What Tracee Ellis Ross Told mixed-ish’s Arica Himmel About Playing Her Character as a Child

Arica Himmel celebrated getting her first reoccurring television role on mixed-ish as if she’d won the World Series.

“The day after I found out, I went to Disneyland with my dad,” Arica, 14, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.

Playing a younger version of Tracee Ellis Ross’s black-ish character in the show’s new spinoff mixed-ish meant the newcomer had big — and funny — shoes to fill.

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“This is my first opportunity to do something like this, so at first I was little nervous,” Arica says. “I had never been on a show where I’m staying for a long time and it was a little nerve-wracking.”

But getting to know her castmates — like Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tika Sumpter, who play her parents on the series — helped the New York City native settle in at her new job.

“Everybody’s super sweet on set and we always crack jokes and have fun with one another,” Arica says.

As a prequel to black-ish, mixed-ish will continue to follow a 12-year-old Rainbow Johnson after she’s left a hippie commune with her family and enters a mainstream school in the suburbs in 1985. Bow and her two siblings face discrimination from their peers because they come from a mixed-race family, and they struggle with whether they want to fit in or stick to their roots.

Ross, 46, serves as a narrator on mixed-ish, so Arica got to meet the woman whose character inspired her own. “She’s just like her character in a way,” Arica says of Ross. “She’s got that comedic timing, she’s hilarious. She has this positive energy that you always want to be around. She’s like a mentor to me.”

Arica Himmel as Bow Johnson in mixed-ish.

The Golden Globe winner also passed along some lessons to the young actress.

“She showed me to work hard,” Arica says, “And even though I am playing the younger version of her, not to just focus on what she does in black-ish, but also add my own flavor to the character.”

Mixed-ish airs Tuesdays on ABC at 9 p.m. ET.

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