Time for another #TBT! On the second Thursday of each month, we’ll release a past celeb cover story from our print-only archives. For this round, we’re throwin’ it back to spring 2018 with Trevor Jackson.
You know him as Aaron in Freeform’s newest hit show grown-ish, but how much do you know about the guy behind the role? Here, Trevor Jackson dishes on his upcoming album and movie, what it’s really like on the grown-ish set, and what keeps him hella focused on his grind.
At 21*, Trevor Jackson is already making his #lifegoals a reality — collabbing with the likes of Yara Shahidi, Chloe and Halle, Anthony Anderson, and Kenya Barris (the latter two are producers on the Freeform show), to name a few. “I’m super grateful to be working with people who just love the art,” the Indiana native says as we’re chatting it up about his grown-ish fam. “These people just love what they do, and you feel it every time you come into work. [But] it doesn’t feel like work. We’re just there [on set] having a good time. Everybody’s putting in 110 percent, so I feel like it really shows.”
The black-ish spinoff, which premiered in January, follows the journey of Zoey Johnson (played by Yara, obvi) as she heads off to college at the fictional California University and quickly discovers that adulting is way harder than it looks. Aaron Jackson (played by Trevor) is Zoey’s part-time love interest. He’s fine, woke, and basically rooting for everybody Black, while fully decked out in “I Can’t Breathe” and “Free Assata Shakur” pinback buttons. “[Aaron’s] a political activist for the Black movement, and he wants to see the betterment of his people and equality at the college,” Trevor says about his character. “We’re [both] very, very ambitious, and I feel like the only difference between us is where he stands on the political spectrum. He’s all about politics. I support politics, but I’m not [as] involved. I try to stay focused on what’s in front of me, whether it be music or a script.”
At the time of our interview, Trevor had just wrapped filming for season one of grown-ish, which has already been renewed for season two — launching out the gate as the best comedy series start for Freeform since 2012. “Our generation was in desperate need of a show that [we] can relate to for one, but two, that was so current and really everything that we go through now,” Trevor says. “We’re talking about social media, college, all those things, love, LGBTQ community — so many points that are so poignant to today’s generation.”
And while Trevor’s enjoying grown-ish’s mostly positive reviews, he’s no stranger to this type of success and hustle. He moved to Los Angeles when he was only 11 years old to pursue singing and acting as a full-time gig, and at just 19, he landed the role of Kevin LaCroix in the award-winning drama series American Crime, starring alongside Regina King. “I feel like my love for the art has kept me able to keep pushing in both music and acting. I did some SyFy channel stuff, some Disney stuff, and then, American Crime, and I feel like all of those things really helped me prepare for the next step,” Trevor says. “That’s how I try to embrace every opportunity in my life, as a preparation for the next things, so I try to gain as much information as I can to implement it into the next project while enjoying myself at the same time.”
Right now, that next project has Trev set to star as Youngblood Priest in the remake of the 1972 Blaxploitation film Super Fly, which hits theaters on June 15. “I wanted to be a part of [SuperFly] due to the historical factor and how big of an impact it had on our culture, especially on Black culture. The bottom line is that it’s [a story about the] American Dream, which I feel like is a story that can never get old, regardless of what year you’re in,” he says. “I’m definitely honored to put my spin on a classic story.” The best acting advice he’s ever received? “Joe Morton from Eureka [who also plays Daddy Pope on Scandal] said whenever you play a character, you need to find out what they want, why they want it, and how far they’re willing to go to get it.” And you already know, Trevor’s peeped the OG version to get all the way ready for the role.
Besides holdin’ it down on screen, Trevor’s blessed with those velvety smooth pipes, too. He’s been busy in the studio laying down vocals for his debut album, Rough Drafts Pt. 1, which is set to drop on March 23. And die-hard fans can’t help but notice that Trevor’s recent single, “NightTime,” which was featured on an episode of grown-ish, is a lot more, um, grown than some of his previous tunes. But to keep it all the way 100, Trevor turns 22 in August, so it only makes sense that his music would mature, too. “This is just a continuation of my evolvement from In My Feelings, which was two years ago, almost three years ago now,” he says. “I’ve had so much time to grow as an artist [and] my style has just changed. Part of that is me not trying to have any particular end goal. Whatever I feel, I write about it. That’s something I’m really striving to continue to do as an artist, to be relatable and tell my truth.”
In fact, this go-round, Trevor wrote every song and directed his own music videos. “I’m just really trying to be the captain of the ship wholeheartedly, and I think people will really get to hear a different side of Trevor when they hear this album,” he says. “I’m so excited.”
And if you’re wondering whether a musical collabo with Chloe and Halle could ever be in the works, turns out, Trevor’s totally down for it. “We talk about that every time we see each other,” he says. The trio first crossed paths while filming Disney’s Let It Shine back in 2012, so reuniting on grown-ish is a “full-circle” moment. “They’ve grown as young women, and they’re really just such a great example of how to carry yourself with grace,” he adds.
When Trevor isn’t busy brainstorming dope video treatments and killin’ it on screen, he loves surfing the waves. “When I was doing The Lion King [Broadway musical], I was in Hawaii for four months, and [surfing] literally [brought] so much peace to me,” he says. “It’s something I did when I was 11 all day every day, and then I stopped for years, and then I did it again [when] there was just kind of a lot going on in my life. I was really stressed out … and it cleared my head, and it’s very therapeutic for me.”
Another pastime Trevor’s considering taking up in the 1-8? Cooking. Tbh, at this moment, his culinary skills are pretty much nonexistent. “I’d like to cook something more than a grilled cheese sandwich and cereal, for sure,” he jokes.
And while he may not have anyone other than himself to impress with the new meal-making talents he plans to rack up just yet, he’s definitely open to finding an S.O. “I’m on the search,” he says. “I’m not on, like, the search search, but I’m on the search,” he laughs, clarifying. “I’ve just been real focused on my work lately. We all need love though, we all need somebody to hold on to.” For now, that somebody is his beloved dog Matilda — she couldn’t stop begging for Trevor’s attention in between answering questions during our interview. “My dog’s trying to eat my stuff. Stop it! Hey!” he commands, before sweetly apologizing for the brief interruption.
Busy honing his craft and trying to make a name for himself in this biz, Trevor seems wise beyond his years. Trés ambitious? You bet, but he also understands every person’s come-up is different and that’s OK. “You can’t compare [anyone’s] process [to your own] … Everybody’s path is very specific to who they are, and that’s the way it should be,” he says. “My faith in God and the love that I get from my family and knowing my purpose [is what keeps me grounded]. I know why I’m doing this. Not everybody can say that.”
One glimpse at Trevor’s Insta TL, and ya’ boy’s life might seem like it’s all play at times, but there’s a lot of work involved, too — a lot of tiresome days and restless nights spent trying to plot the next big move, but it’s worth it because his squad reps hard for him. “The biggest challenge is being away from the people that you love,” he says. “But at the end of the day, I know what I want in the long run, which is to be with my family somewhere on an island chilling, relaxing, and enjoying life.”
*Trevor was 21 years old when this cover interview was first published in our spring 2018 issue.