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Here Are 6 Reasons To Love The New "Bel-Air" Series On Peacock

For the culture.

Bel-Air signifies an evolution of culture in film, music, and messages by bringing The Fresh Prince into a time when hip-hop has evolved and the country is talking about race differently.

Members of the cast of Bel-Air stand together in a shot from the show.

When Will Smith moved to Bel-Air in the original 1990 series, he came with a chip on his shoulder that he expressed through comedy.

Here are six reasons why you should be tuning in to the dramatic reimagining Bel-Air.

1. See the Fresh Prince through a new set of eyes.

View this video on YouTube

Sun Squared Media / Via youtube.com

Let’s take it back to the viral trailer that started this whole thing to remind fans how a Fresh Prince fan and filmmaker inspired Will to develop the show Bel-Air. In March 2019 this trailer of a dramatic revisioning of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air by filmmaker Morgan Cooper grabbed a lot of attention online. 

I wondered what Will Smith would think and how he would react to seeing the show he starred in depicted through Morgan Cooper’s shadowy lens. It didn’t take long for Will to not only chime in but release a video of him meeting the young creator in April 2019 where they discuss the impact of the series and the new trailer.

By October 2019, the Hollywood Reporter announced that Will Smith would be developing a series based on the trailer by Cooper.

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Westbrook Studios / Via youtube.com

It’s always a beautiful Hollywood moment when a fan’s artwork grabs the attention of an artist who then invests in the fan’s career. These are the stories that make Hollywood, well, Hollywood. It’s the place where dreams are realized when people are inspired to work together for something great.

Morgan Cooper is now director and executive producer on the show. Now that Bel-Air is live on Peacock, viewers can see how much the newly developed reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air called Bel-Air stays true to the viral trailer that got Will Smith’s attention.

2. Experience the soundtrack because it’s a whole vibe that can activate learning moments.

embed.spotify.com

The music of Bel-Air is more than music you want to bump to; it also says something about the characters of the story and the real types of people they represent. This playlist has some of the songs heard in the show, including “No Role Modelz” by J. Cole, which notably plays in Bel-Air's opening sequence of its premiere episode. 

The fact they started Bel Air off with “first thing first RIP Uncle Phil.” 🙌🏾

Twitter: @iamscooby_

J. Cole opens the song with bars that make hip-hop heads everywhere stop whatever they are doing to let his words hit their heart.

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Universal Music Group / Via youtube.com

“First things first, Rest in Peace Uncle Phil. For real. You the only father that I ever knew,” J. Cole says. This line from his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive resonates so much with the culture because actor James Avery passed on December 31, 2013, and it left a hole in the hearts of many people. For Black men who grew up receiving fatherly lessons from James Avery as Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince, I imagine the loss hit home in a unique way — as J. Cole expresses in his music.

Members of the original cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air pose together on set.

Another prominently known song on the playlist is Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares,” which is from his 2012 album of the same title.

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Warner Urban Music / Via youtube.com

North Philly native Meek Mill’s Dreams and Nightmares hit my radar in 2014 when I came across clinical psychologist Cendrine Robinson’s hip-hop therapy program with youth in Washington, DC. In the program, Robinson relied on the work of artists such as Meek Mill to develop relationships with at-risk youth. The song “Traumatized” by Meek Mill proved to be a key way to connect with them.

“Music can also help clients identify emotions and reframe cognition,” says the therapist Cendrine Robinson in HuffPost Black Voices.

In an interview with the Fader, Meek Mill was asked about Robinson’s research. The rapper replied, “That’s what I make the music for, to be able to touch people. Even if you didn’t come from the hood. You don’t have to come from the streets.”

Bel-Air’s soundtrack is worth listening to closely while watching the show because, in filmmaking, there are often messages behind music choices. On Bel-Air, the character Will Smith is in real danger which is a build from the original series where writers wrote a lighter version of the Philly gang's storyline. To me, it’s an intentional and relevant departure that is intriguing because it relates to the real-life experiences of people like Meek Mill and the youth Robinson engaged during the therapy program in Washington, DC. 

3. Tap into the show's podcast too!

Peacock and iHeart Podcasts / Via open.spotify.com

Will Smith has expanded the Bel-Air franchise to include Bel-Air: The Official Podcast, which is done through a producing partnership between Peacock and iHeartPodcasts. It’s hosted by West Philly native — and original cast member — DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Aida Osman, who was tapped in 2021 to be co-lead in a new show produced by Issa Rae.

“The point of this podcast is not to rehash every second of the show but to discuss what we’re seeing in real-world dynamics of an onscreen drama,” Jazz says on the first episode. “It’s a culture podcast, it’s a TV podcast, but it’s not a recap podcast.”

The podcast is a space to tap into behind-the-scenes information from the crew such as wardrobe and musical selections for episodes. The first episode, which premiered on February 14, 2022, includes a guest appearance from the show’s director and executive producer Morgan Cooper, who expresses such gratitude for people who believe in him and support this project.

Bel-Air stretches the original Fresh Prince script a lot so it gives space to add in little plot twists here and there. These filler in Will’s background are good. So far nothing bad to say about this show yet. #BelAir

Twitter: @cwillpoetry

4. To get to know the cast of Bel-Air and how their characters flip into fresh versions of themselves.

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Teen Vogue / Via youtube.com

Bel-Air brings a new cast to take on performing as some of my favorite television characters.  

Starring as Will Smith in the show is Jabari Banks, who happens to be from West Philadelphia, where the real Will Smith and the character are both from.

Will Smith and Jabari Banks pose together at the Peacock premiere of Bel-Air.

Adrian Holmes is Phillip “Uncle Phil” Banks. He was born in North Wales, UK, has Barbadian roots, and grew up in Vancouver.

Adrian Homes smiles while holding a glass.

Hot Uncle Phil

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E! News / Via youtube.com

Bel-Air ditches the stern teddy bear version of Uncle Phil from the original series for a Holmes who is cut from the gods and adamantly wants Will out of Bel-Air to protect his campaign for district attorney. But Phillip isn’t heartless; he’s frustrated and under pressure. “Why are we working so hard to save a boy who doesn’t wanna be saved?” Phillip asks Vivian. “Because we owe it to him,” she replies in Episode 2 of the series.

The gorgeous Cassandra Freeman hails from West Palm Beach, Florida, and has made appearances in Luke Cage and The Last O.G.

Cassandra Freeman smiles and poses on the of the Bel-Air premiere.

Will’s mom is Aunt Viv’s sister, which drives Vivian to fight to protect the young Philly kid — he’s her blood. And here lies the conflict between Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv on Bel-Air.

Cassandra Freeman and Adrian Holmes portray an ultra-wealthy Black power couple amid a political campaign with a troublesome nephew coming between them. It’s a far cry from the roles that James Avery, Janet Hubert, and Daphne Reid stepped into where Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were most often on the same team railing against Will for his antics or whichever authority figure profiled and unfairly punished him. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series from 1990 had an air of “after school special” whereas Bel-Air is giving more “nighttime soap opera.”

Geoffrey is played by Jimmy Akingbola, who is from London.

Jimmy Akingbola poses at the Bel-Air premiere.

"The original Geoffrey was the suave Roger Moore-type James Bond and in our version, he’s more Jason Bourne. He’s got an edge and a swagger to him," says Akingbola.

Akingbola told the Hollywood Reporter that when he got information about the role, casting directors were looking to cast the character as a man in his 50s, but they told him to ignore the age. After his producer session with Bel-Air director and executive producer Morgan Cooper, Akingbola felt he screwed up his chance at the part. "I just resigned myself to the fact I’d messed up. I really wanted to come off the call. It was a massive audition I thought I’d messed up. But apparently, they said I was their first choice," he said.

Carlton Banks is played by Nigerian American actor Olly Sholotan, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia.

Olly Sholotan smiles at the premiere of Bel-Air.

CoCo Jones is the young actor from Columbia, South Carolina, who takes on Hilary Banks.

CoCo Jones poses at the Bel-Air premiere.

Akira Akbar performs the role of Ashley Banks on the show, but some may have seen her in Captain Marvel or Good Trouble.

Akira Akbar smile red dress

Jazz is played by Jordan L. Jones, who has appearances in Snowfall and Rel prior to Bel-Air.

Jordan L. Jones smiles and poses at the Bel-Air premiere.

5. So you get the vibes on Twitter of this soon-to-be cultural phenomenon. Like this post about Geoffrey being fine.

They made Geoffrey a little too fine I fear #BelAir

Peacock and NBC / Via Twitter: @sierracargordon

Or how Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil are walking Black Excellence.

Aunt Viv & Uncle Phil Is just all types of #BlackExcellence And Fione! #BelAir

Michelle Obama / Via Twitter: @driippiin_h0n3y

6. To be the fan who grows with the artist they admire.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith pose at the Peacock premiere.

Yes, I do love the moments when I cry laughing to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, like that time Will tossed Carlton into a wall like a rag doll when they were in a dance contest.

View this video on YouTube

NBC / Via youtube.com

And I can still cry laughing at those moments because The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is here to watch when I want to see it. However, Will’s career choices are rarely frivolous, so if he’s investing in a dramatic version of the series, I want to see what there is to learn here from an artistic and business perspective. Teach me your ways.

How are you feeling about Bel-Air so far? Let me know in the comments section below!

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