House of the Dragon: If you like the HBO fantasy drama, you’ll love these showsOct 5 | 4 min read
Bel-Air: Everything you need to know about the Fresh Prince remake on Peacock including cast, trailer and where to watch
Bel-Air takes a fresh new approach to the smash-hit 90s sitcom that starred Will Smith.
Watch Bel-Air on Peacock with a NOW Entertainment Membership from 14 February
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a staple of 90s tea-time telly, which thrust a young Will Smith into the acting limelight to go alongside his already successful music career.
The show also gave us plenty of iconic moments, from the opening intro music and Jazzy Jeff getting thrown out of the Banks’ Bel-Air mansion, to the classic Carlton dance.
But this new series on Peacock takes a different, much more gritty approach to the story of Will and the new world he arrives in.
The characters have been brought up to date and have a much edgier feel. And their stories play out against a modern soundtrack of high-octane music from the likes of Anderson .Paak, Mac Miller, Boby Shmurda, 21 Savage, Freeway and Meek Mill. Find out everything about it below.
What is Bel-Air about?
The original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran from 1990 to 1996, making household names of Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro and the rest of the show’s cast.
Then, in 2019 - nearly 30 years after it first arrived on our screens - LA-based writer and director Morgan Cooper posted a video on YouTube, reimagining The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a modern-day crime drama.
The trailer took off and Cooper ended up working with Will Smith and his Westbrook Studios to retell the classic story of a West Philly kid who gets in trouble in his hometown and has to move to live with his Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil in Bel-Air for a safer life with more opportunities.
The story is a dramatic retelling of many of the key themes and elements of the original series. In the trailer, we see Will (played by Jabari Banks) get into an altercation on a West Philadelphia basketball court. In the original sitcom intro, we see Will being spun around by a bunch of mean looking men, but here we see Will pull out a gun.
He then ends up in a jail cell and looks to have made an enemy on the inside. He moves to Bel-Air to get away from the drama and danger but is plunged into a completely alien world of money and privilege.
And nowhere is that more evident than in the relationship between Will and Carlton (Olly Sholotan). While streetwise Will feels at home on the court, Carlton is more comfortable at the lacrosse club. It’s up to Will to find his place in his new surroundings.
Cooper originally conceived the reimagined story as a feature film, he only had the immediate funds to bring it to life as a teaser and so he set about creating a four-minute Bel-Air trailer. He said:
“I wanted to make it just because I thought it would be fun and I wanted to express this idea. I wanted to create something that was going to be exciting for the culture, and something that shows this world that people thought they knew in a completely reimagined way.” The trailer had barely been viewed 10,000 times before Will Smith’s production company, Westbrook, reached out to get the ball rolling and the series made.
Who’s in the cast of Bel-Air?
* Will – Jabari Banks
* Philip Banks – Adrian Holmes
* Carlton Banks – Olly Sholotan
* Vivian Banks – Cassandra Freeman
* Hilary Banks – Coco Jones
* Jazz – Jordan L. Jones
* Ashley Banks – Akira Akbar
* Geoffrey – Jimmy Akingbola
* Lisa - Simone Joy Jones
It’s a quirk that an actor with the surname ‘Banks’ is playing the lead role in Bel-Air. Newcomer Jabari Banks takes on the role of Will, which helped make Will Smith a household name back in 1990. Banks will be hoping for similar success. Speaking about following in the footsteps of Will Smith, Banks said:
"It’s incredible to be playing this character. I’m definitely filling some big shoes but I’m ready to take on the challenge. I’m ready to be there for the kids who felt like me, who didn’t really have that outlet, and who come from places like me. I’m ready to represent and I’m ready to open up doors for them in the same way Will has opened the doors for me.”
And on finding the right actor for the role, Cooper commented: "Within five minutes of conversation, I said ‘I think I’m looking at Will’. We went outside and I had my little camera with me and we took some pictures. It was the first time I captured him and I walked away just knowing that this was Will.”
Olly Sholotan (Run Hide Fight) plays Carlton Banks, the Bel-Air family’s straight-laced, politically conservative cousin.
Uncle Phil is played by Adrian Holmes (Elysium, Skyscraper) who cuts a more muscular figure than the original Uncle Phil from the original series (played by James Avery). On stepping into the role made famous by James Avery, Holmes said:
"To me, this is a tribute to the late, great James Avery. He’s the only one of the cast who is not with us anymore. Rest in peace. A lot of people have said to me, ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill’, but I don’t look at it that way because you can’t fill his shoes. It’s impossible. So it’s not about stepping into his shoes, it’s about creating new ones for this generation.”
His wife, Aunt Viv, is played by Cassandra Freeman (Inside Man), who commented, "This is my version of Aunt Viv because I can’t even come close to touching what the original two women did. It’s been extremely humbling and overwhelming to take it on. My version of Viv is still quite joyful and I think I’m bringing a Lot of things that the original women gave. She’s classy, warm and she’s an artist at heart." Freeman added, "Bel-Air is a lot of joy, it’s a lot of love and it’s a lot of heart. Even when it gets heavy, it’s like falling out of a window but someone catches you every time.”
The Banks’ other children, Hilary and Ashley, are played by Coco Jones (Five Points) and Akira Akbar (Captain Marvel) respectively.
Talking about her character Hilary, Jones admits that the 90s version, played by Karyn Parsons, is "iconic", but her reimagined version of Hilary, "knows what she wants", adding "She has a lot, but at her core, she’s a businesswoman and a hustler, and seeing Hilary as a 2022 Black woman is great because we go after it. She’s a content creator and she wants to build something for herself that can’t be purchased. She’s confident, funny, brutally honest and she’s transparent.”
The Bel-Air mansion’s House Manager, Geoffrey Thompson, or Geoffrey the butler from the original series, is played by Jimmy Akingbola (Kate & Koji). And of course, Jazz returns as Will’s sidekick, this time played by Jordan L. Jones (The Rookie).
How can I watch Bel-Air in the UK?
You can watch Bel-Air on Peacock with a NOW Entertainment Membership from Monday 14 February
A second season has already been commissioned.
Watch all the shows you love on BT TV
Take a BT TV Entertainment pack and catch all the latest shows including House of the Dragon, Gangs of London and Brassic. Includes Sky channels from NOW and Netflix.
What is Peacock and how do I get it?
Peacock is NBCUniversal's streaming service. It's available to Sky and NOW customers in the UK and Ireland at no extra cost.
NOW customers will need an Entertainment Pass to access Peacock through the streaming service. Simply connect to your Sky or NOW account to watch.
Peacock offers bingeworthy originals and a huge catalogue of hit TV series and blockbuster films.
Connect to your Sky or NOW account to watch great shows such as: The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Superstore and The Mindy Project, Bates Motel, Downton Abbey, Grimm, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, 12 Monkeys, Monk, House, Suits, Quantum Leap, Warehouse 13, and The Equalizer.
Upcoming dramas also include the reboot of Queer As Folk, the series Joe Exotic, The Saved By The Bell revamp, and a new Battlestar Galactica reboot.
Is there a trailer for Bel-Air?
Yes - you can watch the trailer for the new Bel-Air below:
Who was in the cast of the original The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
* Will – Will Smith
* Carlton Banks – Alfonso Ribeiro
* Uncle Phil - James Avery
* Vivian Banks – Janet Hubert / Daphne Maxwell Reid
* Ashley Banks – Tatyana Ali
* Hilary Banks – Karyn Parsons
* Nicky Banks – Ross Bagley
* Geoffrey - Joseph Marcell
* Carlton Banks – Alfonso Ribeiro
* Jazz – DJ Jazzy Jeff
Can I still watch the original The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
Bel-Air’s co-writer, executive producer, and director Morgan Cooper was captivated with the story as soon as he started watching reruns as a kid. “It’s got such an endearing quality to it,” Cooper says. “I watched it throughout all of my childhood and teenage years because it was a show that always meant a lot to the culture and it meant a lot to my family.
Series 1-6 of the original series is available to watch on BBC iPlayer, as well as a reunion special with the original cast.
Main image copyright: 2022 Universal Television LLC. All rights reserved