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Don’t be Mistaken, the New Hit Series Bel-Air Is Not All Laughs

By Bonnie DeShong

The opening lyrics of “The Fresh Prince” are:

“Now, this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air”

If you were like me, before I watched the new “Bel-Air,” I was in the mindset that I was going to see a remake of the 1990 sitcom only updated. It is not by any means a comedy; it is dark in places but very real in life experiences that the sitcom only touched on.

Jabari Banks plays the role of Will so well in his looks and mannerisms that you believe you are looking at Will Smith. However, his interpretation of Will is different. During the African American Film Critics (AAFCA) roundtable, Jabari explained his version of Will.

“I think my Will definitely has a shorter temper. He’s a very prideful young man. And I think we’ve seen that in the original, but we get to go a step deeper and, in our reimagining, he’s very prideful, and he doesn’t like his toes being stepped on. So, any chance that he gets to prove someone wrong, he will and sometimes that gets him in trouble.

“And I think that differs from the original, I feel like Will was a very, very easygoing type of guy in the original, yeah. But he is a little different now, he got the thing going on, you know what I mean? So, pointing at the air, you know what I mean, knocking outs thugs, knocking out white boys, you know what I mean? It’s crazy, it’s just crazy, Even knocking out his cousin.”

All of the characters are different from the sitcom. Hilary, played by Coco Jones, is not the space-head we are used to. She is a food influencer and is a great cook. “I think for me, I kind of started off with the wrong approach, assuming that they wanted Hilary to be similar to the OG version, but it just didn’t work with the script because she’s constantly striving for these specific goals and carving out her own path. So, I kind of had to bring my truth into Hilary to make her more relatable in a sense. Even though she comes from this upper echelon area, what she’s striving for is things that you can’t buy for yourself, you have to earn them.

“So really for me, I just approached it by making my journey of tenacity relate to Hilary’s journey of tenacity. And also keeping in mind that what I’m doing is representing dark skin in a way that I needed when I was younger. So, who do I want these girls to see in me? I want them to see themselves.”

Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) is not a Butler; Jazz (Jordan L. Jones) is an entrepreneur; Carlton (Olly Sholotan) is one of the biggest changes of all. In fact, his change of character is disturbing to a lot of people. Olly explains, “The main conversation we’ve had was, when looking at the original show, all of Carlton’s struggles, he was the butt of every joke. This idea that you have this little Black kid that doesn’t quite know how to be Black and then his cousin from Philly has to come in and teach them how to be Black. It’s a funny concept on the surface, but with this show, we really try to explore the layers beneath that…

“And how does he search for survival in a world where he’s predominantly surrounded by white people, but he’s the Blackest person that they know? But among the other Black people, he’s the whitest people that they know. And I think that on top of dealing with anxiety, on top of dealing with how he sees success in the eyes of his father, that leads to a 16-year-old kid that’s in a pretty dark and rough place right now. But as the season goes on, I think he really grows and learns his place in the world. But I don’t want to say too much. I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful journey. And that’s what I was most interested in—his journey throughout the season.”

Each character is interesting and not perfect or have all the answers. Don’t expect to see Carlton doing the silly dance or Geoffrey wearing an apron.

I am addicted to the show and love the different twists and turns. Seeing these people, this family find their places in the various situations makes it interesting. It may not be for everyone, it may even be disturbing, however, if you want to know the realistic story of how he became the Prince of Bel-Air, this show is for you.

The AAFCA roundtable was a great way to hear from the actors’ mouths the way they approached the show and their characters. To view the roundtable, visit

“Bel-Air” is streaming on Peacock with new episodes on Thursdays.

Until next time, keep you EYE to the sky!

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