The new show will have a lot to live up to, including the big shoes that the Bel-Air cast is trying to fill.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air launched the acting career of Will Smith, but it wasn’t just the now four-time Oscar nominee that helped make the sitcom a classic. The show made household names out of Alfonso Ribeiro (helped by the iconic Carlton dance) and James Avery as Uncle Phil, while also featuring memorable performances from Karyn Parsons as Hilary Banks, Tatyana Ali as Ashley Banks, and Joseph Marcell as Geoffrey.
Who’s taking on those roles in the new series? Well, sit right there as we introduce you to the cast of Bel-Air.
Meet the 'Bel-Air' cast: who's who in Fresh Prince reboot
Jabari Banks as Will
Will Smith is an executive producer on Bel-Air, which means that he likely had a hand in picking the young actor who would be taking on the role of Will in the new show. At the very least we know that he broke the news to Jabari Banks himself.
Banks is a newcomer to TV, with Bel-Air being his first on-screen role. He is originally from West Philadelphia and was a 2020 graduate of the University of the Arts in the city.
"I feel like Will is so close to me and my personal experiences. There are so many parallels between my life and his life. It feels as if it’s not such a stretch as an actor,” Banks said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Even so, he has been making the character his own. “I definitely feel like I’m taking the Will character and forming my own experiences around it in this new light and this new era.”
Olly Sholotan as Carlton
The relationship between Will and Carlton in Fresh Prince was one of the show’s highlights, so fans will be eager to see how the dynamic of the two cousins plays out in this new series. While Jabari Banks will portray Will, the Carlton half of the duo will be played by Olly Sholotan.
Though Sholotan isn’t performing in his first on-screen role like Banks is, he is still a relative newcomer, with Bel-Air likely serving as his introduction for a majority of viewers. Most of the credits for Nigerian-American actor from Atlanta come from short films, though he did have an uncredited role on a 2019 episode of The CW’s All-American. His lone feature movie credit is Run Hide Fight, which he co-starred with another 2022 breakout star, 1883’s Isabel May.
Sholotan is also a singer, having released songs Lie 2 Me and Enough for Me.
Adrian Holmes as Phillip Banks
James Avery memorably played Uncle Phil in the original ‘90s sitcom, with Adrian Holmes now taking on the role of the Banks family patriarch. But during a cast interview with Today’s Al Rooker, Holmes recognized the responsibility of taking on the role for the late actor (Avery passed away in 2013).
"You can’t step into his shoes. I’m just kind of creating my own. For me, it’s a tribute to him, a way of saying thank you to him and what he did for us."
Holmes has been acting since the ‘90s, with some of his biggest credits including TV series like Smallville, Arrow, Letterkenny, and 19-2. He also had a role in the 2013 Matt Damon movie Elysium.
Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks
Vivian Banks, better known as Aunt Viv, is set to be played in Bel-Air by Cassandra Freeman, making her actually the third actress to play the character (Janet Hubert for the first three seasons of the original series, Daphne Reid for the last three).
Freeman got her start on screen in a big way, with roles in Spike Lee’s heist movie Inside Man and then in the Chris Rock comedy I Think I Love My Wife. Since then she has had a number of roles on some prominent TV shows throughout her career, including multi-episode arcs on The Last O.G., For Life, Luke Cage and Single Ladies.
Coco Jones as Hilary Banks
Hilary Banks, as played by Karyn Parsons in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, brought the laughs by being a bit of spoiled, ditzy rich girl, though it was hard not to love her. Coco Jones is going to be taking over the Hilary mantle, and she’s excited for the opportunity to represent a type of character she always looked up to when she was young.
“My favorite part about playing Hilary in Bel-Air is representing a dark-skinned, beautiful, hardworking, confident girl,” she said in an interview with Footwear News. “I just know how important that was for me growing up to see girls who looked like me, so I’m excited to further represent.”
The former Disney Channel star (So Random, Good Luck Charlie), is also excited to continue Hilary’s status as a bit of a fashion maven. “Every time Hilary in The Fresh Prince stepped out, she made a moment. I definitely think that’s always the goal with Hilary, just to be very specific and detailed, and even to just cater outfits specifically for the scene,” she said.
Akira Akbar as Ashley Banks
The final Banks child, Ashley Banks (played by Tatyana Ali in the ‘90s sitcom), will be played by Akira Akbar in the Peacock original series. Akbar is no stranger to shows with massive built in appeal, having appeared in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and This Is Us. Oh yeah, she was also in a little film called Captain Marvel, portraying the 11-year-old Monica Rambeau.
Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey
Though not officially a Banks, the family’s butler Geoffrey was just as much a part of the family for the characters of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and its fans. Originally played by Joseph Marcell, the role is being taken over by Jimmy Akingbola in Bel-Air.
Akingbola is a London-based actor who fans may recognize from his time on Rev, Holby City, Arrow, The Most Dangerous Game, and possibly from a brief run on Ted Lasso. But as the actor shared himself in an interview with What to Watch, his audition for Bel-Air was the biggest audition of his life.
Fresh Prince was a massive hit on UK TV and he can remember watching it growing up.
“Dinnertime was always Home and Away, Neighbours then Fresh Prince. There is something iconic about the show. We all grew up with it, no matter what age you are, what country you’re from, it’s global. So to get a part in and play this legendary British character, Geoffrey, is just fantastic."
Jordan L. Jones as Jazz
There was a long-running joke on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air of Will’s friend Jazz (played by DJ Jazzy Jeff) being thrown out of the Banks’ house by Uncle Phil. While that probably won’t be a continuing gag in Bel-Air (though maybe once, please?), Jazz is back for this reboot, played by Jordan L. Jones.
His most prominent role, prior to Bel-Air, was as part of the recurring cast of the sitcom Rel starring Lil Rel Howery.
Jones, in speaking with InsideHook, shared what he is excited about fans seeing with not only his character Jazz, but all the new versions of the characters:
“One of my favorite parts of the show is how everything is drawn out. You learn the background of each character; you learn their beginning. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun.
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