Black-ish star Yara Shahidi will join the cast of Apple’s riveting climate change anthology series “Extrapolations.” The eight-part series will weave together multiple interconnected stories about the ongoing battle for climate change in the 21st century. The new show, which is currently in production, will also cross-examine how environmental issues impact our “love, faith, work, and family,” Variety notes.
Off-screen, the 21-year-old star (she’s turning 22 February 10) has used her high profile stardom to champion against issues of climate change. In 2016, Shahidi joined forces with Defend Our Future, a nonpartisan campaign created by the Environmental Defense Fund that works with youth members to help tackle global warming issues.
While speaking to Essence in 2016, the California native shared why it was so important to be involved in the campaign’s mission.
“Being in LA, our continuous heat waves are oftentimes written off, but climate change is much more than unbearable summer days. It is most definitely a topic we discuss because it is an integral player in human rights issues,” the then 16-year-old explained. “The crisis in Flint, flooding in Louisiana, the constant earthquakes are all a result of climate change. Coming from a family of humanitarians, it’s an unavoidable and necessary conversation.”
Now you might be familiar with Yara Shahidi‘s hilarious role as The Johnson family’s witty eldest daughter Zoey Johnson on ABC’s Black-ish and the show’s current spin-off series Grown-ish, but here are five things you may not know about the shining star.
Yara Began Her Acting Career At 6-Years-Old
Yara began priming her acting chops at a young age, appearing in a number of television commercials and print advertisements with companies such as Disney, The Children’s Place, and even McDonalds. In 2009, the burgeoning young celebrity made her acting debut in Paramount Pictures’ Imagine That, where she starred alongside Eddie Murphy. The Young Artist Foundation awarded Shahidi with the Youth Artist honor that year for her role in the hilarious comedy.
The actress’s career flourished in the years following. In 2010, she appeared in the Angelina Jolie action film Salt. A year later Shahidi graced the screen as Chloe Johnson, the daughter of President William Johnson, in the TV series The First Family.
In September 2014, Shahidi joined the cast of Black-ish, where she made fans laugh for nearly a decade as she matured on-screen as Zoey Johnson. The show is currently wrapping up its last and final season. The young celeb won a 2014 NAACP Image Award for “Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy” thanks to her role in the Black family sitcom.
Shahidi show’s no signs of stopping this year either. The star is slated to appear in a live-action remake of Peter Pan as the inimitable Tinker Bell.
She’s Big On Social Justice Activism
While chatting with Karamo Brown during E-News’ red carpet special for the 2021 Emmys, the young star spoke about her passion for fighting social justice issues. Back in June of 2020, Shahidi sat down for a conversation with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund President, Sherrilyn Ifill, where the two spoke about solutions of how to reimagine the justice system “without pervasive white supremacy,” USA Today noted. Shahidi was also a key voice in speaking out against the police brutality deaths of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“I think a lot of it came from the conversations we have at home and I come from a family that cares deeply about how we’re using our platform,” Yara told the network. “So to enter this world through a show like Black-ish, which also took pride in being about something, feels like it gave me the leeway to have the conversations that are important to me. We get to have these incredible glitzy moments, but I think knowing we have a purpose is what grounds me constantly,” Yara added.
She’s Studying At Harvard
Yara Shahidi has been effortlessly juggling her acting duties and college responsibilities like a boss. Prior to her appearance at the 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards back in September 2021, the Grown-ish star told Entertainment Tonight that she asked the academy if she could present early in the night, just so she could make it on a flight back home to attend her college classes at the prestigious Harvard University.
“I do fly out tonight to make it to class in time,” Shahidi explained to the outlet. “The lovely people at The Academy really helped me out because I was like, ‘Guys, I have a hard out to make this flight!’” she laughed.
The actress got accepted into Harvard in 2017 but took a gap year before continuing her studies in 2018. Shahidi revealed to Jimmy Kimmel in an interview that same year that she dreamed of becoming a history professor.
“I’ve wanted to be a history professor for longer than I’ve wanted to be an actress,” she gushed. “I used to have the Harvard webpage up, and I’d go through the course catalog. So needless to say, this is something I’ve been planning for a long time.”
At the time, the studious star shared that she couldn’t wait to dive into the university’s African American studies program. “…I also describe what I want to do as being policy adjacent… so I guess I want to be next to Capitol Hill,” she added.
Nas Is Her Cousin
Yara is the hip-hop super star’s second cousin by way of her mother, Keri Shahidi. The avid music lover shared in a previous interview that she always bumps the Queens, New York native’s music before she gets ready for big events. Fun fact, Yara was actually the flower girl at Nas’ wedding with his ex-wife and singer Kelis.
Yara Loves Her Family
Family comes first for Yara Shadidi. The star called her family “her biggest hypemen” while speaking to Vogue in 2020, and her parents have helped her to cultivate her thriving business career while providing her love, space, and support to grow outside of the glitz and glam of Hollywood. Yara’s mother Keri and her father Afshin Shahidi, have worked hard to coach and protect the young star while navigating some of the rocky parts of the entertainment industry. When Yara began working onset with Black-ish at 16, Keri recalled standing her ground about being present on set with her daughter after producers tried to convince the busy mother of three that she was old enough to be unattended on set.
“These issues of sexual aggression and assault and things that are happening in Hollywood, I think what people are seeing now is that’s why either her mom or her dad are always onset,” Keri told Time Magazine for their Influencers edition in 2016. “Hollywood has the tendency to make young people feel like they’re grown up. For us to provide you with a happy, healthy, well-rounded human being, this is what we do.”
Yara echoed a similar sentiment, noting how dedicated her family was to supporting her acting endeavors. “Our entire family made an investment in me joining the Black-ish family,” she added.
Yara and her mom of gone on to be business partners. In 2020, The Wizards of Waverly Place alum and Keri launched their production company 7th Sun and signed a deal with ABC Studios to produce multiple shows.