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Bel-Air Cast : Character Compares To Fresh Prince

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Bel-Air's cast and characters dramatically take over the 1990s sitcom's iconic roles, so here's how they compare to their Fresh Prince counterparts.
The Bel-Air reboot features an entirely new cast portraying the iconic characters from the 1990s original sitcom. Peacock’s Bel-Air is a dramatic reimagining of the 1990s show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which was one of the most influential culture-defining series of its era. The serious tone of Bel-Air is told through a modern lens with conversations, themes, and realities that couldn’t be sufficiently told in the 30-minute sitcom formula in the ‘90s. As such, Bel-Air is a much deeper exploration of the original show’s complexities, which also meant significant changes to the iconic characters.

Bel-Air still follows teenager Will Smith moving from West Philadelphia to the Bel-Air mansion of his aunt and uncle after he gets into a serious fight. Following the initial set-up, Bel-Air’s dramatic reboot takes a new angle on the original story, which sees the more complicated Will face troubles with his serious Uncle Phil, popular cousin Carlton, and dangerous Philadelphia figures. The stakes are far higher in Bel-Air’s reboot than in the original series, and the returning characters reflect this thematic change.
Although actor Will Smith serves as an executive producer for Bel-Air, the Peacock TV show doesn’t bring back any actors from the original series to portray its characters. The cast of Bel-Air features both newcomers and seasoned dramatic actors, which reflects the circumstances of the 1990s series. Here’s a breakdown of the cast of Bel-Air, including how their characters compare to their Fresh Prince counterparts.
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Jabari Banks

             

Jabari Banks As Will Smith

                                  While the real-life Will Smith no longer portrays the character,Bel-Air’s protagonist is still named Will Smith. While Bel-Air’s Will Smith is still a teenager from West Philly who gets into a fight that sends him to Los Angeles, the reboot’s character is far more dramatic and emotionally complex. For starters, Will was arrested in the fight after he pointed his friend’s gun at a drug dealer threatening them at the basketball game, and he's still hunted by the Philadelphia gangster while in California. Will still has a goofy, more laid-back personality in which he incessantly flirts with women, but he’s also much more proud, emotionally vulnerable, and instigative in the Bel-Air reboot. Maintaining some of Fresh Prince’s Will Smith quirks, he still always wears a sideways hat and is a talented basketball player. Portraying Will Smith in Bel-Air is newcomer Jabari Banks, who wowed the showrunners and executive producer/former Fresh Prince actor Will Smith himself when casting him for his first-ever acting role.

Adrian Holmes

Adrian Holmes As Phillip Banks

The iconic character Uncle Phil, originally played by the late James Avery, is now portrayed by actor Adrian Holmes, who shares little to no physical resemblance to the original lawyer. In Bel-Air, Uncle Phil has lost his notable sense of humor and cares far more about his appearances and the stakes of taking in Will than the original character did. Phil is running for D.A. in Bel-Air season 1, with the character trying desperately to hide the real reason why Will came to live with them unless he’s around old friends. Phil is a lot less compassionate and warm than James Avery’s Fresh Prince character was, with only a few moments allowing him to more comfortably and casually interact with Will and others when not trying to uphold his reputation. Adrian Holmes is known for his roles in Arrow as Star City PD Captain Frank Pike, 19-2 as Nick Barron, and Smallville as Basqat.

Cassandra Freeman

Cassandra Freeman As Vivian Banks

While the original Aunt Viv was significant as the main connection between Will Smith and the Banks family, the character went through quite a few changes herself in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After season 3, Fresh Prince’s Aunt Viv actress Janet Hubert was recast with Daphne Maxwell Reid, with the two actresses bearing little physical resemblance. Aunt Vivian’s recast also came with a personality change, particularly in that Hubert’s Viv was strong-willed, ambitious, independent, and vivacious, whereas Reid’s Aunt Viv was less career-oriented as a homemaker, less magnetic, and far more supportive of the Banks kids even in their wilder pursuits. The new Bel-Air character aligns more with Fresh Prince’s recast Aunt Viv, as she’s much more understanding, nurturing, less ambitious about her career, and less apt to call out her kids’ faults. Bel-Air’s Aunt Vivian is portrayed by Cassandra Freeman, who is best known for acting in The O.G., Inside Man, Luke Cage, and The Enemy Within.

Olly Sholotan

Olly Sholotan As Carlton Banks

The most profoundly different character in Bel-Air from their original counterpart is Carlton Banks, who is now an arrogant, humorless, preppy, popular jock who has a visible hatred for his cousin Will. The original Carlton played by Alfonso Ribeiro had a slight arrogance to him based on his wealth and preppy conservative mindset, but he was also humorous, sympathetic, more insecure, and fairly ignorant about the culture Will came from. As the class president, lacrosse captain, and well-respected student in Bel-Air, Carlton sees Will as a threat to his reputation and status, so is far crueler than Alfonso Ribeiro's character. Bel-Air’s Carlton Banks is played by Olly Sholotan, who is best known for his music career as a singer and producer. Sholotan has also acted in Run Hide Fight and Evolution of Nate Gibson.

Coco Jones

Coco Jones As Hilary Banks

Bel-Air’s version of Hilary Banks is also fairly different from The Fresh Prince’s character, who was played by Karyn Parsons, as she has now lost her stereotypical airheaded socialite, vain, shallow persona. The new Hilary leans more into the integrity and family-oriented altruism of Hilary, though Bel-Air’s version is very proud, intelligent, and strong-willed. Hilary is still popular and well-liked with an interest in nice clothes and the lavishness of her life, but today she’s an influencer who is trying to figure out her career moves. The new Bel-Air’s Coco Jones is known for her previous Disney Channel roles in Good Luck Charlie and Let It Shine as well as her music career which was kickstarted by Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing.

Akira Akbar

Akira Akbar As Ashley Banks

Like The Fresh Prince, Bel-Air struggles with their use of the younger Banks sister Ashely. Ashley is Fresh Prince went through more rebellious and casually-minded stages that opposed her family’s typical personality. She was extremely close with Will until he became too overprotective of her, but Bel-Air’s Ashley doesn’t seem to have near as prominent a role as Tatyana Ali’s original character. In Bel-Air, Ashley is still the Banks kid that is most accepting of Will joining the family. Akira Akbar is also notable for her roles in Captain Marvel, This Is Us, and Netflix's We Can Be Heroes.

Jimmy Akingbola

Jimmy Akingbola As Geoffrey

While Geoffrey was a more upper-crust, sardonic, prideful, gentlemanly stereotypical representation of English butlers in the original series, Bel-Air’s Geoffrey is far more casual, cool, and suave. He’s no longer a “butler” in Bel-Air, as the modern take has made him the house manager of the Banks mansion who addresses the family casually and often interacts with Uncle Phil in more leisurely settings. Bel-Air’s Geoffrey, who gets along with Will far better than Joseph Marcell’s character, is also now a Jamaican-born Londoner who moved to Bel-Air. Jimmy Akingbola is known for playing Baron Reiter in Arrow, PC Neil Parker in Holby Blue, and Ollie in Ted Lasso.

Jordan L. Jones

Jordan L. Jones As Jazz

Bel-Air’s Jazz, like Fresh Prince's, is still Will’s reminder of home outside of the culture shock of Bel-Air’s mansions, with the character still serving as Will’s closest new friend. In Bel-Air, Jazz gave Will a ride to the mansion before the two struck up a friendship, with the new character still serving as the comic relief, though to a lesser degree. Sadly, it doesn’t seem Jazz will be literally thrown out of the Banks home like in Fresh Prince. Jordan L. Jones has also been seen in Rel, South Central Love, and Disjointed.

Simone Joy Jones

Simone Joy Jones As Lisa

Although the two have completely different stories, Bel-Air’s Lisa is taking over the role of Fresh Prince’s season 5 character Lisa Wilkes, who was Will’s serious girlfriend. Bel-Air’s Lisa is Carlton’s ex-girlfriend who is on scholarship at Bel-Air Academy for the swim team, though she and the  Will Smith character quickly develop feelings for one another. The original Lisa Wilkes and Will Smith fell deeply in love and even attempted to get married, though their relationship ended when her father Fred and Will’s mother Vy got married instead. With the added drama of Lisa being the hot-headed Carlton’s ex-girlfriend, her role is already much more prominent than Nia Long’s character. Simone Joy Jones has been featured in The Chair, American Rust, and Billy Porter’s What If?

Bel-Air New & Returning Supporting Cast & Characters...

April Parker Jones as Viola “Vy” Smith:Will’s nurturing mom who worries about his future after his arrest, so sends him to LA to live with her sister. Originally played by Vernee Watson-Johnson, Bel-Air’s Vy is played by April Parker Jones, who is known for Supergirl, Jericho, and The Fosters.

Stevonte Hart as Tray Melbert:Will’s best friend from Philadelphia who is targeted by Rashaad after he leaves. Hart is known for his roles in Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, Queen Sugar, and Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.

Anthony “Eazy The Block Captain” Brown as Rashaad:The West Philly drug dealer and gangster who has Will and Tray on his hit list after the basketball game. Eazy The Block Captain is a Philadelphia rapper known for being an emcee and battle rapper at the Ultimate Rap League.

Tyler Barnhardt as Connor Satterfield:Carlton’s ignorant best friend on the lacrosse team who instantly feuds with Will. Barnhardt played Charlie St. George in 13 Reasons Why, Matthew Roe in Underground, and Danny in Tales from the Loop.

Charlie Hall as Tyler Laramy:Will’s friend on Bel-Air’s basketball team who has a similar casual and rebellious demeanor. Hall has also been seen in Single Drunk Female, Love, Victor, and Netflix’s movie Moxie.

Karrueche Tran as Ivy:An extremely successful influencer who offers to help Hilary with her growing influencer career. Tran has appeared in TV shows and movies like Claws, The Bay, The Nice Guys, and Vanity.

Duane Martin as Steven Lewis:The campaign manager for Uncle Phil’s run for LA District Attorney who has plenty of experience in politics. Martin also played Joel in Scream 2, Ben Baines in L.A.’s Finest, Fernando on The Paul Reiser Show, and Robert James Jr. on All of Us.

Joe Holt as Fred Wilkes:Lisa’s father and the police chief who is close friends with the Banks family. Originally played by John Amos in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Fred is now portrayed by Joe Holt, who starred in The Walking Dead: World Beyond as Leo Bennett, Scandal, and Delilah.

Scottie Thompson as Angela:An interior designer who has recently married Fred Wilkes and become Lisa’s step-mom. Thompson is best known for her roles on 12 Monkeys, NCIS, The Blacklist, and the film Crown Vic.

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