Credit: Eric McCandless/Freeform

As if grown-ish wasn’t already stacked with triple threats, including the next Little Mermaid, in walks Ryan Destiny.

The actress and singer, best known for her work on Fox’s Star, is joining the college-set black-ish spin-off in its third season, playing a student who transferred from an HBCU and is already cozy with Zoey’s ex Luca.

Destiny tells EW that coming in as a love interest for Luka Sabbat‘s character was easy because, “We’re both really chill people, so it was just cool and natural I think, just because the characters also kind connect. They’re both creative and free spirited.”

The 25-year-old entertainer talks to EW about the demand for her to join the show, the weight of who her grown-ish character is representing, and if there’s any news on a Star movie Lee Daniels teased on his Instagram.

Catch an exclusive sneak peek of Thursday’s episode above. grown-ish airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this role come about?
RYAN DESTINY: It’s kind of a long but short story I guess. I basically auditioned for a whole different show that [series creator] Kenya Barris is doing, and I didn’t really fit the character, but they loved my audition so much that they wanted me somewhere in their world. So it basically was like, “I want you on grown-ish as another character,” so it was like yeah, of course, because I was an actual fan of the show, so it was cool.

You’re someone who gets fan-cast on social media a lot. Did you ever see anything like a call for you to be on the show before you were actually on it?
Yes, actually I was seeing a lot of that happening, and I’ve come across people in person who have said, “I would love to see you on grown-ish,” and at the time, I was on my own show Star, so I literally just didn’t see it happening, but life’s just crazy weird sometimes, so it ended up working out.

Did you know any of the cast already?
Yeah, I did. I knew Yara [Shahidi] a little bit. I was friends with Chloe x Halle before, so it was just really cool to kind of go in not feeling completely like the new kid. I knew Trevor [Jackson] too. And yeah, I think I got everybody, but everyone else was new to me, so it was really cool. The entire cast was super, super welcoming, and they were just trying to make sure that I felt like family even though I was new, so I really appreciate them for that.

A lot of you in the grown-ish are triple threats. Does that environment inspire everyone creatively, even off the set?
Yeah, it’s really cool. I feel like a lot of us are into music, of course, so I think us being actors on set is super interesting because I feel like as soon we’re done, and they call cut, we’re [all] going to our music. And I mean it was like, I was going to the studio. I literally filmed a music video while filming the show, so I think a lot of us are just like really busy, and just trying to get everything done in as much time as we have.

Does being on the show feel like a performing arts school, where one class is acting, one class is music, etc.?
[Laughs] It kind of can feel like that sometimes. Especially when you’re around so many creative people, it does feel like you’re in a theater arts class or something like that, which obviously I love, I just love this world. It’s just cool to be around other people that kind of have the same dreams and ambitions as you.

Without giving too much away, who is Jillian, and how does she factor into this season?
She’s a HBCU transfer from Spelman [College], and she is a filmmaker, and that’s what she’s basically going to Cal U for. And not because the HBCU didn’t provide her that, it’s just more of a different challenge, so she says. So it’s basically her interacting with the different characters and seeing where she fits into all of that, which you will soon see how she incorporates her filmmaking and her dreams doing that into.

Does that feel a little meta? Because that’s always a conversation within the black community, the HBCU experience versus going to a predominantly white institution.
It’s so interesting because I feel like I can never speak on this because I never went to college. But at the same time, I do understand, and I have friends that go to college and family members that have gone to college, and I see too when my character was announced, how people felt about it. It was a lot of people excited about it coming, that her character was coming from an HBCU. There’s so much pride in that, so being able to tell a story of a person that’s doing that, but trying to make sure you do it justice in a way that’s still respectful, because you never want it to seem like you know somebody just ditched an HBCU to go somewhere else because I don’t even think that’s very common. I think a lot of people that go to HBCUs love it, so yeah it was just really important to kind of tell it in a respectful way, but in a way that was realistic.

Has the reaction to your casting been special to you? Because you are really showing up for HBCU people, and black women with darker skin. It’s not every day you see casting news for a Freeform show in its third season take over the conversation on Twitter.
[Laughs] I know right? Yeah, it shocked me, trust me. When it happened, it felt really nice. I felt supported, so that made me happy. But, it just shows how important it is to be equal, and to see a person of my color be represented too, I think it means a lot for people, so I’m just always here for that, and always trying to make sure I make people proud. Hopefully I’m doing that. I’m just proud a lot of people were excited about it.

Of course, I do have to ask, do you know of any updates on the Star movie that Lee Daniels announced?
Oh, I wish I did, but I do not. I don’t have anything.

Not sure if anyone else has anything either, the news of it seems to be from just Lee Daniels alone.
Yeah a lot of people are holding him to that, so I just don’t want to be the one to have the pressure on him.

Your other movie Flint Strong, where you play boxer Claressa Shields, is actually coming soon though.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, no, I’m really, really excited about that. It’s just, I mean it’s just a whole different side of me no one’s ever seen and it’s going to be a big one for a lot of different reasons, so I’m very excited. I’m still training for right now.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Related content:

  • TV Show
  • 5