Tracking The Evolution Of Grown-ish's Zoey Johnson

After nearly a year of buzz, it's finally here: black-ish's much-needed spin-off, grown-ish. The new FreeForm sitcom follows black-ish breakout Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) as she enters her freshman year of college. Gone are the reassuring blue tones of the massive Johnson family home. In their place are the lush greens of the fictitious California University quad and the grays of every dorm room ever.
While we enter the next chapter for one of television's best teenagers, it's time to see how Zoey arrived at what can be easily seen as A Different World for Generation Z. After all, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Andre Johnson's (Anthony Anderson) daughter has banked almost four full seasons of television on her original comedy.
To help jog your memory ahead of grown-ish's January 3 premiere, we put together the most important moments in the great Zoey's big evolution to leading lady. So, keep reading for a walk down memory lane with Dre's favorite daughter. We can promise this is much better than that bizarre-but-well-meaning slideshow he made.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Attached-To-Her-Phone Zoey

When we first meet Zoey in black-ish season 1, she’s your typical Cool Oldest Daughter On A Sitcom. She dresses impossibly well for someone’s only just exited puberty, she always has the best burns for her over-the-top dad, and she literally cannot get off of her iPhone. That latter point makes sense since, obviously, Zoey is the most popular girl in school, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Dating Zoey

Like many sitcom teen daughters, Zoey’s character first gets some shading by throwing in some puppy love — what else will upset a helicopter parent like Dre? Two of her big season 1 stories follow what happens when the teenager gets her first boyfriend, a dreamy French boy named Andre (Julian de la Celle), and tricks her dad into letting her go to the movies with her latest crush.

While both of these plotlines follow Zoey’s romantic side, they both actually prove how important family is to the Johnsons. In the former, from “Andre From Marseille,” we get our first real glimpse at the fact Zoey is Dre’s undisputed favorite child. In the latter storyline, from “The Peer-ent Trap,” viewers learn the great lengths Rainbow will go to in order to maintain her cool, almost-like-friends relationship with her daughter.
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In-The-Mix Zoey

Since Zoey is so darn cool, she rarely got to get in on any of the silly hijinks of season 1. That thankfully changes in season 2, as Black-ish clearly realized her portrayer Shahidi is one of the comedy’s true MVPs.

In standout “Daddy's Day,” she feuds with Dre over his newfound paternal interest in the fatherless Reshida (a fantastic Zendaya). The scene of Zoey driving past Dre while getting driver’s lessons from his friend Charlie (Deon Cole) is a masterclass in shade.

We also get to see Zoey explore college for the first time and get snookered in doing Pop’s (Laurence Fishburne) chores, an act that’s pawned off as “karate lessons.”
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Religious(?) Zoey

As people approach adulthood, it’s natural for them to question whatever faith they were raised with. Zoey hits this major milestone in season 3’s “God” when she announces in the middle of family dinner, “I’m not sure I believe in God.”

What follows is a realistic look at what happens when a young woman of color drops such a bombshell. As someone who had a very similar experience at Zoey’s age, I should know. While Zoey is casual and clear-headed about her admission, Dre has a complete meltdown over the possibility of his daughter being a “non-believer.”

But, in an emotional ending, Zoey reveals she still might have some faith in the man upstairs after Bow runs into a short, terrifying pregnancy scare.
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Teen Vogue Zoey

In one of the best Black-ish episodes yet, “Nothing But Nepotism,” Zoey starts following her dreams with a fellowship at Teen Vogue. We get to see just how talented the teen is, as she spots vintage Givenchy with ease and gets a promotion within a week. “They let me help pull looks for an editorial shoot,” she squeals back home, unapologetic about her success.

This is our first taste of Zoey’s bright future, and it couldn’t be better.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Responsible Zoey

In continuing with season 3’s mature Zoey theme, two episodes prove the kind of level-headed, intelligent young woman the oldest Johnson kid has grown into. The first installment is “Lemons,” a thoughtful response to Donald Trump’s presidential election win. Throughout the landmark installment, Zoey calmly makes lemonade for a school rally, eventually infuriating Rainbow, who believes her child is being complacent.

Zoey finally explains she’s making the wildly metaphorical beverage so her contribution to the world can be “love.” Then, Zoey explains she still believes in change since she and her friends will be voting in the next election. It’s a moving, adult response to political chaos.

Similarly, in “What Lies Beneath,” Rainbow sends Junior (Marcus Scribner) to a party with Zoey as a way to keep eyes on her oldest daughter. When the duo gets escorted home by police, Bow assumes Zoey was the party animal, despite the fact Junior returns drunk and high. That is until Junior confirms his sister wasn’t even drinking and took care of him the entire evening.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
“Liberal Arts” Zoey

Grown-ish’s backdoor black-ish pilot allows us to get a peek into Zoey’s brain, as she narrates the big episode — an honor traditionally saved for her dad. While Zoey is usually the most confident Johnson in the bunch, we get to see her struggle with the inevitable self-doubt that comes with striking out on your own. She meets cute guys she doesn't know how to impress, finds herself in very adult dilemmas like housing problems, and fights “pa$hun-ately” for what she believes in.

Who wouldn’t root for Zoey Johnson after that?
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Photo: Courtesy of Freeform.
Grown-ish Zoey

And, after this journey, we now arrive at grown-ish with a mature, questioning, and perfectly unsure Zoey.

Welcome to the rest of your life, Ms. Johnson.

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