“There was a certain time where our entire Disney lot were different ‘ish’ shows for a moment,” Yara Shahidi reflected during a TCA press conference to promote Season 5 of the hit Freeform series grown-ish, a spin-off of black-ish. “That was the universe; that was surreal.” With black-ish having just bid farewell and mixed-ish ending in 2021, grown-ish is now the last “ish” standing. But for longtime fans of all the shows, it still feels like home with Junior arriving at Cal U.
“I was shocked,” revealed Marcus Scribner who, like Yara Shahidi when Zoey left black-ish for college, thought he was closing a chapter in his life. “This was not something that was a long-game process. Yara has been, sort of, hyping me up for a minute, and trying to get Junior on board, and to join the grown-ish cast. But it was kind of a last-minute decision. I had said goodbye to Junior; I was ready to part ways, and they were, like, ‘Hold up a minute.’ And here I am, on grown-ish, and we're starting a new chapter in Junior's story.”
Marcus may have felt like Junior’s arrival at Cal U was a little quick, but some cast members prefer not to look too far ahead. “I typically don't like to read the script until close to the time,” revealed Trevor Jackson, who plays Aaron. grown-ish has given him quite a few heavy storylines to deal with. “It has affected me tremendously and definitely enlightened me. That's what keeps me going and wanting to continue to play this role, is that I'm always learning.”
“For Trevor and I, who've been on since Season 1 and now we're five seasons fast-forward, it's been exciting for us to see our friendship expand on screen,” explained Diggy Simmons, who plays Aaron’s best friend Doug. “What that looks like for two young people who are going through these life changes and seeing their worlds evolve together. Seeing those parallels with each other… You're going to see more of that come out in Season 5, but it's just been exciting.”
Daniella Perkins joined the cast in Season 4 as Kiela, Luca’s younger sister. “She's finding her way, now that her brother has left school, and she's kind of on her own,” the actress shared about her character’s arc in Season 5. “In a sense, she's her own person because she was thrown into her brother's group, and she was dating his best friend, and had that little fling going on. And I think in this season, you definitely get a better look at Kiela because she is a very interesting girl. You definitely get to see a sense of who she is now in this season. She's an RA, and she's doing all these things, and she's overwhelmed, but it is definitely fun.”
“What I so admire about this revamp is that it speaks to the essence of how grown-ish blossomed in the first place, of knowing that there was no way to recreate the magic of black-ish,” added Yara Shahidi, who serves as an Executive Producer in addition to her role as Zoey. “It was really figuring out how to lean in and commit to the fact that it's a new point of view; a new cast of characters; figure out what Zoey's perspective could offer, in terms of story. And so, similarly, this passing of the baton, there's so much bringing Junior on has allowed us to leverage, in terms of stories and world that Zoey and her crew would have never initially gone into, which has created really ample material. As much as you may think that we went through all college experiences, it's so surprising and fun to see how much was left to explore.”
“We have a very diverse room of writers and that is diverse in both race but also age,” shared Executive Producer and Co-Showrunner Zakiyyah Alexander. “It's really important that we have young writers who are closer to college age in the room to keep us honest and to talk about the things and the issues that are very pertinent in our lives and to think about the ways time has changed. Social media alone has changed the game so much. Even it's changed since the beginning of the original grown-ish. I think we're in a very volatile time period. And kids today have gone through an isolation and several pandemics, it seems, in this particular moment that we're in right now. So it feels like we want to be as real to the moment as we can and find things to get hot about and to fight about and argue about, which is why these writers' rooms really work.”
With Junior joining grown-ish as the central character, a big question hanging in the air is who else might pop up from black-ish in the future. “We've had Anthony [Anderson] and Tracee [Ellis Ross] on,” Executive Producer and Co-Showrunner Courtney Lilly justified. “everybody's always welcome, you know? That's the way it's been since jump street. It's more than an open opportunity. But the thing really is, everybody's so busy. How do you get people's schedules to be able to make that happen?” black-ish may no longer occupy a soundstage at The Walt Disney Studios, but any member of the cast is welcome to visit Cal U anytime in the future. Until then, black-ish fans can follow Junior’s college adventure Wednesdays at 10:00 pm on Freeform.
Past episodes from Season 5 of grown-ish are currently streaming exclusively on Hulu. Fans can catch new episodes on Wednesdays at 10:00 pm on Freeform. Here is a look at what’s coming up this month.
- Aug. 10 (10:00-10:30 p.m. EDT) – Episode #5004 – “Look What U Started” – Eager to impress Gamma Psi Delta while pledging, Junior faces a moral dilemma when he books a controversial comedian to perform at a fundraiser. Aaron struggles to fit in with his colleagues and receives advice from Zoey about how to cope.
- Aug. 17 (10:00-10:30 p.m. EDT) – Episode #5005 – “You Don’t Know Me” – The girls enlist Junior’s help to find their shady roommate, Lauryn, who has a habit of mysteriously disappearing. Junior wonders if Annika is starting to catch feelings for him, while Aaron suspects that Doug isn’t being honest with him.
- Aug. 24 (10:00-10:30 p.m. EDT) – Episode #5006 – “Frat Rules” – While pledging for Gamma Psi Delta, Junior and Zeke find their brotherhood put to the test when a night of challenges and a quest to prove their loyalty goes awry.
- Aug. 31 (10:00-10:30 p.m. EDT) – Episode #5007 – “Love on the Brain” – Doug throws a party at Bar None and invites the crew. Junior considers opening up to Annika. Kiela finds herself on RA duty while Zaara plays the field. Aaron tries to be a good wingman, putting his long-distance relationship to the test.