Grown-ish, Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi) and her misfit group of friends are back for their sophomore year. In the first season of Freeform's critically acclaimed spin-off of the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish, Grown-ish explored what it means to be a member of Generation Z navigating the higher education system along with the joys and perils of adulthood. Since Zoey first set foot on the Cal U campus, she set her sites on the deliciously handsome Aaron (Trevor Jackson), a Black Lives Matter activist and outspoken sophomore whose passion and unwillingness to be silenced (and ability to pull off a rat tail unironically) made the stylish popular girl's heart flutter. Though Aaron and Zoey lived in a bubble of sexual tension and admiration for each other for much of Grown-ish’s freshman season— in the end, Zoey fell for Luca (Luka Sabbath) — a laid-back artist who matched Zoey’s fashion sense and curbed her desire to be the center of attention.
With a new school year on the horizon — and the second season of Grown-ish debuting tonight, Shadow and Act sat down with Trevor Jackson about his explosive 2018, where Aaron and Zoey stand now, and what we can expect from the series this season.
"Everything’s changed," Jackson said of the sophomore season of Grown-ish. "I think the characters are like a big family now trying to figure out all their shit. Should they be more comfortable now, or a closer family? Maybe. Aaron is sorting his shit out. Luca and Zoey are together. Everybody is just trying to find their rhythm, and I'm very, very excited for it."
"Grown-ish" Season 2 | Photo Credit: Freeform/Art Streiber
Season 2 of Grown-ish is already starting off on a different note. Though the series had previously shunned comparisons to A Different World, the season 2 promo paid direct homage to the students of the fictional Hillman College and the legacy of the '90s series. Paired with a chopped and screwed version of Chloe x Halle’s "Grown" it’s clear that Grown-ish isn’t shying away from the series that deeply inspired a generation of young Black folks. "I thought it was awesome," Jackson said of the ADW inspired promo. "I think A Different World was a show that tried to shoot the minds and hearts of many and because it's kind of the same thing that they're trying to speak to -- that age group and what they're going through, I think it's an honor. We wouldn't be Grown-ish if it wasn't for them breaking barriers down, so I love it."
Like A Different World, Grown-ish doesn't shy away from issues that affect young adults. Drinking, drug use, sexuality, politics, and colorism were all topics of discussion during season 1, and Jackson suggests that will continue. "You'll definitely see some more of that," the actor/singer revealed. "You'll definitely see some drugs, you'll definitely see some sex, and you'll see parties. This thing is very, very real — I think this show captures the essence of what it means to be my age—as young as 18 through 24, and what the college experience is like."
Though Aaron’s relationship with Zoey and his work on campus as an activist were central focuses during season 1, Jackson was also glad for the other friendships that he and his character formed — namely his relationship with Jordan Buhat’s Vivek Shah. On the series, Vivek is a first-generation Indian American who supports his sneaker and designer obsession by selling drugs on campus. "I love my relationship with Vivek in the show," Jackson explained. "I didn't know that I would be glad that I spent most of my time with Vivek but we became super close."
Though Grown-ish is geared toward the youngest millennials and Generation Z —it’s pulled in viewers across various age groups, social economic backgrounds, and ethnicities because of its authenticity. "I think that letting people know that they're not alone is vital," the American Crime alum explained. "The reason why people feel a certain way or they act out is because they don't know how to express themselves. They feel so isolated and this show makes people feel like they're a part of something and that people have the same problems as they do. I think the characters are very, very wise and it's just relatable and I think relatability is vital."
As the second season of Grown-ish approaches, Jackson is excited to see how his character who had has been so steadfast in his own beliefs even to the point of alienating his friends —matures and evolves. Entering his junior year, it might be time for Aaron to start considering a different approach to his activism. "I think it's a mixture though that comes with growth," Jackson reflected. "You can take the jewels from whatever people throw at you because for me, even in acting or music or whatever I'm doing, I listen to hear what people have to say. But at the end of the day, it's going to be my journey. I can take things that I like and continue with things that make sense to me. It's the same thing with Aaron, he might change his approach."
If you adored the Black-ish crossovers from Season 1 of Grown-ish, Jackson claims that we might be in for a few surprises. After all, now that Zoey has broken Aaron’s heart we’re sure she’s going to hear about it from her little sister Diane (Marsai Martin). "It's certainly possible," Jackson laughed.
Trevor Jackson as Aaron Jackson | Photo Credit: Freeform/Art Streiber
If 2018 was a stunning year for Grown-ish it was also a whirlwind year for Jackson who starred in the 2018 remix of the 1970’s Blaxploitation classic SuperFly. Now the Indiana native is reveling in the glory of his debut album, Rough Drafts, Pt. 1 and he's set to hit the small screen again in the science fiction anthology series, Weird City. "I just want good quality roles," Jackson explained. "Tomorrow I could wake up and go, 'I want to be a pro-surfer,' but for now I’m here, so I'm going to keep my head down, keep working— just keep pumping out a bunch of content. It's funny because when I go in to do roles like American Crime and Grown-ish and all these things I never know how it's going to be. I'm just thankful that it always ends up working out for me. I thank God just because I'm blessed and there's a lot of things I've said no to. But I'm thankful that I've said yes too.”
Before he sets his sights on something new, there are two things Jackson wants to cross off his acting bucket-list. "If I had to a chance to do, I'd definitely do a superhero movie and also I'd do any movie with Denzel Washington," he said. "I want to do some more martial arts stuff. I want to direct some stuff that's a real passion of mine."
For now, you can watch Jackson on Grown-ish Season 2 when it premieres Wednesday, January 2, 2019, at 8 p.m. on Freeform.
Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide