What would it be like to be a young star auditioning for a major role? What advice can a young star give to kids and teens who may be interested in following in their footsteps? Yara Shahidi (Black-ish) has these answers, and more. She recently chatted with Backstage to answer all their questions on what her experiences have been like, and to offer some wise words for those aspiring young actors out there.
So, how did it all begin? Yara’s career began in commercials, a gig she loved. The first time a movie script was pitched to her, she was nervous about having to be one character for months at a time. After reading the script for Imagine That (starring Eddie Murphy), Yara knew it was time to make the leap. “It was so much fun that once I got it, it didn’t feel like five months of shooting; it felt like two seconds. Then I started doing more projects and realized this is something I really want to do.”
When asked about her audition process for Black-ish, Yara noted that in her second audition for Black-ish she read with Anthony Anderson, with whom she had an immediate connection. She relayed: “I walk into the room and he’s sitting there in the chair. And I’m still a little nervous—less nervous ’cause it was such a good first audition—but we were wearing the same shoes in different colors!” From then on, it’s safe to say it was smooth sailing.
Now, Yara has said time and time again that she is not much like her character Zoey, and yet there is an affinity that draws her to the role. “There are a lot of [qualities] I admire about Zoey that I think I wish I had. She’s really witty and she’s a little bit of a rebel,” Yara admitted. And while Zoey may sometimes cross the line, she at least does so with a “strong sense of self.”
Of course, it’s important that Zoey have qualities that Yara can agree with because it helps maintain a sense of self on her own part. On that note, Yara’s advcie for young actors is simple: “Never jeopardize who you are for a role.” Adapting to a new character is obviously necessary, but Yara believes that you should never have to forfeit your “moral compass, or anything like that, to have a role.”
And yes, that’s great advice that can be applied to any facet of life.