grown-ish star Luka Sabbat talks season 3, fashion, and macaroni salad
“I live there, that’s the thing,” Sabbat tells EW, referring to the famed West Hollywood hotel. “So a lot of things in my life revolve around this place.” At the time he met Barris, he wasn’t necessarily looking to act. “I went to acting school and stuff, but when I was in high school and got into fashion, I no longer wanted to be an actor. I was down just because I liked Kenya’s energy. I was like, ‘All right, f— it.’”
Born into a fashion family — his father is a designer, his mother a stylist-turned-chef — Sabbat has racked up 2.1 million followers on Instagram with gender-bending red carpet looks, high-profile collabs with the likes of Roberto Cavalli and Maison Margiela, and eye-catching street-style photos. In addition to his grown-ish role as Zoey Johnson’s (Yara Shahidi) artsy, nonchalant love interest Luca Hall, he appeared opposite Adam Driver and Bill Murray in Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die last summer.
Fresh from hearing that grown-ish was nominated for three NAACP Image Awards, and before the series’ season 3 premiere (Jan. 16 on Freeform), Sabbat hopped on the phone to chat about the parallels between him and his character, what fans can expect from Luca this season, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How has Luca grown in this upcoming season?
LUKA SABBAT: He’s become more susceptible to his feelings, especially now that he has fully dated Zoey and then become friends with Zoey and all of Zoey’s friends. He’s more open to people and dealing with more things. It was bound to happen.
You seem like the spitting image of your character. How much do you identify with him?
It’s like an alternate TV version of me. I’m calm and stuff, but I’m not like a stoner in real life. I don’t smoke weed [like Luca does]. Season 1, I was a lot like my character, but as my character developed they gave him different traits than mine. I do share some things, in terms of energy or whatever the case may be, but I don’t handle things the same way he does emotionally.
What’s something you would have handled differently?
You remember what happened at the end of season 2? Well, I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t chase a girl to the airport, you know? I’d text her when she lands, to like f— with her head or something. I might tell her I did [go to the airport], but I didn’t in real life.
When last we left Zoey, she had broken up with Luca and kissed Aaron [Trevor Jackson]. What can we expect from this love triangle in season 3?
There’s drama, all right. I mean, there’s a lot going on besides my love triangle. It’s pretty comedic in the sense that [Luca] and Aaron are such different people. He’s this super-charismatic, outgoing, fun guy. I’m not going to say I’m a recluse, but I’m definitely keen to chill. And Zoey has different moods, and we each fit differently with different moods.
What is it like working with Yara Shahidi, and do you have a favorite moment with her?
I hang out with Yara in real life, so I forget that we’re in a show together. We have a lot of fun cognitive discourses, and we agree and disagree on a lot. We always share music because we have similar but different music tastes. We kick it. The other day we had lunch at the Chateau and hung out, and I saw her at the Golden Globes after-party. It’s just funny: I could not see her for months, and then we see each other and pick up on the last time we talked.
You seem pretty close with your castmates. What was your reaction when you found out your costar Halle Bailey will play Ariel in Disney’s live-action Little Mermaid movie?
That was so fire. I’m so proud of her. It’s insane. I mean, how else am I supposed to feel about that?
Hold up, your character says “that is so fire” all the time on grown-ish. So you say that in real life too?
Yeah, I think that’s why they use it in the show. I said it at a table read for season 1, and they wrote it in the script.
You’re a trendsetter on and off screen. What can we expect from Luca’s style this season, and how much of a hand do you have in the looks?
He loves robes, like kimonos and loose pants. He really has some chill s— in season 3. They always give me options. I come in pick what I like and don’t like, then they pair some s—, and then I’ll be like, “No, I’m going to put it with that.” But also there’s certain colors you have to wear because if too many characters wear the same color, it looks weird on screen. It’s not all about me.
You’re always gender-bending your style: wearing eye makeup, skirts, etc. What does masculinity mean to you in 2020?
It’s as far as you’re comfortable. Some people are not down to wear makeup. Some people are not down to do a lot of things, and that doesn’t make them any less masculine or any more masculine. There are definitely people who have very fragile masculinity, but that’s just probably because they’re insecure, but I don’t know. I can’t speak for 4 billion men. I know what I like, so I could kind of do whatever and still be able to sleep at night.
What is something a lot of your fans don’t know about you?
Well, I like Shrek 2 on DVD. Have you ever seen the DVD version?
Yeah, I love Shrek 2 on DVD, especially the American Idol parody they do at the end of the movie.
Yeah, the “Far, Far Away Idol!” It’s so good. I just love Shrek 2 on DVD.
I once read that Zendaya’s idea of self-care is watching Harry Potter every day, so I’m just now imagining you watching Shrek 2 every day and being like, “Just need some self-care!”
[Laughs] I also like really spicy food.
Do you like Tapatio? It’s good on everything, including spaghetti.
I love Tapatio. [Laughs] You put it on your spaghetti? Do you like macaroni salad, and if so, do you eat it hot or cold?
Yes I do, and I eat it cold.
Okay, so what makes macaroni salad, salad?
But if you make a macaroni salad hot, is it just a pasta dish?
Yes, do you feel otherwise?
[Laughs] I don’t know how I feel about it, but I was just asking.
Is this the type of stuff that you debate about with Yara?
Yeah, just weird questions.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.