Yara Shahidi On “Grown-Ish,” Social Activism and Harvard

Yara Shahidi opened up to Oprah Winfrey at the iconic Apollo Theater in New York City about her series Black-ish and Grown-ish, attending Harvard, and how the youth today is actively involved in social activity.

“Our generation realizes that age has never been a limit in terms of social activity and being able to look back at the civil rights movement… and see that it does not matter how old you are to get engaged,” Shahidi said on Oprah Winfrey Network special, Oprah at the Apollo. “If anything, it is so important to make it our mission, especially if you have the privilege to do so, to be socially aware and to help our global community.”

The 17-year-old actress also discussed her background, being born to an African-American and Choctaw mother and an Iranian-American father. She said that her family have shown her “how similar culture is at its core.”

“I think so many of the problems that arise today are by these arbitrary borders that we put up, these arbitrary distinctions we make between people. And so many of our issues, whether it is economic, whether it is discrimination that has been integrated into systems, centers from somebody deciding that a difference is worth making a political statement,” she said.

Shahidi said that Black-ish is part of a “”renaissance of black TV,” since it portrays black families in a realistic manner. “It’s about making sure that we are so intentional in the stories that we tell and that we aren’t trying to perpetuate stereotypes because that’s when stereotypes become reality,” she explained.

The spin-off series, Grown-ish, highlights her character, Zoey Johnson’s adventure in college. Since the show will produce 20 more episodes, she’s trying her best to figure out how she will balance her education and the show.

“Everybody from the writers to the production understands how much I value my education and we’re doing our best to figure out how we want to make it work, but I feel pretty lucky to be able to make a commitment to a school… and to a show,” she said. “I’m doing my best to figure it all out.”

“Your future is so bright it burns my eyes,” Oprah said, impressed by her intelligence and social awareness.

Oprah at the Apollo airs on Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. It’s also available via podcast at Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations.