Yara Shahidi may look like your average teenager (albeit strikingly beautiful), but, unlike her peers, she's already nabbed roles that rival many of her high-powered Hollywood neighbors.
Born in Minnesota to an actress/model mom and a photographer, she started her career at just 6 weeks old in a print advertisement for life insurance. By age 7, she was already getting offers to star in feature films. Now, with a series regular part as the angsty daughter in ABC's Black-ish, and a cameo as young Olivia Pope in Scandal, she's poised for a plethora of more bookings. We caught up with the 15-year-old at our N.Y.C. offices in advance of last night's LOL-worthy episode and realized she's even more complex than we initially thought. Here are some facts we gleaned.
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1. She's half Iranian---and may be part-Viking. "We're Choctaw Native American and African-American---our family originated in Ghana, and then there's a portion of our family that's the descendants of Vikings."
2. Nas is her second cousin. "My momma grew up with him. He got his genealogy done at Harvard and Henry Louis Gates Jr. did his entire family background. I was a flower girl at his wedding."
3. Her childhood dream was to be a criminal consultant for the FBI. "That was 7-year-old Yara's plan, and then I realized I actually liked acting, so I kept auditioning."
4. Her first screen test was with Eddie Murphy for 2009's Imagine That---and she had never heard of him. "It was a ridiculously long audition process---they ended up seeing, like, 3,000 girls. It was the first time I ever met [Murphy] and I didn't really know who he was---all I knew is that he looked like my uncle. It was nice being 7 years old and not having that pressure."
5. Her Black-ish character is based on someone she knows. "I went to school with [creator] Kenya Barris's daughter for a year, and I didn't know that my character was based on her going into it. It's interesting to compare what I originally thought of Zoey with how she's developed. All I knew is that she was sassy, technologically advanced, and went to some preppy private school."
6. She loves comic books. "I track what Marvel's doing all day every day. I love the X-Men trilogy, Thor, and Thor 2. It all started when I was in Cleveland and the Avengers cast was staying at the same hotel as I was. They were shooting it in Cleveland, so Chris Hemsworth just came in and went swimming when I was in the hot tub."
7. Kerry Washington is her style icon. "I frequently wear things that are far too conservative for a teenager. I'll roll up with saddle pants and blazers and button-down shirts and oxfords. [Washington] taught me that, as a young actress, not to change you who are or your values or morals for a role, because what's really authentic is when someone is true to who they are."