Trevor Jackson has mastered the on-screen collegiate experience. Through portrayals on University-themed movies like Burning Sands and most recently, his role on Freeform’s hit coming-of-age sitcom Grown-ish, the actor has had ample opportunity to live the life of an undergrad while hard at work on set.
“I have not had a personal college experience. I’ve been to a few college parties,” Jackson laughed. For the actor, his faux-matriculation at Cal U alongside his Grown-ish co-stars is a bond-building experience of self-discovery, much like the like college experience.
“You get a family, a group of people that you’re with all the time, and you guys are growing together, learning each other, while also learning yourself. It’s been beautiful for me, so I definitely cherish it as my surrogate college experience, for sure.”
On Grown-ish, Jackson portrays Aaron Jackson, the passionate, headstrong boyfriend of Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi). Over the show’s four seasons, Aaron’s penchant for activism and mobilization, as well as his willingness to move on romantic impulse has been pretty polarizing for fans. Despite some hiccups in Aaron’s decision-making, Jackson says he backs his character up on the moves he makes.
“I side with Aaron, and that might just be biased because I play him. But I definitely think that he’s passionate,” Jackson explained. “Even if [he does] the wrong thing, it’s what he thought was right in the moment. I don’t think there’s ever anything wrong with living your life that way, because that’s the only way you can learn.”
Aaron has certainly had quite a bit of out-of-class learning to do while on Cal U’s campus, both within his relationships and within his own outlook. Grown-ish has notoriously used its brand of situational Gen Z humor to take on serious topics facing their generation in real-time. Aaron has been faced with big issues like relationship morality, cultural identity, and toxic masculinity, to name just a handful.
Jackson says he has taken the opportunity to use the conversation-starting plotlines on the show to examine his own personal views and educate himself more on the topics brought forth. Particularly, the Season 3 storyline that saw Aaron leading a movement to push Cal U to divest its endowment funds from private prison facilities – which actually mirrored a real-life controversy at Harvard University.
“One of the biggest things was the college, the divestment in private prisons, but also the [issue of] college players not getting the right amount of funds,” he said. “Just how much we’re being used and how much people are gaining off of our work and talents. At the time I wasn’t really aware of these things, but obviously, I’m a little more educated now.”
On the romance front, things have been up and down for Aaron and Zoey from the moment she set foot on campus. Though the season kicked off with the two getting hitched in a drunken quicky wedding at a Mexican chapel, as fans left off in season 4’s midseason finale cliffhanger, things are in a MUCH shakier place. It’s looking very unclear if the two will be that college couple that makes it work beyond graduation, or if their relationship will become no more than a fond memory.
For better or worse, Jackson says he’s rooting for Aaron to win Zoey’s heart once and for all, despite her own apparent confusion.
“I think Luca is what [Zoey] thinks that she wants. An idea,” he explained. “I feel like we all have an idea of a person that we think we’re supposed to be with, and then the person we end up being with is nothing that we thought was our preference or our taste. Typically, that’s why people live their lives in loops.”
The trailer for this half of the season sees Zoey faced with the tough decision to either chase her dreams of launching a fashion line in New York alongside Luca, or go on the journey of a lifetime to South Africa with Aaron. While it remains to be seen which way our protagonist will lean, Jackson believes the choice should be clear for her.
“I definitely think Aaron is more of her speed,” he said.
Without giving spoilers, Jackson says fans have a lot of maturation to look forward to from his character Aaron.
“[Aaron is] just becoming a man,” he said. “When you become a man, you’ve got to make some tough decisions, and not everybody’s going to be happy about those decisions you make, but what are you going to do?”
Grown-ish season 4 continues on January 27th on Freeform.