Yara Shahidi Reveals How 'Grown-ish' is 'Leading the Charge' for Change in Season 3 (Exclusive)

ET spoke with the actress and cast of the Freeform series about what fans can expect in the new episodes.

The stars of grown-ish couldn't be more grateful to have the show "leading the charge" for change. In season 3 of the Freeform series, the students of Cal U are going to be dealing with some very serious and real-life issues.

"We're grateful to be able to have grown-ish as a vehicle to express even some of the ways that young people are leading the charge," Yara Shahidi tells ET's Leanne Aguilera ahead of the premiere, which sees the students stage a peaceful yet extremely powerful protest.

After the Black Lives Matter protests, election, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and many prominent issues that people witnessed in 2020, grown-ish will continue to touch on topics that matter to young people. The past events and the continued efforts of her generation's change makers, Yara says, have left her "awe-inspired."

"I’m honestly so awe-inspired by my generation and I think -- whether it be the 100th day of the same protest we saw this summer or the ways in which young people were innovating in every single way to lead the movement for social justice -- the lessons are evident in their action," she marvels. "I think it's important to remain hopeful because hope is a belief in the future to begin with."

"I think history isn’t necessarily circular and so many times we go through the same issues generations before us have," she says, adding that it's been amazing to see the "intergenerational support coupled with the fact that people are realizing that social justice and being a change agent can really take any shape or form."

"I think we're really optimizing the change we make because everyone is going back to their respective sectors, their skills, their passion and their communities and bringing messages of justice and equity with them," Yara notes. "I think we're only more powerful that way."

Of course, the rest of the cast and their characters will also be touching on other life-changing events, such as Francia Raisa's Ana Torres, whose political and religious views are tested this season.

"Her relationship with God is very similar to mine and I was actually very excited to take on that journey because I went to the writers and was like, 'This is exactly how I felt the first time I went to church. This is exactly how I felt when I was going through that phase,'" Francia shares. "I'm happy that I'm able to bring that to life and actually be able to talk about it with anyone that talks to me about it."

Francia, however, says that he challenge to bringing Ana's story to life is that a few of her character's views are different from her own. At the same time, she notes that it's educated her and "shown me a lot of grace and understanding."

"I really took a step back and really have tried to understand all sides to everything," she says of her changed perspective. "There's been a couple where, not a lot of times but a couple times, where I looked at the writers and was like, 'I literally cannot say this!' So that’s been the challenge."

As for Emily Arlook, who stars as Nomi Segal, fans are wondering what will happen after her baby bombshell. Emily tells ET that motherhood might change her character's view on the world.

"I think for that type of transition to happen where someone, a woman in this case, Nomi enters a place where, 'OK, I don’t just have to think about myself anymore. I'm not my only priority, I have somebody else who I brought into this world who I need to consider first,'" she explains. "I think it’s gonna change a lot, especially for someone like Nomi who I think historically has really kind of thought mainly about herself first. It will be interesting to see how those two things come together."

Of course we can't leave out sisters Chloe and Halle Bailey, aka Jazz and Sky, respectively. The two are on their own journey, but can we expect to see them sing in new episodes?

"I'm always open! I just feel like it would be weird for Jazz and Sky to be track singers. But hey, if they like to sing in their free time, so be it! I always sing, so I don't mind," Chloe says, before teasing, "There's always stuff in the works, so you never know!"

grown-ish season 3 premieres Thursday, Jan. 21 on Freeform.


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