When civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis popularized the phrase "good trouble," he meant to encourage millennials and the world to break unfair rules for the betterment of all people. On January 8, Freeform's new drama series Good Trouble, a spinoff of the family drama The Fosters, highlights issues of social justice and police brutality. Following two of the Adams Foster children, Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), as they embark on their lives as young adults in Los Angeles, Good Trouble introduces Malika (Zuri Adele), a young Black Lives Matter activist who lives in Callie and Mariana's communal living space. Callie is clerking for a conservative judge, which puts her at odds with Malika.
Shadow And Act caught up with the actress behind Malika, Zuri Adele, about her role in Good Trouble and whether the show lives up to Congressman John Lewis' intentions for the phrase.
Shadow And Act: How would you describe Malika?
Zuri Adele: Malika is a really strong, independent former foster kid who is really passionate about social justice and civil rights. She is involved as an organizer in the Black Lives Matter movement. She currently lives in the communal living space called The Coterie at the Palace Theater in downtown Los Angeles, where she has her chosen tribe and chosen family. And we get to see Los Angeles through her eyes for sure. She's a fighter. She's really fierce, really strong, and she moves through and continues to move through a lot of trauma in her life, and she perseveres like no other.
S&A: Malika's storyline coincides with a police brutality case that occurs throughout the season. How will this affect Malika and her friendships?
ZA: Callie, who lives with Malika, is involved as a clerk on the case that Malika becomes involved in. Because Callie is working for a conservative judge in Los Angeles, we see that Malika's friendship with Callie becomes really complicated because they seem to be on opposite ends of this case. Malika is fighting really hard for justice for someone who was a victim of police brutality. The issue comes home with Malika because she lives with somebody who is working really closely on what seems to be the opposite side of the case.
S&A: We are also introduced to Malika's brother, Dom (J. Mallory McCree). What is Dom's backstory and how will his and Malika's relationship evolve throughout the season?
ZA: The backstory is that Malika and her brother are former foster children and that they were separated in the foster care system. There is unspoken tension between them about how they got into the foster care system in the first place and they both have very different relationships with their birth mother. They both were treated differently in the foster care system. This also highlights the ways in which young Black boys were discriminated against in the foster care system. So, the two of them have different perspectives of the foster care system.
It also highlights...Callie and Mariana spinning off from The Fosters. Malika's experience as a foster kid was very different from Callie and Mariana's experiences as well. So there are a lot of mirrors being held up and different levels of, I would say, privilege in the foster care system that are being shown...that's truly highlighted in the relationship between Malika and Dom.
S&A: How does the character Malika relate to what is happening today as far as social justice, activism and civil rights?
ZA: I think it's a direct parallel. This show is happening in real time and what's going on with Malika is meant to reflect what's happening in the world right now. There's still so much more we can tell. We're telling the stories of so many different characters on the show, it's giving us a glimpse at...how much social justice there is to fight for. But it's allowing us to zoom in on what's happening right now. It's directly related to what's going on right now, so it's such an honor to play this character in this time and age.
There are a lot of shows and movies that tell us about the past, especially when it comes to civil rights, and when you watch them, you can see that not a lot has changed, but does become easier to write it off as something that's happened in history. But this is reflective of what's going on right now. You really can't deny how much police brutality is happening and how much Black liberation will lead to the liberation of all beings.
S&A: There are a lot of hot topics that are covered in Good Trouble, from police brutality, the judicial system's racial bias, sexuality and sexual preferences, the foster care system, and more. How much ground will Good Trouble cover this season?
ZA: Good Trouble is definitely covering a lot of ground and at the same time, there's so much to be covered that we leave a lot still left to do, and I say that in the best way. We've covered so much and we're looking through the lens of so many different people in Los Angeles because we have such a diverse group of people in our cast. We hit the surface of a lot of issues in our first season and I think we'll go into more depth should it continue.
S&A: The Fosters' core message was how people can create their own family. This resonated quite hard with the show's fanbase. What are some of the messages that will resonate with Good Trouble viewers?
ZA: Good Trouble definitely starts with that same message, that you create your own tribe, your own family. Especially seeing people who have been in the foster care system come together in this communal living space, to create their own chosen family and be forced to see the world through each other's eyes even though we have totally different walks of life. It does perpetuate that idea of The Fosters about chosen family. It also highlights the idea that we are all one in the sense that we have to have compassion for all of each other's perspectives. All of the characters have to come home to each other in that space and we have to work for the equality of all.
S&A: "Good trouble" is something that Congressman John Lewis says all the time. How do you think the show lives up to, or reflects, that message?
ZA: 100 percent in every single episode, several of the characters are shaking things up and going against the status quo of society or their job or even their family would tell them to do. There's an act of rebellion several times in every single episode, but that act of rebellion comes from a place of wanting to do what's right and wanting to find more truth. I believe that's what John Lewis is saying. He's encouraging us to cause good trouble, make good trouble, shake things up and go against what the quote-unquote safe rules are so that we can make good change.
S&A: How do you think fans of The Fosters will respond to Good Trouble?
ZA: I think they're absolutely going to love it. People who love The Fosters are going to be really excited to see Callie and Mariana post-college in their careers, especially as women. They're going to meet all these other characters who they may not have met in depth on The Fosters and even more people are going to be able to see themselves, which is really exciting. And a lot of people are going to be able to see themselves in a way they never have on The Fosters, so it's going to continue that work.
Good Trouble is even spicier and sexier and fun. We are definitely going into civil rights and social justice and we're also going into the life of millennials and adulting and being poor and figuring out your career and love life and identity and all those things. It will be a refreshing reunion for Fosters fans.
Good Trouble premieres on Freeform Jan. 8 at 8 p.m. ET, however, the premiere is now available for streaming on Freeform.go.com.