As the star of ABC’s hit series Mixed-ish, Arica Himmel recently took some time to chat with Madame Noire about her pivot from Broadway to television, the growth of her character Rainbow “Bow” Johnson this season, and what it’s like to have Tracee Ellis Ross as a mentor.
If you didn’t know, Himmel is a 16-year-old powerhouse. Getting her start on Broadway at the age of just 11, the New York City native worked her way through TV and film roles until landing her big break in Mixed-ish back in 2019. As the young star told us, seeing her progression within the last couple of years has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of all the hard work she’s put in.
“Honestly, it’s amazing,” Himmel said of her transition from Broadway to television. “I did start with doing Broadway and theater, and all that type of stuff but just to see how far I’ve come — it’s really awesome and I’ve learned that as long as you work hard and never give up, you can achieve what you want to achieve.”
As Rainbow, Himmel plays a biracial teenager of a Black mother and white father growing up in the 80s who’s trying to navigate balancing her identity as she goes through high school, leans into womanhood, and decides what parts of childhood growing up on a commune she’s willing to bring into her new and various surroundings. Being the eldest daughter — with two quirky and outgoing siblings — Rainbow’s story speaks to all the nuances being mixed-race, discovering yourself, and accepting who you are might bring.
As a biracial young woman herself, Himmel noted that it’s often easy to draw parallels between her real life and that of her character’s. Sharing an example, the actress mentioned that sometimes people want her to put her in a box of what they think she is — something that can be stressful since just like her character Rainbow (and everyone else on the planet), she wants to feel accepted for who she is.
“I feel like sometimes it’s a little bit difficult because I tend to look through social media and I see people with these comments saying ‘Oh, you’re just this’ or ‘You’re just this,'” Himmel said. Noting how the difficulty of finding a balance that works for her is something she sees in her Mixed-ish character as well, she continued, “And sometimes you know, I feel it’s stressful because I just want to be accepted by everyone and in a way that sort of leaves me feeling like I have to please everyone. I feel like it’s the same thing with Rainbow.”
“She just wants everyone to be happy and happy with her identity,” Himmel added still speaking on the character. “In the end though, she realizes she should love herself for who she is and that’s what I’ve found too. I love myself, I love who I am, and I’m not looking to please everyone — I’m just going to be me, and Rainbow does the same.”
Speaking on how Rainbow changes this season, Himmel went on to say that, “Bow learns what it means to become a leader — within her family, amongst her siblings, and in her friendships. She gains confidence and learns to love herself more.”
All that being said, in addition to seeing how thoughtfully crafted characters like Rainbow change over time, fans of the “-ish” universe also love how all of the three respective series within the scope are interconnected. For example, executive producer of Mixed-ish Tracee Ellis Ross narrates the life of Himmel’s character in the show and plays the adult version of Rainbow Jonhson in the series that started it all, Black-ish. While discussing this, Himmel talked about what it was like to have Ross as a mentor to her in real life — and how to two have been keeping up with each other during quarantine.
“I feel like Tracee’s just that person where you can go to her for anything and she’s always just going to be there,” the young actress said of Ross. “She’s super warm, she’s super kind, and aside from being a super successful entrepreneur and a great actress — in the singing world now too a little — she’s just a great person at heart.”
“I’ve found during quarantine I’ve been able to go to her for hair things — dealing with the curls, all that type of stuff — and just reaching out through social media even, dropping some hearts on her pictures and her coming to me with stuff,” she added. Ending our interview, Himmel wrapped with, “It’s been really awesome and I’m super glad that I’m able to play her character.”
See Himmel star as the young, intuitive, and intelligent Rainbow Johnson in Mixed-ish on Tuesdays from 9:30-10:00 p.m. EST on ABC.
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