As the weight of balancing his new college life catches up with Junior in “Grown-ish” Season 5, Junior finally becomes relieved of following in the steps of his sister Zoey (Yara Shahidi) as he begins to “forge his own path” in Wednesday’s emotional passing of the baton episode.
“Junior has now gained an ally, somebody that he realizes he can talk to about these things, because she’s been through the exact same things,” Scriber told TheWrap. “I feel like it’s kind of an outlet for his for his stress. I don’t think that anxiety ever really goes away [but] it helps him out of that anxiety spiral, at least a little bit.”
Despite graduating from Cal U the previous Spring, Zoey has made herself an unavoidable presence in Junior’s first year of college, and never hesitates to upstage her brother, most recently sharing tickets to an exclusive concert with her brother’s friends that lead the friend group to ditch Junior’s plans of a trip to Disneyland.
“He’s feeling excited and hopeful for this new friend group that he’s created and, and he’s just pumped to kind of finally be the big man on campus,” Scribner said. “He kind of sees it as if Zoe’s kind of swooping in and taking that thunder away from him. Obviously, she has no idea that she’s doing that — she’s just trying to be a good sister and help out — but I think Junior is used to a lot of the central focus being taken away from him.”
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When Zoey takes her overshadowing a step too far as she shares Junior’s childhood love for Dungeons & Dragons in front of Junior’s fraternity brothers, the comment triggers a panic attack as Junior’s pent up anxiety comes to the surface and Junior excuses himself from the group and heads to a storage closet as his anxiety comes to a head.
Zoey immediately follows after her brother with advice to alleviate his panic attack, but Junior is initially hesitant to take her advice. “While she has positive intentions, I think Junior is just dealing with a lot mentally right now and it’s hard for him to kind of accept help when he wants to be the person to to give other people help,” Scribner said.
Though Junior “push[es] him away a valuable source of support” in his sister, he eventually listens to her as he realizes his perception of his perfect older sister, who faces no problems, gets good grades, has her own business and maintains a healthy relationship, isn’t quite the full story.
“When she really breaks it down for him all the hardship and difficult things that she had to go through to get herself to the place that she is, I think he realizes, ‘Oh, shoot, we’re more similar than I could have ever imagined,'” Scribner said, adding that the pair can’t walk in each other’s shoes.
As the sibling duo exhibits a relieving amount of honesty, their brother-sister relationship shifts more to friendship as Junior realizes he has “gained an ally” in Zoey.
“It’s refreshing; it kind of feels more like me and Yara’s relationship in real life of being just equally communicative and equally handing out advice,” Scribner said. “I think that’s what Junior has sought after, and I don’t think Zoey really realized she wasn’t giving.”
To cement this new beginning, Junior also chooses to change his nickname from Junior, which was used to distinguish from his father (Anthony Anderson) in “Black-ish” to Andre, in a moment Scribner calls a “turning point” for his character.
“He wanted to break out and kind of forge his own destiny — he’s no longer around his dad and his parents 24/7 [so] there’s no longer a reason to distinguish the two from each other,” Scribner said. “It’s more than just a name change — it’s kind of representative of him grabbing the bulls by the horn and just like taking control of his life.”
Scribner, 23, also drew from his own experiences to prepare for this emotional episode, pulling from panic attacks he’s experienced before going onstage to real-life stressors of living on his own.
“My life kind of coincides with what Junior is going through,” Scribner said. “I just drew from those moments when … [you feel] that overwhelming sense of dread and … you know in your head that you should be okay and that everything is okay, but you can’t stop the way that you feel.”
While Scribner recognizes that anxiety leads people to get in their head about experiencing their struggles alone, he hopes the episode might help viewers realize “we all go through things, and that the people around you are just there to help you.”