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Yara Shahidi’s Movies and TV Shows Are Making Their Mark On Hollywood

At only 21 years old, Yara Shahidi has already made a significant impact in Hollywood.

Often labeled as the “poster child” for Generation Z, the actress, model, and activist drives her creative vision through multiple projects as she becomes the voice of young Hollywood. 

So, who is Yara Shahidi?

Yara Shahidi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to her parents, photographer Afshin Shahidi and actress Keri Salter Shahidi. Her father, Afshin Shahidi, is Iranian, while her mother, Keri Salter Shahidi, is of mixed African American and Native Choctaw heritage. Her first name, Yara, means “someone who is close to your heart” in Persian

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Yara Shahidi also has two younger siblings, actress and model Sayeed Shahidi and brother Ehsan. She is also first cousins with rapper Nas.

How did Yara Shahidi get her start in Hollywood?

Yara began her career at age six, where she starred in various TV commercials for companies like  McDonald’sRalph LaurenTargetGapKids, DisneyGuess Kids, and The Children’s Place

In her first cinematic role, she starred alongside Eddie Murphy in the 2009 comedy film Imagine That where she was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film. She also acted in Angelina Jolie’s 2010 action film Salt and played daughter Chloe Johnson in the 2012 family sitcom The First Family. 

Yara Shahidi Movies and TV shows: Black-ish (2014-)

Yara Shahidi’s most iconic role is her acting as eldest daughter Zoey Johnson in the ABC sitcom Black-ish. She joins Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marcus Scribner, Miles Brown, and Marsai Martin as members of the Johnson family. The show is created by Kenya Barris and follows the upper-middle-class African American family as they face personal and sociopolitical issues. 

The comedy series has won multiple categories at the NAACP Image Awards and has been nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards since 2015. For her role as Zoey Johnson, Yara won the NAACP Image award in 2015 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and the YoungStars Award at the 2017 BET Awards.

The show’s success created two spinoffs, Grown-ish, which focuses on Yara’s character in college, and a prequel called Mixed-ish, following Tracee Ellis Ross’s character during her adolescence in the 1980s. Yara left the main cast in season three to focus on her spin-off show. Black-ish announced their upcoming eighth season would be their last. 

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You can watch Black-ish on ABC.

Yara Shahidi Movies and TV shows: Grown-ish (2018-) 

In this Freeform series, Yara Shahidi’s character, Zoey Johnson, begins her journey through adulthood as she heads off to college. The show, produced by Yara herself, also stars Trevor Jackson, Francia Raisa, Chloe and Halle Bailey, Emily Arlook, Jordan Buhat, and Luke Sabbat.

In an interview with Complex, Yara Shahidi said she’d developed a deep connection with her character Zoey’s growth throughout the three seasons: 

“Developing her over the years has been wonderful and even so complicated at times. She has definitely proven that growth is not linear, and it’s not about waking up and making one mistake and then being better for it the next day, but so many times, you do have to go through the messiness of life to be able to finally learn your lessons.” 

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Grown-ish focuses on issues revolving around relationships, academics, prescription pills, alcohol, and pregnancy. As the seasons have gone on, though, the show has addressed deeper social issues like cultural appropriation, mental health, and the prison industrial complex.   

Kenya Barris explained to The Hollywood Reporter how natural it was for Yara Shahidi to move on to the new series:

“There’s just some people who the light shines a little brighter on them in the room, and she’s one of those kinds of people. I met Yara when she was a kid…. I’ve seen her grow up, and I’m so proud of her to see what she’s become on her own, as Yara, and how different she is from Zoey. It showed me what she could do as an actress, how much she could stretch her arms. She puts this show on her back.” 

The new season is set to premiere on July 8, 2021. You can watch it on Freeform or the next day on Hulu.

Yara Shahidi Movies and TV shows: Trollhunters (2016-2018) and 3Below (2018-2019)

Yara Shahidi has lent her talents to voice acting, playing the recurring character of classmate Darci Scott on the animated fantasy shows Trollhunters and 3Below. Both are a part of the trilogy series created by Guillermo Del Toro titled Tales of Arcadia

Trollhunters, starring the late Anton Yelchin and Emile Hirsch, follows a teenage boy tasked with his friends to protect the world from dangerous monsters. Because of its nine Daytime Emmy Award nominations in 2017, the show was followed by two more series: 3Below and Wizards. Yara Shahidi reprised her role of Darci in 3Below, which focused on two royal teen aliens struggling to fit in when they land on Arcadia.

You can watch all three series on Netflix.

Yara Shahidi Movies: Smallfoot (2018)

While Yara Shahidi is most known for her roles in Black-ish and Grown-ish, she’s also had multiple acting credits in films. 

In 2018, she joined Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, and Common for the animated film Smallfoot. Based on the children’s book Yeti Tracks by Sergio Pablos, the film follows a group of Yeti who come across a human. 


Yara Shahidi also starred alongside Charles Melton in Ry-Russo Young’s 2019 teen drama film The Sun Is Also A Star. Based on the novel by Tracy Oliver, Yara plays a young woman named Natasha living in New York City. She and her family are facing deportation to Jamaica. When she meets Daniel, a first-generation Korean American, the pair falls in love under the pretenses that Natasha will have to leave the U.S. the next day. 

When speaking to Shondaland, Yara Shahidi expressed that the film is much more than a love story between two people:

“Ultimately, I’d have to say the entirety of the movie is about love. It’s about not only the obvious romance between Daniel and Natasha but a larger conversation about what happens when there’s a lack of love, a lack of care. And I hope it encourages the audience to broaden their global community and broaden who they view as a part of their community.” 

In 2020, she voiced the character of Melanie in the animated science-fiction comedy Fearless and scientist Kendra Wilson in the American-Canadian animated comedy adventure film PAW Patrol: The Movie, set to release in August.

Upcoming Yara Shahidi Movies: Peter Pan & Wendy (2022)

Yara Shahidi has found her pixie dust by playing Tinker Bell for the new Disney film Peter Pan & Wendy. Directed by David Lowery, the movie is a live-action adaptation of Disney’s 1953 animated film Peter Pan based on the play by J.M. Barrie. The cast includes Alexander Molony, Ever Anderson, Jude Law, and Jim Gaffigan.

“It’s such a different way of thinking about acting because a lot of it is body movement,” Yara said to Entertainment Tonight about her role. “A lot of it’s, like, how do you convey emotion when you’re a fairy, and it doesn’t say much, so it’s been a beautiful process.”

While we don’t have a trailer for the movie yet, it is set to release on Disney+ in 2022. 

We can’t wait to see Yara Shahidi take flight! 

Yara Shahidi is balancing acting with Harvard

Like her Grown-ish character Zoey, Yara Shahidi is navigating life as a college student. In 2018, she was accepted to all four universities she applied to, eventually choosing Harvard. One of Yara’s recommendation letters was written by her mentor and Harvard alum, the beloved Michelle Obama, whose daughter, Malia Obama, was also set to attend the school in the fall of 2018.

She planned to defer for a year to focus on her acting career and other projects. 

“It’s more than to just roam around or just sit down and stare at a wall, but it will also give me an opportunity to work,” Yara told People. “I’ve been working more than half of my life, and that’s always been balanced with school and all of the other responsibilities, so to hav