Yara Shahidi: Where You've Seen The Grown-Ish Star Before

Yara Shahidi in Freeform's grown-ish
(Image credit: Freeform)

As a child star proving her stuff, a leading woman taking command of the silver screen, a rising television star with her own series, or a versatile voice actress, Yara Shahidi has demonstrated her talents many times over, and she's still very early into her career. Over the past decade-plus, the hard-working actress has showcased her skills in a variety of projects. If you're a fan of hers, you'll want to make sure you're familiar with her notable work. Here's what you should check out if you like the grown-ish and black-ish star, including The Sun Is Also a Star

Charlest Melton and Yara Shahidi in The Sun Is Also a Star

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Sun Is Also A Star (2019)

Outside of her acclaimed performance in ABC's black-ish (which we'll discuss in more detail in just a bit) and Freeform's ongoing spin-off series, grown-ish, Yara Shahidi's most notable star turn came from 2019's YA adaptation, The Sun Is Also a Star, which is based on the novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon. Centered around a hard-luck young woman who doesn't believe in love and the hopeless romantic, played by Charles Melton, who can't help but fall head-over-heels for this ultimately emotionally unavailable woman after one magical starry night, Shahidi proved herself as a leading woman, commanding the screen with gentle confidence while also demonstrating her emotional vulnerability and her bright sense of humor. While the movie itself received mixed reviews upon release, her exceptional lead performance was considered a highlight; it should demonstrate a promising career for the up-and-coming star — on screens both big and small. 

Eddie Murphy and Yara Shahidi in Imagine That

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Imagine That (2009)

In her first movie performance, as well as her first starring role, Yara Shahidi lit up the screen extra bright in 2009's Imagine That, an Eddie Murphy vehicle that found the A-list funnyman taking on the humorous lead role of an overworked financial executive who finds some unexpected solutions to his work woes in his daughter's vibrant imagination. While the movie itself resulted in middling reviews and an underwhelming box office, the child star performance from Shahidi was unquestionably a find. Even with her inexperience in mind, the debuting actress brought a great deal of spunk and enthusiasm to the screen, resulting in a portrayal that was often impressive in its strength and heart. While it would ultimately take a few more projects later down the road for Hollywood to catch wise, Imagine That was, at its best, a sparkling indicator of what Shahidi would bring to the screen. 

Yara Shahidi in ABC's black-ish

(Image credit: ABC)

Black-ish (2014 - Present)

While Yara Shahidi was proving her skills in a number of projects prior to her time on ABC's celebrated dramedy series, black-ish, it was this show and this performance in particular that solidified the rising actress' star presence. Her standout work as Zoey Johnson was a clear favorite in this talented ensemble, resulting in her own spin-off series, grown-ish, that only continued to showcase her leading talents. Certainly, black-ish was a major turning point for the TV star. 

Yara Shahidi in Butter

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

Butter (2011)

Shortly after her lead performance in 2009's Imagine That, Yara Shahidi returned to the big screen with 2011's overzealous, overcooked Butter. While the small-town farce didn't prove to be a critical or commercial success, the performances were widely considered to be the movie's best asset, and Shahidi's good-natured supporting turn wasn't an exception. While it might've been overlooked in favor of star performances from Hugh Jackman and Olivia Wilde, her bright-eyed work was considered another early indicator of her rising success. It was easy to see how much presence she brought to the forefront, even with a fairly limited role. 

The Cast of The CW's The First Family

(Image credit: The CW)

The First Family (2012 - 2013)

Prior to her time in black-ish, Yara Shahidi was notably seen in the main cast of the political sitcom, The First Family, in the role of first daughter Chloe Johnson. Though she was only seen in the show's first season, it was easy to see why she would excel as she did in the years to follow, as this performance remained yet another early indicator of her dynamic screen presence, even from a young age. 

Yara Shahidi in Netflix's Fearless

(Image credit: Netflix)

Fearless (2020)

In addition to her promising live-action career, Yara Shahidi has been proving herself to be a reliable talent as a voice actress. One such example is Netflix's Fearless, an animated family comedy that saw Shahidi lending her voice to the role of Melanie, a tough-to-crack babysitter who finds herself in over her head with a superhero baby. The premise does owe a great deal to Pixar's Jack-Jack Attack, admittedly, but Shahidi's work is among this streaming title's highlights.

Yara Shahidi in PAW Patrol: The Movie

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

PAW Patrol: The Movie (2021)

Additionally and most recently, Yara Shahidi was heard in Paramount's PAW Patrol: The Movie, August's big-screen puppy-tastic adventure that's based on the wildly popular children's animated series of the same name. In this year's feature-length continuation, the voice actress lent her pipes to the role of Kendra Wilson, a happy-go-lucky scientist and inventor who creates a device that's used for naughty purposes by our dastardly mayor. As one of several celebs credited to the cartoon, including Tyler Perry and Kim Kardashian West, Shahidi brings a great deal of plucky charm to this voice performance, allowing the bespectacled character to feel both engaging and sweet-natured, even when she finds herself quite flustered by the dangers that are set to befall her once-safe Adventure City.

Yara Shahidi in Netflix's Trollhunters

(Image credit: Netflix)

Trollhunters/3Below (2016 - 2019)

Additionally, perhaps Yara Shahidi's most notable voice acting can be seen (or, more accurately, heard) in Netflix's Trollhunters and its continuation, 3Below. In the role of Darci, an enthusiastic fellow student at the local high school and a close friend to our main characters, Shahidi became a familiar presence in this popular fantasy animated series. While it's not the voice work that she might one day be remembered for, it's easily among her most prominent and high-profile performances to date. Certainly, at this time, it's one of her most long-running.

Yara Shahidi in Freeform's grown-ish

(Image credit: Freeform)

Other TV Appearances

In addition to the performances mentioned earlier in this piece, it's also worth highlighting a few other notable parts from Yara Shahidi's early and expanding career. As we noted at the top, Shahidi currently stars in Freeform's grown-ish, which remains her biggest starring role to date. She can also be seen in In the Motherhood, The Fosters, and Scandal in recurring parts. Moreover, outside of TV, Shahidi has a big leading role in Disney+'s Peter Pan & Wendy as Tinker Bell. Suffice to say, Shahidi has quite a career ahead of her. This is only the beginning.

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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.