The Fresh Prince then and now

01 December 2022
Looking at the gang from Bel-Air from then to now.
group of people

It’s been more than 30 years since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air graced our screens and introduced us to Will Smith and the other beloved characters.

Now with the new and re-imagined reboot, simply titled Bel-Air, there is a whole new cast and the show has a more serious and dramatic tone.

Let’s look at The Fresh Prince then and now.

Will Smith starred as a fictionalised version of himself in the show: a young man from Philadelphia who is sent by his mother to live with his rich aunt and uncle in Bel Air. Many '90s can still sing the opening song word for word. Will was quite the charmer, very playful, and loved getting into trouble along with his cousin Carlton while living it up in Bel Air. He learned a lot of lessons along the way.

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Will is still a fun-loving teenager, but must face the realities and hardships of the current world we live in – which is quite different from the early '90s. The new Will is much more responsible and his storylines are harder-hitting. Will Smith praised actor Jabari Banks for his portrayal.

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Carlton Banks was the spoilt cousin of Will. He could never live up to Will’s charm and he was not so popular with the ladies. Even though the two butted heads, they were close and formed a bond that we loved to watch.

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In the reboot, Carlton is not buddies with Will and initially sees him as a threat to his popular rich boy status. He also has some troubling issues to face and the show cleverly addresses these.

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Hilary was rather dim-witted and she loved shopping, fancy things, and rich guys. Even though she was spoiled rotten, she was also sweet and helpful when it came to matters of the heart concerning her family.

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The new Hilary is very bold, intelligent, career-driven, and stands her ground. She is an influencer who keeps up with the times. She still shares a few similarities to the original Hilary, as she loves the finer things and is still very spoilt.

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The character Ashley was sweet and caring, but became a bit rebellious later on. She was quite close to her older cousin Will and often helped cover for him. She was always seen as the darling of the family.

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The new Ashely is still the sweet little girl and very accepting of Will joining her family. She doesn’t have many rebellious moments, but we might see the character grow in seasons to come. She also comes across as sportier this time.

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Geoffrey was the prim and proper butler to the Banks. He was known for his sarcastic comebacks and innuendos. He was always the voice of reason for Will’s crazy shenanigans and is considered an iconic TV character.

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The show has a new take on Geoffrey. He is now the Banks' house manager rather than a butler. He is far less sarcastic but more driven and business-minded. He is often in communication with Phil over trivial matters.

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Uncle Phil was a bold and stern judge and often reprimanded Will. But he was also like a gentle giant at times and gave the best advice. He was the stronghold of the family and became a TV uncle to us all. Many fans were saddened by the death of the veteran actor James Avery, who played Phil,

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Uncle Phil is less of a gentle giant and more of a businessman. He is a lawyer and still gives great advice. He is also reprimands Will a lot less in the show. Actor Adrian Holmes said he wanted to bring a new spin to the character in honour of the late James Avery.

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Aunt Viv was stern, strong-willed, and poised. No one wanted to step on the toes of this no-nonsense lady. But she was also nurturing and loving towards her family when things went wrong and when they needed a shoulder to cry on. Aunt Viv was initially played by actress Janet Hubert and then replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid in 1993.

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Aunt Viv shares pretty much the same personality as the original, but comes across as less ambitious and more as the voice of reason. She stands by her husband and is very supportive of his career.

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Watch Bel-Air season 1 on Fridays at 20:00 on Me, channel 115.

Watch the trailer here: