Black-ish Star Yara Shahidi Explains Why Zoey Doubting Her Faith Is 'What Most Teenagers Go Through'
On the Sept. 28 season 3 premiere episode, Zoey questions her family's beliefs: "You almost see her want to believe and want to fit in with the rest of her family"
On Wednesday night’s premiere, the eldest daughter in the Johnson family opts out of praying for the family’s dinner and reveals that she is questioning her faith. “I don’t know if I feel comfortable leading grace when I’m not sure if I believe in God,” she states in the episode.
“I feel like Zoey is now at this place in her world in which after her parents basically telling her what to believe her entire life, she’s now realizing that not everything goes as planned and she’s wondering what that means, I guess, in terms of her belief. It’s just not as simple as ‘well, this is the truth,’ ” Shahidi, 16, exclusively tells PEOPLE.
She continues, “I think every person has gone through a period of time when they ask, ‘Am I believing this just to be believe? Is this real? What is happening? There’s so many bad things that happen in the world. Does that mean that there isn’t a God?’ ”
Reflecting on her character’s thought process, Shahidi says that Zoey is “going through what most teenagers go through” and that she voices her doubts with specific intention versus merely being a rebellious teen.
“Unlike other episodes in which you see her rebel for the sake of rebelling, she truly has a reason and she truly is trying to find an answer. It doesn’t stem from her need to just be different or do differently, but you almost see her want to believe and want to fit in with the rest of her family,” Shahidi tells PEOPLE. “The struggle is that she just can’t blindly accept it until she comes to her own resolve or conclusion.”
Although Shahidi says that she and Zoey started out as “complete opposites” in season 1, she and her character have become more alike through the passing of time and maturation.
“In this episode, you see her willingness to go into that uncharted territory even though she knows that it’ll cause problems and even though she knows her father won’t like,” she explains of Zoey.
The season 3 premiere episode also saw Daveed Diggs make his guest-starring role on the ABC series as Rainbow’s (Tracee Ellis Ross) brother – described by Shahidi as a “young, hipster skeptic” – who just got back to America after teaching for two years in France.
The Hamilton star told PEOPLE of filming with leading man Anthony Anderson, “We were shooting a scene in a car – and spending most of the day with Anthony Anderson in a car is a thing I will never forget. I haven’t taken a road trip with him, but this was like that.”
Black-ish airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on ABC.