Emily Arlook

More than Grown-ish

After ‘Just Add Water’ and ‘The Good Place’, ‘Grown-ish’ actor Emily Arlook fully burst onto the scene with her new role as college student, Nomi Segal. A spinoff to the successful ‘Black-ish’ series, ‘Grown-ish’ follows the lives of a group of college students and cleverly touches on tough, contemporary issues for young people transitioning into adulthood. From racism to sexuality, it has been critically acclaimed for managing to bypass clumsy approaches to topics which are consistently butchered in TV and cinema alike. As a Jewish, bi-sexual, and more importantly, sexually liberated young woman, Nomi’s fearless and outspoken character, as well as her hilarious lines, have made her one of the most relatable and remarkable characters in the show, and in passing, a not-so-accidental voice for the bi-sexual community. Arlook’s performance has earned her a landslide of praise and fans, and as such, it is easy to conjecture that this will be the LA-born actress’s breakout role.

What drove you to acting? Do you feel like it was something you always wanted to do?
Initially it was something I kind of fell into by doing school plays and what not, but right away I fell in love with it. It wasn’t just something I wanted to do; it was something I needed to do. I’m drawn to justice and to truth, and I love exploring that realm within any given character. It provides me with a sense of clarity and relief. It’s like scratching an itch, if that make sense.

I hear you recently graduated after 10 years — congratulations! What motivated you to undertake your degree in Psychology all the while pursuing your acting career?
Thank you! College was something that was super important to me, I just had to do it on my own time (like most things). I was never interested in putting my acting pursuits on hold so I made sure to juggle both simultaneously. In fact, being in college helped with acting because it made it less precious, which I think helped overall with my sanity. I chose psychology because I am endlessly fascinated with the human condition. That exploration also lends itself well to acting –always.

You’re currently starring in Grown-ish – what attracted you towards playing in the show?
Black-ish is an incredible show so I was of course very attracted to the idea of being a part of its spin-off. When I learned Grown-ish was created by the genius mind of Kenya Barris (who also created Black-ish), I was in. I also love just about everything about playing Nomi. The chance to play someone who is unafraid to say whatever is on her mind is pretty fantastic and liberating.

In the show, Nomi is openly bisexual – have fans reached out to you telling you how her character has impacted them and their lives?
I’ve learned so much from various reactions to Nomi. I’ve heard some moving stories from fans who relate to Nomi’s struggle with coming out to her family, which really touches me. Some people were struck by Nomi’s hypocrisy when she broke up with her boyfriend for being bi, while others related to that internalized message about bi men. The opportunity to hold up a mirror to these cultural norms around sexuality, and to spark a conversation that makes us question these double standards has been a privilege.

How has your life changed since you started this role?
Overall, it’s made me more passionate about representation in the media. We’re in a time where many people are calling out the limited narrative that’s been historically represented in the media. It’s terribly exciting to tell a new story, one that is so common in the world and yet not in the media.

Has playing Nomi changed you as a person in any way?
I wouldn’t say playing Nomi has fundamentally changed me as a person, but she certainly has a confidence about her that I admire and do my best to bring to my own life. Also (and this is a bit of a literal answer) but playing Nomi has changed me insofar that I now have a new close group of friends in my castmates, who are an incredible group of creative, talented, and supportive people.

Had acting not worked out, where do you think you would be right now? Did you have any other profession in mind?
My college graduation is in June, so if I weren’t acting I’d probably continue on with higher education. I’d most likely be on the road to becoming a psychologist.

Any exciting plans for the future?
Looking forward to shooting season two later this year!

Text Emma Saint-Genies
Images Courtesy of Kevin Scanlon