Yara Shahidi on How 'Grown-ish' Mirrors Her Own Real-Life Experiences (Exclusive)

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It's art imitating life for Yara Shahidi!

The 17-year-old Black-ish star was applying to colleges when she was offered her own spinoff show, Grown-ish, based on her character, Zoey's, life in college. The new series may sound familiar to fans of The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World, but Shahidi is experiencing everything for the first time. 

"There was so many moments that were happening that were parallel to my own life. I had just finished my own college apps, and turned in my Yale application [when I found out about Grown-ish]," Shahidi told ET's Nischelle Turner during a set visit last fall. "Zoey opened her acceptance letters [on Black-ish], and then I opened mine a week later. It was just kind of surreal." 

After a letter of recommendation from Michelle Obama, Shahidi decided on Harvard -- but she's putting school on hold while her character attends university close to home. 

"I love everybody on Black-ish, from cast to crew, and it was kind of scary moving onto this other adventure," she shared. "I've been on this show for almost four years, and now I'm across the lot, and it feels like miles away." 

"[But] we've kind of recreated this magic. I love my cast here, and they're so amazing and nice, and we've all been getting along, which is all anyone could ever hope for," she said. "So that's been a lot of fun." 

Shahidi's Grown-ish costars, Trevor Jackson and Jordan Buhat, couldn't be more on the same page. 

"I actually went through college... I came from, like, a 400-person high school, and then [went to] a campus where there was 40,000 people," Buhat shared. "[The show] reminds me of stepping onto a university campus and not knowing anyone... like, 'How do I make my mark in what is the smaller version of what is the real world?'"

"This is college," Jackson added. "Twenty-one is the age you'd be in college, so I think it's just funny how everything is aligning." 

For Shahidi, however, she's just enjoying being 17. "I don't think much will change between 17 and 18," she expressed. "I think being in the entertainment industry, you age differently."

"I think what's nice about the balance between growing up and staying a kid is I've been able to have this job, and I understand the importance of having my family there, so there's no need to rush," she said. "Zoey is going through college, and then Yara is going through college. What's the point of moving away, because I kind of go through the same thing that Zoey's going through."

Grown-ish premieres Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform. 


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