Grown-ish is back for Season 5, but the Freeform series looks a bit different this season. The show now focuses on Junior (Marcus Scribner) as he takes on college at his older sister, Zoey’s (Yara Shahidi) alma mater, Cal U. If you’ve been following Junior and Zoey since its parent series, ABC’s hit comedy black-ish (which ended in April), you know their dynamic is a mix of savage retorts, petty arguments, and unwavering support. In real life, Shahidi and Scribner are so at ease with each other; you can tell they've been playing siblings onscreen for eight years. Shahidi and Scribner sat down with Unbothered over Zoom recently to dish all about where we find their characters this season.
While many Grown-ish original cast members have exited the show — including Francia Raisa (Ana), Emily Arlook (Nomi), Chloe Bailey (Jazz), Luka Sabbat (Luca), Halle Bailey (Sky), and Jordan Buhat (Vivek) — Scribner promises the new cast brings an exciting dynamic to the series. “The new group’s dynamic is insane. We definitely take a lot of elements from some of the older cast members, but infuse so much new growth,” he says. Joining the cast this season are Justine Skye (Annika), Amelie Zilber (Lauryn), Ceyair Wright (Zeke), Matt Sato (Brandon), Slick Woods (Slick), and Tara Raani (Zaara). “What's so exciting about Grown-ish is all of the different intersecting storylines,” Scribner continues. “Whether it's Justine Skye's character Annika who's super driven and trying to become this successful sort of political figure… Then you have Zeke, the student athlete who's struggling with balancing school and football and life. There's just so many interesting new dynamics and characters for Junior to play off of as well as Zoey to play off of. There's definitely gonna be some more relationship drama. All of the above.”
If there’s one thing Grown-ish is good for, it’s drama. And that’s something Zoey knows a lot about. The new cast dynamic is exciting, but it leaves us wondering what we can expect for Zoey as she navigates Cal U without a lot of her original friend group. “This season, what was really critical to me as an actor was showing Zoe's emotional growth,” Shahidi shares. “I think that's what was so exciting about bringing Marcus on as well. Selfishly, for my character, it gives a whole new energy to who she's interacting with to be a big sister again, and renegotiate what that relationship looks like when your brother is an adult. Having an adult life is really cool. She relates really so differently from Junior than she does with any other character. I feel like it was such a cool way to show different sides of who she is.”
Zoey’s growth has always been a key element of Grown-ish — especially considering how far the character has come from the early days of black-ish. “Something that was always really important from literally Season 1 of black-ish was figuring out how to continue to give Zoey dimension,” Shahidi says. “She came in as the typical teenage daughter that was uninterested. We were really intentional trying to figure out what storylines show more depth — she may seem self absorbed, but she's also extremely driven and has these other qualities about her. Every season has been this interesting collision of [Zoey] having so many spaces where she has to grow, and so many spaces where she's excelling, especially in fashion and in her career of choice.”
Our entire new cast has become like a mini-family and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
Unlike our girl Zoey, Junior is coming into college with a bit more life experience. Junior thinks this “gives him a leg up.” Scribner says. But there's still so much that he has to learn. Junior realizes “Hmm, maybe my straight and narrow approach of coming into college with the intent of getting my degree and getting out quickly, getting back into the workforce isn't the way to go about it. Maybe I should explore and start all these new relationships and forge these friendships and these bonds that'll last forever,” Scribner says.
Junior’s journey seems to somewhat mirror Scribner’s own path as he makes the permanent transition from Junior on black-ish to Junior on Grown-ish. Scribner says, “ It's been amazing getting to hang out with all the homies Trevor [Jackson], Diggy [Simmons], and Yara. Our entire new cast has also become like a sort of mini-family and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Casting directors did a great job. We all really love each other.”
It’s clear — even through a Zoom screen — that Shahidi and Scribner have so much love for each other and their cast. And it’s been amazing to watch them grow onscreen as Zoey and Junior, characters who constantly manage to push through the drama and school pressures, no matter what’s thrown at them. For Shahidi and Scribner, I was curious to know how they stay true to themselves or unbothered — pun intended — in their personal lives, especially in a time when there’s so much to be bothered by.
“I feel like we're both very bothered,” Scribner laughs. “I feel like something that I'm working on personally is knowing how important it is to express my opinion and how necessary it is,” Shahidi shares. “I think I'm slowly becoming more unbothered in the process of doing that, and it's feeling more natural to be like, well, of course I have things to say. And so that's been cool.”
Scribner agrees: “Honestly, I feel like I've discovered that about myself as well. I feel like I always have taken into consideration what other people say, to an extreme amount. I feel like I've been unbothered recently. I'm on my villain arc!”
“Not the villain era,” Shahidi chimes in, playfully poking fun at her onscreen little brother. Scribner takes it in stride. “Not the villain era, but maybe a little bit,” he laughs.
Catch Grown-ish on Wednesdays at 10 PM on Freeform or the next day on Hulu.