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'black-ish' star Yara Shahidi preps audience for season finale

Yara Shahidi plays the fashionable and popular Zoey Johnson on black-ish, but, as she discusses in this exclusive interview with the EW Community, she’s not at all like her character in real life, which makes Zoey an exciting role to play. Her time on black-ish has been nothing but fun, actually, and the Season 2 finale promises to bring even more hilarious moments for Zoey and the Johnson family. Below, Shahidi talks about set life, the relationships she has with her on-screen siblings, and her feelings about her brother Sayeed joining her on ABC.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY COMMUNITY: First, I have to say I’m a big fan of black-ish

YARA SHAHIDI: Thank you.

And it’s great to know that it’s coming back for a second season.
I found out right before I was going to take my AP exam, and that was the best news ever.

It’s the best news ever for you and for everyone, because I haven’t seen a show like this cultivate a fanbase this quickly, with people saying how the Johnsons are like their family. What do you think about the show’s ability to capture fans’ attention the way it has?
It’s pretty amazing. It’s so cool to see everybody, no matter their ethnicity or age, relate to the show. That’s what we aimed to do. We aimed to have a family show that everyone can watch and learn from. It’s been pretty fabulous.

What do you think it is about your character Zoey that makes her a great character to play?
I’m not very similar to Zoey, which is a fun challenge. It’s fun playing this [developing] teen that wants to gain her independence, but at the same time, is dependent on her family. It’s a cool dynamic that’s established in the relationship with her mother and the kind of relationship she has with her father. She’s kind of close to her father, but they butt heads, because they’re the exact same human being. She’s not very close to her mother, but at the same time, she’s kind of the ringleader of her siblings.

What is it like to work with work-siblings and work-parents?
It’s fantastic. I think that’s what’s great is that we can learn from each and every one of them. Watching Tracee [Ellis Ross] and Anthony [Anderson] pull a scene apart and then put it all together and bring it to life, it’s awesome because as a young actress, you basically get acting lessons every single day.

When I talked to Marcus Scribner a couple of months ago, he was talking about how the set is like a party because everyone is always cracking jokes.
[laughs] Yeah.

I would assume you’ve had the same experience.
Yes—that’s one of the best parts about working on a comedy set. It’s just a fun energy, we’re cracking jokes until they say “Action,” and we’re having a great time until the last scene of the day.

It must be lucky to be able to go to work and not have it feel like work.
Yeah, it’s actually funny because whenever we’re on break on hiatus, there’s always this weird feeling. You go from having a fantastic time, seeing everybody nine-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week, to three weeks of not seeing everybody and just texting them and seeing them at events here and there. It’s almost like going through withdrawal. I don’t know what going through withdrawal feels like, but I’d imagine that’s how it feels.

It seems you and your costars have a close relationship off screen. I’ve seen you guys tweeting each other a lot.
We definitely do. Especially with [Marsai Martin]; she’s like my little sister. I already have two brothers, so I automatically go into sister mode with them. Can’t even stop it.

Since season 2 is coming and we’re coming to the season finale, what do you think could be in store for Zoey down the road?
Well, there’s an episode [“Elephant in the Room”] where you see a side of Zoey that you don’t usually see. You see a nerdier side. But with Zoey, just in general, you’ll see her develop. Since the beginning of the season, she’s grown a lot. She was a distant teen, but then you get to see a different side to her, like what she’s like with her siblings, with her father, with her grandparents. You didn’t see all of her sassiness. The season finale is more fun for Zoey.

Do you have a favorite episode?
Yes. Favorite episode was “The Gift of Hunger,” and it was when we go to the Meat Plantation, and Dre realizes that his kids are spoiled so he makes us get jobs. I think what I liked about that was going into the office and being able to work with Deon [Cole] and Jeff [Meacham] and Anthony. We barely get to work with them because we’re the kids, but it was so hilarious. And we had that … scene in all white where we’re throwing money in the air. That was pretty fun to shoot, too.

Those two scenes—the money scene and the Meat Plantation scene—seem to have gone down as some of the funniest black-ish moments from the show. And anything dealing with Andre Jr. and his Lord of the Rings collection.

Do you have a favorite a moment on set with the cast?
I guess my favorite part is never knowing what to expect. That always keeps it fun and fresh because we like to mess around. We like to have a good time. Once we have our lines down and figure out what the scene is like … we always have a fun time. You always have to be on your toes because Anthony and Tracee will throw an ad-lib at you, and you have to be right there to receive it just as fast.

As I had talked about earlier about black-ish‘s fans, what do you think about the fan engagement? Have people told you that the Johnsons remind them of their family?
I love the fan engagement. At first, when the black-ish billboards went up, people were unsure because they were like, “I don’t like the name very much,” or “I don’t know what this is going to be like.” But when they saw the pilot, what was amazing was seeing people connect, to not only our characters but to the family in general. No matter how outlandish the family scenarios might seem, people still connect and see their families in us and I love that. We’re able to touch a family in some way and make them laugh.

I know for me, it has really made me feel like I’m watching people I know. That’s one of things I love most about the show; it’s like you’ve seen these people before.
I think that’s what I enjoy about it too, because there are so many times when I’ll get a script and I’m like, are they tracking my family? Because this [moment] just happened! We just had a conversation about this, and now it’s in the script.

Right! I think that’s why it’s so successful. I’m glad that the show has been able to tap into how people act in real life.
I think our goal is for everybody … to be able to watch TV and see themselves reflected somehow.

I read that your brother was cast in Uncle Buck.

How does it feel to have both you and your brother on the same network?
That was so cool! He actually had to come to set one day when we were shooting to audition for it, and that was really fun, too. I was hoping that we’d get close time slots, but that isn’t the case—he’s Friday night, and I’m still Wednesday night. But it’s so cool. Even my littlest brother, my seven-year-old brother, is on a show now. He’s on American Crime Story. So now all three Shahidis kids are on, and my mother is on a commercial.

It’s just a showbiz family!
It was so funny because after the pilot aired, my mother’s commercial with my youngest brother aired. It was the first commercial.

That is really cool. I am certainly going to be watching Uncle Buck.
Thank you.

Is there any message you’d like to give to the fans?
We couldn’t do this without them. They are the sole reason that we’re given a season 2. From the ratings and people connecting and expressing the fact that they love black-ish is amazing. The worry was if people would relate to it, but to have so many people love it and relate to it, it’s not only made us proud, but to be on a show that I love to shoot and other people actually like to watch? Awesomeness.

black-ish airs Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30C on ABC.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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