Young Black Starz had the opportunity to interview a talented young lady who made her big screen debut on June 12th, starring alongside Eddie Murphy in the film “Imagine That.” Yara Shahidi is only nine-years-old but has a huge talent and personality. In the movie she plays Murphy’s lively and free-spirited daughter, ‘Olivia’. Olivia takes her father, who is an overworked businessman, on a journey through her imaginary world and teaches him some fun and important lessons.
Read and/or Listen below to YBS’s one-on-one with Yara, as she shares her favorites, experiences, and so much more! You’ll get to know a lot about the young star in this in-depth 30 min interview!
Press Play to Hear Our Interview with Yara Shahidi
Young Black Starz: Hi Yara, how are you?
Yara: Good, How are you?
YBS: I’m fine, thank you. How is everything going with you today?
Yara: Good. We’re on our way to a museum.
YBS: Oh, wow. What museum are you going to?
Yara: Well, it’s more of an outdoor museum kind of thing, but it’s The Huntington.
YBS: Oh wow, that sounds great. Cool. So, shall we talk a bit about your acting in this movie?
YBS: Ok, because I know you’re a bit of a pro at all of this, because you’ve been doing this since you were how old?
Yara: Well, my first commercial, I was two or three years old but I started print ads when I was six weeks old
YBS: WOW, my goodness, you’ve been in the industry longer than some people who are like 30!
Yara: Yeah, almost
YBS: Almost, that’s great! So what do you love about acting?
Yara: Well, I love that I get tons of new experiences, I get to travel sometimes and everybody’s really nice and we never do anything that’s seems scary for me. Like, I have to do something scary.
YBS: Nobody ever asked you to do anything scary?
Yara: No, and if they did, then we wouldn’t do it.
YBS: Oh that’s really good! So what else do you do besides acting?
Yara: Well, I love to travel, and I do karate, which is tonight
YBS: Oh my goodness! Cool, so what belt are you up to in karate?
Yara: I’m yellow belt with green tip.
YBS: Oh my goodness so nobody’s going to mess with you huh?
Yara: Yea, except I don’t tell everybody. I don’t like blurt out to every single person, “I’m in karate! I’m in karate!”
YBS: Oh ok well we can keep it a secret then. So ‘Imagine That’ was your first feature film right?
Yara: Yes, it is.
YBS: Which is so exciting… So what was it like seeing yourself on the big screen for the first time at the premiere?
Yara: Well I’ve seen it before but I was like, “Wowww! My head is 40 feet tall and I’m only 4 feet!”
YBS: That sounds like the coolest thing to me!
Yara: And that’s total!
YBS: Yea, that’s amazing! I saw your green dress in the pictures. It was really pretty by the way.
Yara: Thank you.
YBS: So what was your favorite scene in the movie? Tell us about filming that.
Yara: Well, I love the pancake scene because it’s when Olivia and her father become closer. And, they just have fun; it’s not about business or anything. And it’s really fun to do because I actually get to make pancakes. I get to put a ton of condoments on, even condoments that I won’t even put on my own pancakes.
YBS: What do you usually like to have on your pancakes?
Yara: Well, I love chocolate chip pancakes. Absolutely love chocolate chip pancakes.
YBS: Oh wow, that sounds nice to me. So would you have really tried the pancakes with all the ketchup and the mustard on it?
Yara: No, I didn’t and Mr. Eddie didn’t too.
YBS: Oh ok, would you have though?
Yara: No I haven’t tried the ketchup and mustard pancakes.
YBS: No, sounds a bit disgusting.
YBS: So tell us something funny that happened behind the scenes while you were filming.
Yara: Well there was one time where I would… I saw Mr. Eddie’s car, the car that he usually gets to set in, and I usually beat him to set… So I run on to set and I announce to everyone on set, “Mr. Eddie’s here, I saw his car out in the front!” Well I heard a ton of snickering. I looked to my right and he was sitting there on the couch; it was his driver. It was his driver driving around.
YBS: Oh no, so he had beat you…
YBS: Oh my goodness. I bet you probably don’t get that embarrassed right, because you’re an actress?
Yara: Well, yea I wasn’t that embarrassed but it was quite funny.
YBS: That sounds funny to me. What was it like working with Eddie because he seems like such a cool guy?
Yara: He’s really cool and he’s just a wonderful person to be around. His energy’s always high and exciting instead of like… because I know there are a few people in the world that are just like, “uhhh…” and just depressed. So it’s nice being around someone who’s energetic, especially if we’re going to be working which it doesn’t seem like working for like 5 months.
YBS: Yea, definitely because he can keep you all enthusiastic and really excited about everything, which sounds great.
Yara: Well, she must be a great mom because she’s fabtabulous… That’s not a word but it’s my word, it’s a word I made up.
YBS: That’s a cool word! Say it for us again.
YBS: Fabtabulous, I like that! I might add that to my vocabulary!
YBS: That’s a cool word…
Yara: Yea, so it will spread throughout the whole worlddd!
YBS: Wow… Aww, she seems really sweet as well but obviously you have first hand experience. And, are you quite similar to your character in the movie then? In real life?
Yara: Well… In only a few ways. Like creativity because I can put on things that don’t match or like I can choose clothes that don’t match…
YBS: Oh, cool yea…
Yara: Or choose clothes that someone might not usually wear, it could match but it isn’t very common.
YBS: And you can make it work.
YBS: That sounds cool.
Yara: And also imagination because Olivia can imagine this whole imaginary world and in my dreams I can imagine pretty crazy things!
YBS: Oh wow, that sounds really cool. Cause would you really have a Googaa in real life? Do you think you’d like to have one?
Yara: Well, a Googaa seems pretty cool, to like go into an imaginary world, the next thing you know you’ll find me in my imaginary world on the beach.
YBS: Yeah that’s why I think I would like one of those too! They sound pretty cool!
Yara: Well, I have a sort of Googaa but it doesn’t take me to an imaginary world. But, well, it’s this blanket that I’ve had since I was newborn and it has different patches of teddy bears, pacifiers and bottles and like baby blocks.
YBS: Oh wow, does it have a name?
Yara: Well, I thought about Lovey
YBS: Aww that’s a nice name cause you obviously love it.
Yara: Yeah. It’s not necessary that I have to take it around with me everywhere I go but I just don’t want to throw it away.
YBS: Of course because it’s got sentimental value right?
YBS: So, let’s talk a bit more about you instead of Olivia! You told us that you like Karate and everything like that but I know that you’re a model as well right?
Yara: Yes, I am.
YBS: I’ve seen a lot of your pictures, they’re very pretty.
Yara: Thank you.
YBS: How is modeling different from acting for you?
Yara: Well, modeling, which I call only print ads, not necessarily commercials. But I find it different because there are no lines really. And I might have to do emotion, like, might have to bite into some cheese and smile or something like that except it’s not like, “now I have to say lines” and we don’t necessarily have to say lines. I more have to actually feel the emotion.
YBS: So is it more like what you see on America’s Next Top Model, is it like that?
Yara: America’s Next Top Model?
YBS: Yeah, you know the show with Tyra Banks, have you seen that before.
Yara: Oh, yeah. Well…
YBS: Is it kinda like that but for kids?
Yara: Well, kinda. Actually, not necessarily, it’s more of a, just, new experiences and mostly if it’s for a kids print audition or a job then we would be more um, have to act really surprised.
YBS: Oh ok, so you have to have a lot of emotion and be really big with your emotions, stuff like that?
Yara: Yes. But it depends on what kinda ad you’re doing.
Yara: Cause sometimes you wanna go really small or really big.
YBS: Oh ok. Gosh, you know so much about the industry and you’re 9 right now. Are you 9?
Yara: Yes I am.
YBS: Wow, you’re so smart! Another thing I wanted to ask you about was your heritage because I’ve read that you’re half Persian. Which I think is pretty cool because my family’s from India so they’re kind of next to each other in a way. Which is cool.
Yara: Oh, yes I am half Persian and my Baba, which means dad in Farsi, he is from Mashhad, Iran.
YBS: Oh wow! Cool, so do you know a lot about Persian culture and the traditions?
Yara: Well, we celebrate Nowruz, which is basically almost like a Christmas, except Persian. Except it’s not celebrating the, it’s only a Persian celebration and it’s a celebration of the New Year.
YBS: Oh ok, and what’s it called?
YBS: Oh ok, oh wow.
Yara: So there is Haji Firouz who brings you the presents and he’s almost like Santa Claus.
YBS: Oh ok. That sounds really cool.
Yara: And unlike Christmas, Nowruz lasts for a number of days.
YBS: Ohh right ok. So it’s a bit like, have you heard of Diwali? Which is what Indians celebrate; the festival of light.
YBS: Have you learnt about that in school?
Yara: No, but it’s like seven days.
YBS: Oh ok. Ok, that sounds pretty similar. And do you, I know that you’re learning to speak Farsi. Is there anything that you can say?
Yara: Well, I can say quite a few words and if you want me to say, would you like me to say a word?
YBS: Yeah, that would be cool!
YBS: And what does that mean?
Yara: Which means hi in Farsi.
YBS: Hi. Wow, ok, teach me how to say it, how did you say it again?
YBS: Salaam. Wow that’s nice. And do you make a lot of Persian food?
Yara: Well, we don’t necessarily make it, but we eat it. Cause I love Kateh, which is like Rice and it’s kinda stuck together. It’s gold and it’s really crunchy and yummy.
YBS: Oh wow, and do you guys eat with your hands?
Yara: Well, some of the food but most of the, well half and half actually. Because some of the food you’ll eat with your hands and some of it you need a fork and knife.
YBS: Right, ok that makes sense! And do you go to a school or are you home schooled?
Yara: Well, I’m home schooled but who knows, I might go to school this year. I’ve gone to school except I’m staying home schooled.
YBS: Right. And do you like school, like going to school with all of your friends and everything?
Yara: Yes, it’s actually quite fun. And we might go to school this year, who knows!
YBS: Well that would be good! And do you have a favourite subject?
Yara: I absolutely love history!
YBS: Really, oh and you’re going to a museum. That fits very well!
Yara: Yes, except this museum, The Huntington museum we’re going to, is more of an outside thing. They also have things about art except where we’re spending the day outdoors.
YBS: Oh ok. And what do you like about history?
Yara: Well just like, how the World changes, throughout all these different periods like the Renaissance and before that the Middle Ages.
YBS: And by the Renaissance do you mean like the Harlem Renaissance?
Yara: The Renaissance started by Florence.
YBS: Right, yes, that’s true. Tell us a bit about that. Teach our listeners something.
Yara: It’s when art and artists started painting in different ways, and that’s when people started making sculptures and everything started to bloom. Cause Renaissance means rebirth.
YBS: It does! You’re so smart Yara!
Yara: Thank you.
YBS: Do you read a lot of books?
Yara: Yes, it depends on the book. If I get bored with a book then I move on to the next one but yeah I do like reading, I love reading.
YBS: What was the last book you read, or are you reading one right now?
YBS: Chains. And what’s that about?
Yara: Well it’s about the revolutionary war and there are two slaves that should have been freed by their masters but they didn’t’ have a lawyer and it’s all their experiences.
YBS: Wow, that sounds so interesting, I might have to pick that up myself! I love reading too.
Yara: Yeah, even for a 300 page book, it was so good I read it in a day!
YBS: Did you?! Oh my gosh you’re a fast reader as well!
Yara: No, two days. Except the time spent would be about a day.
YBS: Oh ok. Yeah I suppose you’re good at reading and everything cause you have to learn all of your lines right?
Yara: Um, yeah.
YBS: Are you quick at learning them?
Yara: Yes I am, but it depends on if they’re paragraphs of lines or sentences or, but yeah I think so.
YBS: You must be cause you had to learn a whole movie and you had to learn all of those lines!
Yara: Well it’s easier because we do it take by take, we don’t film the whole movie at one time.
YBS: Yeah that would be pretty crazy!
Yara: You’d have to have one of those sets where the sets right next to each other and its in the same stage area. Otherwise it would be like, us outside, us not in costume but just rehearsing, us relaxing in our regular clothes.
YBS: Yeah, cause otherwise it would be a bit too much to ask.
Yara: For like a one and a half hour movie, it turns into like a four or five hours. Maybe two days.
YBS: Yeah that sounds pretty crazy!
YBS: You were saying that you like to travel right? What countries have you visited?
Yara: Well, I’ve gone to Italy and I’ve gone to New Zealand.
YBS: Wow, those are cool! I like Italy, it’s really nice. Where do you wanna visit next?
Yara: I really wanna go to Greece.
YBS: Do you?!
Yara: I love Greek Mythology.
YBS: Oh wow.
Yara: And it would be cool to see the Parthenon and like, where Athena was worshiped and all the places where people worshiped the gods.
YBS: Yeah that would be amazing and you could see where like, the first Olympic stadium and stuff like that.
Yara: Oh yeah!
YBS: Yeah, that’s another one. I’ve been there when I was about your age I think. Cause I live in London. Are you ever gonna come to London?
Yara: Well, I’ve been there but I was really little.
YBS: Oh have you! Aw, you should come back and see all the sights again and then you’ll remember it.
Yara: Yeah. Uh huh.
YBS: But come in the summer cause you don’t wanna get wet with all the rain!
YBS: What do you wanna be when you grow up?
Yara: I really wanna be a historian, so when I have, like sometimes I just sit on the computer and research things and its really interesting like the first period that the Earth was born.
YBS: Right. That sounds like an ideal career for you, cause you’re so into your history!
Yara: Yeah I think it would be really cool if I could become a historian!
YBS: Yeah well you’ve got that vision and you’ll grow up thinking that’s what you wanna be so you can achieve it! Do you have any hidden talents? That’s something that everybody wanted to know.
Yara: Any hidden talents…
YBS: Yeah, something that we wouldn’t know about.
Yara: Well, I like writing.
YBS: Oh do you! Do you write poetry?
Yara: Well yes, mostly every year I’ll make a card and I’ll make a card or artwork that me and my brother made or just I made and then I’d write a poem inside.
YBS: Aww that’s such a nice idea! I did that yesterday for Father’s Day. Did you do that for your dad?
Yara: Yes I did.
YBS: Aw did you guys have a nice father’s day?
Yara: Uh huh, we went to his favorite restaurant, Korean BBQ.
YBS: Oh wow!
Yara: Well one of his favorite restaurants…
YBS: What did you say, one of your favorite restaurants?
Yara: One of his.
YBS: Oh ok. What other ones do you like?
Yara: Well, I like Persian food, I like Indian food, and I like home made pizza!
YBS: Haha, yeah that’s a good one! Nothing can beat a nice pizza. Ok, so you were saying you like Persian food, Indian food and pizza?
Yara: Yes. Home made pizza!
YBS: Yeah, home made pizza! Do you guys make them, like put all the ingredients on the top yourself?
Yara: Yes, my baba, which means dad in Farsi, he makes the tomato sauce that goes on top and he makes the dough and everything.
YBS: Oh wow that sounds nice! It’s much nicer than the package ones, definitely.
Yara: Yes. It’s cool because we’re making a garden and once our tomatoes grow we can have like organic tomatoes and basil so that will be really cool.
YBS: Yeah, home grown tomatoes are the ones that taste the best! They taste really nice. I like those!
Yara: And one thing is that you can trust them cause they don’t have any disease.
YBS: Yes that’s true, cause organic food’s really good for you! Yeah that’s really cool, and also it’s more satisfying when you’re eating it cause you know you grew it from a seed.
YBS: So I was gonna ask you a few of your favorites, because a lot of people wanted to know, so if I just ask you the different ones, will you just tell me which ones they are? Is that ok?
Yara: My favorite food?
YBS: Well, first we’ll do favorite color…
Yara: Oh, ohh ok! Favorite color, I really like Amethyst and I like Emerald.
YBS: Oh wow, Emerald’s my birth stone, that’s a great colour! Definitely green.
Yara: Aqua too.
YBS: Aqua, yes! That’s a really pretty color. And do you have a favorite sport or sports team?
Yara: Well I love karate, and if you call this a sport, well I like jump roping, and I know this is a sport; and I like basketball.
YBS: Oh yeah, basketball, and yeah jump rope is definitely a sport! I mean, have you seen ‘Jump In!’ with Keke Palmer?
Yara: No I haven’t seen those jump roping competitions but…
YBS: It’s still a sport I would say. And do you have a favorite cartoon?
Yara: Favorite cartoon would be a show called Time Warp Trio.
YBS: That sounds cool.
Yara: They go back in history and they meet Napoleon and all these different famous people.
YBS: Oh wow, I would love to watch that, that sounds really good. And do you have a favorite movie as well?
Yara: Favorite movie, well I really like Kirikou. It’s this little boy, who is like, to my knees and he saves his whole village from this evil sorcerer and he always wants to grow up and become a regular size human but he realized that he couldn’t have achieved everything that he achieved if he was like four feet tall or two feet tall.
YBS: Oh that’s such a nice inspirational message in that, because no matter how small you are, you can achieve whatever you dream right?
YBS: Aww, that’s really cool. Oh no! We’re running out of time so I’m gonna ask you a few last questions, just quickly.
YBS: Do you look up to any actors or actresses?
Yara: Well, I love Queen Latifah, Chris Rock and then or course Mr Eddie Murphy.
YBS: Of course, aww. And one day everybody’s gonna be looking up to you because you’ll be such a fabulous actress when you grow up! And do you know what’s next for you?
Yara: Well, no I actually don’t but we’re just gonna see what happens.
YBS: Ok, yeah, I’m sure your future’s very bright Yara, I can see it! And just quickly before we go, I know you’re very smart, you’ve definitely proven that to me in the last 30 minutes, you’re giving me a run for my money! Do you have any words of wisdom for the listeners, anything you would like to give, a little snippet of your advice maybe?
Yara: Advice? Well…
YBS: Or anything, anything you’d like to say…
Yara: Well, if you wanna become an actor or an actress, be yourself and stay yourself, don’t change into a different person.
YBS: That’s great advice. And is that sort of like the advice you live by yourself aswell?
YBS: That’s a really great philosophy to live by. I feel like I’m talking to a grown up Yara!
Yara: Thank you.
YBS: Thank you so much for calling us Yara, it’s been such a pleasure talking to you!
Yara: No problem, thank you!
YBS: I hope you have fun at the museum.
Yara: I will.
YBS: I know you’re gonna learn loads of stuff, your brain is getting bigger every minute I’m sure! It’s great, please continue to be such a success and do your parents proud, because they should be proud they’ve raised such a lovely little young lady! Definitely.
Yara: Thank you.
YBS: Well have a nice day.
Yara: Have a nice day too.
Tags: Yara Shahidi