Once the Bel-Air teaser dropped, fans seemed to be intrigued to learn more about the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot. The show definitely looks like it’s going to have a different vibe, as the teaser’s underwater scene is proof enough of that. But when it comes to a reboot of a beloved show, the cast must try to fill tremendous shoes, which is especially true for drama’s lead star. And the drama’s lead actor, Jabari Banks, had to fill the shoes of Hollywood superstar Will Smith. Banks was fully aware of this, and he recently explained how and why his approach will differ from the King Richard star’s.
On the surface, the Emancipation alum’s involvement in the show seemed to signal that the final product would be closer to the 90s sitcom. But that’s far from the case. Just like many of us, Banks grew up watching the original series, but it won’t really inform his version.. The up-and-coming star opened up to Entertainment Weekly about giving the beloved character an appropriately fresh take:
I remember watching The Fresh Prince and realizing what TV was for the first time. Like, ‘Oh, this is entertainment!’ … The show molded me. And growing up, people always told me I resembled Will and his energy… When I got the call, they said, ‘This isn’t Will Smith, superstar.’ They weren’t going for that. And so when they chose me, it took me a couple of weeks to realize that they chose me for me — for what I do.
Thankfully, the producers wanted Jabari Banks to give his interpretation of the iconic character. Emulating Will Smith could yield some mixed results, which is what the creatives likely knew. The team’s words surely eased the pressure on the theater grad, which should allow him to bring his own skills and experiences to the already established character. Given the reboot’s dramatic take, Banks’ Smith will likely be much more than the funny playboy of the classic sitcom.
Of course, there were questions as to whether he could handle being the series’ lead actor, given his minimal acting experience. The unsureness was eased once the pilot was filmed, though. While speaking with EW, producer T.J. Brady called the performer “a star” based on the episode’s first cut.
Once the show got the green light, things seemed to move quite quickly for the Fresh Prince revamp. When the Bel-Air fan film initially went viral back in 2019, it had devoted fans quickly pushing for a revival. But things didn’t really pick up until Will Smith got involved to help get the show made. Fast forward to two years later, and the first season is in the works with a two-season order, despite some shakeups. Additionally, Smith is on board as a producer, which should help to maintain some creative continuity. But of course, it’ll be great to see a new spin on the premise, and Jabari Banks has the tools to make a serious splash.
Bel-Air is set to premiere on Peacock on Feb. 13, 2022. Until the reimagining debuts, you can watch all six seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max.