidi’s character is funny, charismatic, smart and flawed but willing to be checked by six friends she made in a late-night-drones class. Oh, and the class is randomly taught by Deon Cole’s Charlie Telphy, who’s her father’s co-worker on black-ish.
Co-executive produced by Laurence Fishburne and Anthony Anderson—both who play Zoey’s grandfather and father, respectively, on black-ish— Grown-ish captures the college experience through an honest millennial gaze. Compared to A Different World, Grown-ish is actually a departure —not because it isn’t at an HBCU— but in sharing the narrative of a middle-class Black girl in a modern world with cell phones, social media and real-time accountability checks from the most outspoken generation the world’s seen.
Starring alongside Shadhidi are Francia Raisa as conservative Cuban-American Ana Torres from Miami; Trevor Jackson as Aaron Jackson Zoey’s “woke” crush; Emily Arlook as Nomi Segal a bi-sexual “Jewish-American princess;” Jordan Buhat as Vivek Shah who is a drug-selling-Drake-worshiping Indian American; Chloe x Halle as the Forster twins who are sassy track stars; and Luka Sabbat as Luca Hall the weed-smoking Black hippie who’s passion is fashion.
As noted by Shahidi in an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the show debuted exactly a year from when she initially discussed it with Barris and a year from when she sent in her college applications. Now, having chosen to attend Harvard University, it’s incredibly endearing to see the 17-year-old navigate the real with the surreal on television.
“I have chosen to defer beginning my academic life at Harvard —plus, I am only 17— to do my best in representing my generation, via Grown-ish, and do a little more ‘growing into’ myself, as well,” Shahidi told ESSENCE last August.
And we love seeing her flourish on this show, which is sure to be a hit.
Grown-ish airs on Wednesdays at 8pm EST on Freeform.
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