« Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations

Yara Shahidi: Next-Generation Actress and Activist

2018-03-26 | 🔗

At Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, Oprah sits down for the first time with Yara Shahidi, the teenage star of ABC's hit comedy "Black-ish" and its spinoff, "Grown-ish." Just a few days from her 18th birthday, Yara talks about her generation's view on politics, social media and history. She discusses her family's involvement in the civil rights movement during the '60s and why that era fascinates her. Yara also shares behind-the-scenes stories and insights from the sets of "Black-ish" and "Grown-ish," and opens up about her plans to juggle her career and her impending Harvard University education. Oprah says, "Every little thing [she] says sounds like a tweetable moment." In this special edition of "Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations," you'll hear Oprah and Yara's full interview, featuring more than 15 minutes of bonus content not included in Part 2 of the OWN special "Oprah at the Apollo."

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I'm over Winfrey welcome to supersede conversations the podcast. I believe that one, the most valuable gives you can give yourself is time taking time to be more fully present. Your journey to become more inspired and connected to the deeper world around us starts right now, well ah
pokemon on for Yara. It's so much pressure to be you at this moment. I think, do you think you are being heralded rightfully so, as this great spokeswoman person, humanitarian for your generation and I just ran across recently an old speech I had done when I was about your age, but sixteen or seventeen and is entitled what young people want. Today
I will tell you something crazy, like the generation gap between parents, but what I realise when I was looking at that. I really do no way young people want today and it's really hard when everybody expects you to do. You feel that quite honest, first and foremost, a matter to be here. Thank you thank you for presenting us, but of course, but quite honestly, I have to say I haven't had to feel too much pressure, because I've been so fortunate to have support. Not only from my family and buy it from the world around me from being authentically myself, and so I've had the great fortune of,
having to perpetuate a facade for the sake of love or support. Every little thing you say sounds like a treatable movie, while you recognize how incredible that is that you get to be a true. I say this to my daughters from South Africa. They little we are born. Free generation born after Nelson Mandela was elected president, but to be born free, not just physically free, but in heart and spirit where you get to be because I might definition, freedom is that you get to wake up in the morning and decide for yourself what to do with the day to be born free in your heart and your spirit, to never have to pretend to be anybody else other than yourself and is surreal to even think about and
I do have to say I mean just being able to benefit from the work of previous generations is something that I do not take for granted and I come from a family of humanitarians. I mean in mentioning Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was freed from prison think February your Hence I celebrate that because I was worn February tenth and even though the years don't line up, there's still a semblance of symbolism behind that, and I have to agree with your definition of freedom and I think it continuously changes given our socio political landscape, from the freedom to breathe and the freedom to have space and to be able to accept that freedom and that freedom at this age is something that our generation, I'm pretty sure, is fairly aware of and isn't taken for granted. Will I think for so long, not just Georgia, because you're generations Z, yet
I don't even know who the wise are, but a lot of people get London would win lineal, but you clearly or not, you generation see, but you know the millennials, I think have been labelled. I think many times unfairly as being the sort of me me me me me generation when in fact I think that this generation is probably more worked, then a lot of previous generations have been and are certainly aware of what they need to do to step into the moment. Quite honestly, I think it is a matter of access.
Landfills and Genji. We ve had again the great fortune of an incredible amount of access of such a young age, whether its social media, whether it's just in general, the digital age of being able to watch people who inspire us being able to watch you being able to watch all of these people and absorb wisdom now and which it doesn't matter where you are in the world to be able to learn these lessons at such a young age. And so there is a general awareness, and I think this administration is put extra pressure on my generation in particular, who felt ass, though they had time to grow into their political awareness, to really speed up, because we understand that the policies that are being implemented not only hard detriment to all of the work that's been done before us, but really will affect us as young adults will. Do you think that I think you interesting that you just put pressure on because has this political moment that we're in right now is put pressure on this generation, or has it just little fire has it?
allowed you to be more lit. Definitely I will inevitably I mean, I think, being such a history nerd and gain somebody who is fascinated with the civil rights movement fascinated with the women's movement and really any major movement. It is these moments of high guess, terror in which we are so unsure of our future. That, I think, does light a fire under every interesting you. So you fascinated by the Sole Rights movement. What's ass, an interview with fascinated: we first and foremost my own families, involvement by my my Papa mothers, Father, was involved in the civil rights movement is an educator, but also he was a black panther, and so I have a family. My family is here actually supporting me. This was very
what I mean, I think part of it- is coming from a family who was able to thrive but really made a commitment to the society around them too, which is made me so interested, but also just the parallels between the work that was done in the sixties and might be able to exist. Will you know it's always so fascinating to me a young they were when I think about those freedom, writers, Germany, less was nineteen was nineteen and you know they give a year. I ended the Opel show I have all of the river the remaining living because because of course it could have a dead went on, but I had a living freedom writers on the show in what what us, running thing to know how young they were and how committed there were and how they were willing to stand up for justice, knowing that they might not even listen to it. Yes, I'd honestly incredible and I think, seeing or really reading about our history
puts into context this political moment for our generation, realizing that age has never been the women in terms of social activity and being able to look back at the civil rights movement. For example, see that it does not matter how old you are to be engaged and if anything, it is so important to make it our mission, especially if we have the privilege to do so too. Socially aware and to help our global community. Ok. So what are the issues that you are most passionate about? Passionate about? It's really hard to pinpoint? I think, first and foremost, I guess I have to say one thing that I feel like I'm continuously speaking about is just our underlines: humanity being half black and hath iranian.
Very proud of being both, I think, being here when you call yourself a child of the world as it is so presumptuous fight. It gave me an appreciation for the world around me, we're just how similar culture is at its core, and so I think so. Many of the problems that arise from today are by these arbitrary borders that we put up these arbitrary distinctions we make between people and so many of our issues, whether it is economic, whether it is discrimination that has been integrated into these systems, stems from somebody deciding that differences worth making a political. I guess statement I go back to the reconstruction era in thinking about how we were as black people integrated into a system that did not include us. They just put a thing.
To a system without making actual adjustments to say how can we be inclusive and something that we are bearing the effects of even right now, so you actually even understand that destroyed you solve as living proof of the beauty of connectivity. Is you just told you of your father being iranian anew, your your mother's african american american chalk? Ta? So you are living proof of the beauty of connectivity. What does that mean? Do you? I mean really speaks to being able to have two wonderful families. I mean, theoretically from opposite parts of the world, who understand and appreciate the burden and you embrace roadside. Yes, definitely I mean I've, a name neuroscience she Heeny and we use here. You see a black Grosso. You can't help, but to embrace both sides tight, I think, being able to come from a family that both sides are very proud of. Our heritage it may be interested in
I remember one Christmas. I asked for a viable one. I was born in the next Christmas. As for the Koran, and unlike the next Christmas, it was if I could have a book of all the major cultures. Really you and your mother said, or your father said. They both said yes here. It is well and show how dangerous, I've, your role right now in the culture. How good it s? Why? I guess I'd have to say. The one thing that I'm doing your one thing that I can point to that's happening currently as I'm turning eighteen on Saturday. And it is also my early birthday incredibly, I'm launching an initiative called eating by eighteen, which is to increase voter turnout in youth
voter turnout for first time, and I think the lesson of the Vienna show like blackish being on, shows I groaning and to be able to work with people wireline with more than creatively. But politically and philanthropic. Lee is given such a lovely platform to then say I have these opportune is to speak about, what's affecting our generation of these opportunities to speak about what's affecting our world and so now trying to turn that into quantifiable action. With this initiative and impress upon everyone that meet terms are such an important moment for us to reclaim or government. I was just thinking when I was seventeen replied. The drug store Why not seventeen magazine? I didn't
I don't think I ever knew the word quantifiable action at seventeen happy birthday early, that's all happy oh yeah, so how has the blackish experience informed? More of who you are? I know its not who you are right, but it has placed such an integral part in why I'm because I signed onto blackish. I was thirteen turning fourteen and it was the first place in which I was in an environment of people who really wanted to continue conversation so many times, I've fellow actors, fellow peers, who aren't as supported by
action by writers to have politically aware conversations and so to be able to be honest, show in which that is our common goal really allowed us to have so many more conversations that such a young age, in which we were talking about our hope episode and when we discuss police brutality. And they want to know how we feel, as actors are more than just how our characters feel. How do we feel, and so each episode brought with it a new conversation and, more importantly, I think it translated because then, when I stepped off, of set more people wanted to continue the conversations that blackish started, and so it allowed him to go from there and just pick up or blackish left off. And so, when grown, it came about which Grotius just got picked up for twenty new episodes. When garnish came up, will you really excited or you thinking this is going to interfere with my school plants? It was a bit of both, so groaning came up and funny enough. It happened the day after I submitted my own college
Patients, that's one can yet Paris had called it. The idea had already called my parents a wink beforehand and they, let me finish my applications in peace before calling me with the idea, and I think it was really being able to sit down with them to hear his vision. That sold me and to have a creator of the show that is dedicated to your education, as you are, is something that I am very fortunate to have, and so they understand everybody from writers production understand how much I value my education and were doing our best to figure out how we want to make it work, but I feel pretty luggage. It would make a commitment to a school and be able to make a commitment to a show and my best to figure, and while I just believe you will have got out, can I know it's going to happen. You thinking about postponing, though now, because you ve got the dumper twenty season, so you having about twenty twenty episode
twenty seasons? I now want to do that, but you gotta pick up for doing more episode. Does that mean you have to think about postponing delaying college even more now can't give you anything definitive, but we are trying to figure it out, because the end goal is to make sure that I'm not mediocre and both my job and my school, and so that is what we are keeping in mind when proceeding with the twenty episodes in mind. Is it is fun, as it looks doing it really. As I have the best cast walking, often blackish, it was a new wrecking moment. I mean I'm not gone from blackish, but leaving a set that I've been on for forty years with a cast tat. We family right and another form of that. I was stepping away from that only to walk three yards away to the next stage, but nonetheless it was
Pretty scary and right away, I mean pretty immediately everyone in the cast became friends, and we had a group chat from the first moment that we met each other, like the very first table, ridden the first episode and it hasn't stop since, and so we ve all actually become friends in mind the experience just ten times better, I think that so great for you, I remember, reading somewhere that you had told Forbes magazine that your greatest accomplishment so far is that you ve been able to shift the perception of what is deemed possible yep.
So you said. Did you say I hope I didn't? Ok, ok, let's deem possible with new generation of actors in entertainer. So do you see your generation becoming the change makers in Hollywood? I know you can't speak for all of them, but I think, if anything, we are assuming the rules that have been set for us, because this is not a new concept seeing whether it's the iconic sitting, pointy air herring, elephantine, north and Andrews. There are so many amazing iconic entertainers, for example, who have really shift.
Perception. And so, if anything, I see my generation beginning to embrace that and embracing it as soon as possible and finding our own ways that are true do ourselves to figure out how we want to expand, because our goal is not to take on the same role but figure out where we have our strengths. Judge the current move, good particularly of women in Hollywood and the meat to movement in women standing up for themselves and speaking up in telling their stories. How has that impacted you? Well again, I have to go back to my family, because this entire industry moment has been a family affair. From the beginning, my mother's, a commercial actors,
Baba's DP director, but more than that they have always been there for me on set and even becoming a legal eighty year old, there wasn't a day where they once there for me, I'm set and when my brothers are on, shows them we're all their together, because we understand that this industry can be divisive and train separate child from current prematurely. Fine make us feel like we're. Adult swept make adult decisions prematurely without having the actual power to feel empowered and say. This is what I want. This is what I desire. This is what keeps me safe and so being that I've been able to benefit from that. I'm really excited about these movements that are happening and how we have become increasingly aware of how we need them to be inclusive, because then people will be able to have the same experience that I've been able to have.
With the protection of my family, knowing that, even if they don't have a family there with them, there's no support network of women and a support network of allies were there with them. Your relationship on set on on blackish with Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays your mom so fresh so honest. Do you have the same kind of relationship with your mom Yes, I live right under her arm. Clayton shoe right there, but yeah. I think that's what made me so close to my family family has always been first, and my parents have always been so extremely honest with me. Of course, there are certain things where, depending on my ears, they're not gonna, tell me everything, but when it's time when they feel like I've, view awareness, sir, which already to know something, then they ve been very honest from the get go and so were able to have those conversations that usually aren't scene between teenagers and their parents, and so, rather than using these moments of adolescence to turn into beholding coffee
Frank had shown there. I have decided to go the opposite. I think that's great You know Rain Wilson told me once that there is no difference between art in prayer and never forgot that interview, and you have said of heard. You say that art is synonymous with activism and that the role of the artist, is to disrupt and remould, and to create that? I definitely said because I wrote it
car on the way you said that, so what does that look like to disrupt and removed and pre eight while art informs society? I think media especially now has become so prevalent in our world and is our first touch point for so many experiences before we live it in real life will see it on tv will see it in the movies will see it on. Billboards will see it in that disease and so that first touch point is so important that we make it complex and multi dimensional, and so people get a full picture of what's being experienced and I guess to use blackish as an example to be able to be on time time tv as a black family and as Kenya bears,
there are other shows as an unabashedly. Black family right has been important because I dont know how many times we ve been able to see a successful business man right now and what we are witnessing. I call it the renaissance of Black TV in the renaissance of tv, because it we have of course have shown in the past has done the same thing, but this is like activism to art right and it's about making sure that we are so intentional in the stories that we tell and that we are trying to perpetuate stereotypes, because that's how stereotypes become reality is when people not only for ourselves for the society around us word now. Making assumption is based off what they see on tv and now making assumptions, because this is
what has been perpetuated in the media, and so even with my characters, though we in particular being a teenage grown representing a young woman of color. It was important that what you saw was more than just her on her or her be self absorbed, and that's why there were those episodes where of course, she's gonna take us healthy and, of course, she has those moments of being unabashedly self, confident, even when it wasn't deserved, bundle also having those moments in what you see here as the unified of her siblings. When you see her eyes a child who is worried, as you see her as somebody who's coming into her own, that was something that was very intentional on behalf of myself and Kenya, the entire team, you know so great about that show we get to see black people the way most of us who are black people. I know that we are we get to see south reflected back to us as multi dimensional, complex people, and that's what I love even were also funny you? Yes,
I mean I thought they were bugging our house after reading the first three episodes, because they had taken conversations that we had had the night before and then we would be reading them in script. Thrill, yes, and so to see the intergenerational aspect of blackish, which I think is so important to even see how each character differs to again go to your point of like our blacklist is not monolithic, is constantly being defined in redefined and hopefully under I'm so that we can now exist and are for less and not have or want to fly a bull action here, oh wow. So when you have but this going for you all of this going for you. First of all, your parents have done
incredible job done some stuff right there, creating this powerful, independent woman. How do you keep yourself grounded what one you Herndon jingling my sharper necklaces and with MIKE so that's one way hers, but also, I think my parents have done again a great job of giving my semblance of normalcy, and I guess my normal me different than everyone else is normal, but at the same time they ve always treated me as being a kid and being a human to be most important and it may sound counter intuitive. But the one thing that they ve always said is actually is something that we do. But it's not. We are in that we're not allowing this one role in our life, even as instrumental as it is
with as much time as we dedicated to it, to define our very existence, and so I've been able joy? I remember the first movie that I audition, for it was imagine that ends of booking aeroplanes, Eddie Murphy S, daughter- and I remember it- was the first big audition process ever and I was seven and there were like ten additions or it could be hyperbole. I was young, so it's felt like a lot and I remember halfway through their like. You know they haven't called yet so let's go travel and we went to travel one. We actually went to it, which was amazing, as I was so into renaissance, art and renaissance history that I was able to say. Of course you work
it's those moments of young. I would say whether turned to my father, I just directed my for a short film in being able to turn to my father and have that conversation for him as a deeply and director of just like creatively. How am I going to go into this world, but to have somebody to turn you to say? I am unsure of myself. I think is something that has kept me grounded because it's one I am Felicia myself that you realise that there is so much that you don't know your powerful girl eighteen years. I just want to say something. I just want to say something to you and I'm going to pass this on to you. You know even needed, but when I do the color purple, it was the thing I most wanted to do in the world,
I never wanted anything and haven't want anything more sense since during the color purple and when I finish it, because it was a thing I'm most dreamed about that, I guess everything's over now. I guess it's all done and Quincy John said something to be that I want to say to you baby you're. Future so bright. It burns why I do so. I really do what a wonder girl you MA. I'm move Winfrey and you ve been listening to supersede conversations the pumpkin
you can follow super soul on Instagram, twitter and Facebook. If you haven't yet go to apple pod, CAS unsubscribe rate and reviews. This pledge gas join me next week for another super, so conversation, thank you for listening the women who brought you queen, sugar, Emmy Award, winning visionary, filmmaker AVA Duvernay, an executive producer, Oprah Winfrey comes the new anthology drama series: AJ, explain the relationship of one young couple: storing Social Rockmore, Alano Miller, Michael Beach, and the legendary Cicely Tyson every second, every minute, every hour cherish the day, don't miss the two night premiere February, 11th and twelve on the Oprah Winfrey network,
Transcript generated on 2020-02-02.