The Bel-Air reboot features an entirely new cast portraying the iconic characters from the 1990s original sitcom — here is the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince. 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 attempts to defend his friend by using a gun. 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 seriously different 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. Here is the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince.
Will Smith — Jabari Banks In Bel-Air, Will Smith In Fresh Prince
While the real-life Will Smith no longer portrays the character, Bel-Air’s protagonist is still named Will Smith in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince. 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. Jabari Banks doesn’t mind being compared to Will Smith (via Variety), saying “I aspire to be like artists who build worlds.”
Uncle Phil — Adrian Holmes In Bel-Air, James Avery In Fresh Prince
The iconic character Uncle Phil, originally played by the late James Avery, is now portrayed by actor Adrian Holmes in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince, 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 was 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. While he does come to Will’s defense in particularly crucial moments, he’s incredibly wary of his upbringing. In addition, he’s often at odds with his wife Vivian, who wants to restart her career as an artist. 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.
Aunt Vivian — Cassandra Freeman In Bel-Air, Janet Hubert And Daphne Maxwell Reid In Fresh Prince
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 in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince aligns more with Fresh Prince’s former Aunt Viv, as she’s much more interested in restarting her career. However, she also acts in similar ways to the recast Aunt Viv, as she truly is caring and nurturing toward her children. 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. The actress was initially scared to take on such an iconic role (via Salon), saying “I really didn’t want to let the culture down.”
Carlton — Olly Sholotan In Bel-Air, Alfonso Ribeiro In Fresh Prince
The most profoundly different character in Bel-Air from their original counterpart in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince is Carlton Banks, who is now an arrogant, humorless, preppy, popular jock who has a visible hatred for his cousin Will and a serious drug problem. 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, and isn’t happy about his relationship with Lisa, 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. In an interview with E! News, Alfonso Ribeiro praised the direction of the remake, saying, “But I actually appreciate it even more than a reboot. Let’s take a concept and turn it into a different show.”
Hilary — Coco Jones In Bel-Air, Karyn Parsons In Fresh Prince
Bel-Air’s version of Hilary Banks is also fairly different from The Fresh Prince’s character. Coco Jones in the cast of Bel-Air takes Hilary in a different direction from the cast of Fresh Prince, when Hilary 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 a social media influencer who is trying to figure out her career moves.
She struggles with staying true to her principles as the world of social media influencing becomes increasingly difficult to navigate, and strikes up an intriguing relationship with Jazz. 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. Both Karyn Parsons and Coco Jones sat down with Harpers Bazaar to discuss their different characterizations of Hilary, with Parsons saying of the new Hilary, “Her story is very relatable, and it does make people feel seen.”
Ashley — Akira Akbar In Bel-Air, Tatyana Ali In Fresh Prince
Like The Fresh Prince, Bel-Air struggles with their use of the younger Banks sister Ashley in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince guide. Ashley in 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 have near as prominent a role as Tatyana Ali’s original character. She’s also perhaps the Bel-Air character who looks most like their Fresh Prince counterpart, although the similarities are still only passing at best.
While there is a storyline involving her bisexuality, and she’s becoming quite the youth activist, the new Ashley doesn’t get the same amount of screen time as the old one. 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. Funnily enough, Tatyana Ali does star in Bel-Air season 2 as Ashley’s English teacher Mrs. Hughes, who is penalized for giving Ashley books by Black authors that are not a part of the curriculum.
Geoffrey — Jimmy Akingbola In Bel-Air, Joseph Marcell In Fresh Prince
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 in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince. 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.
He does Will a couple of favors in the series, something that gets him in hot water with Uncle Phil. Jimmy Akingbola is known for playing Baron Reiter in Arrow, PC Neil Parker in Holby Blue, and Ollie in Ted Lasso. Both Jimmy Akingbola and Joseph Marcell sat down with Cassius Life and joked about the fact that Akingbola’s Geoffrey has become somewhat of a sex symbol, and even spitballed some ideas about what a Geoffrey spinoff would look like. However, Akingbola admitted that even though the characters were different, there’s plenty of Marcell’s Geoffrey in the character, saying “There is so much of the original Geoffrey in my version.”
Jazz — Jordan L. Jones In Bel-Air, DJ Jazzy Jeff In Fresh Prince
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. His narrative role changes little in the cast of Bel-Air vs the cast of Fresh Prince, with the character still serving as Will’s closest new friend. However, now, he’s an Uber driver who strikes up a relationship with Hilary. 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. The original Jazz, played by DJ Jazzy Jeff, has had nothing but praises to sing for Bel-Air. When sitting down with HipHopDX (via RocktheBells), the artist had this to say, “I wasn’t involved in the making [of the show], but I am the host of the official Bel-Air podcast that’s coming out. Not to give any spoilers, but if someone was to take The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air in the 90’s and move it to ’22 and put a dramatic spin on it, I don’t think they could have done a better job.”
Lisa — Simone Joy Jones In Bel-Air, Nia Long In Fresh Prince
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 in the cast of Bel-Air — a similar role to that played by Nia Long’s Lisa in Fresh Prince. 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. This sends Carlton over the edge, and he makes Will a target because of it.
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 and her father running against Uncle Phil in the race for District Attorney, her role is already much more prominent than Nia Long’s character. Simone Joy Jones from the Bel-Air cast has been featured in The Chair, American Rust, and Billy Porter’s What If?