The name Morgan Cooper began ascending in Hollywood circles last year when he released a four-minute short film on YouTube cast as a trailer for “Bel-Air,” a dramatic take on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the sitcom that turned Will Smith into a television star.
Cooper has become a major player in entertainment since the clip surfaced, because he’s partnered with Smith to release “Bel-Air” on a still-to-be-determined streaming site as an hour-long series.
There’s a major bidding war going on for the much-buzzed-about show between streaming juggernauts Netflix, HBO Max, and Peacock, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“Bel-Air” will be produced by Universal TV, along with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s Westbrook Studios, while Morgan will be director and co-writer.
“Bel-Air” went viral shortly after it landed on YouTube on March 13, 2019. It now has over 2 million views and a plethora of comments from people who said they were blown away by the clip.
It’s said that “Bel-Air” will explore the challenges of a Black man living in today’s society and examine what it’s like for someone leaving West Philadelphia for Bel-Air, one of Los Angeles’ richest neighborhoods.
But the new series will still keep some of what fans love about the original show, like Smith’s pursuit of the ladies and his contentious, often humorous relationship with his cousin Carlton Banks.
“Bel-Air” has been in development for over a year since the short caught Smith’s attention. The actor talked about how much he loved the idea in a video that he posted to YouTube last April called “How I Really Feel About That ‘BEL-AIR’ Trailer.”
“I was like, yo, that’s an idea that is brilliant,” Smith told Cooper in the clip.
He then asked Cooper what inspired him to make the trailer. “I grew up watching the show,” the director explained. “So it’s always been a part of me.”
Cooper is a Kansas City, Missouri, native and self-taught filmmaker with several short film credits to his name. Earlier this year he told the Kansas City Star newspaper how he hustled to stay in the business before he caught Hollywood’s attention. “I was running around East and South Kansas City shooting music videos for gangstas and drug dealers — that was my clientele,” Cooper said. “They’d pay me $300 to shoot and edit the video myself, then turn it around in a week. And that was how I paid my rent.”
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” ran for six seasons from 1990-1996, and besides Smith, it starred the late James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Tatyana M. Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Janet Hubert-Whitten.
Some of the cast members reconnected with each other in a virtual meeting this past April.