The dramatic re-imagining of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” has finally found its Will Smith in Jabari Banks, and the newcomer was given the stamp of approval from the superstar who originated the role.
Banks will make his acting debut as the Philly native who finds himself moving across the country and trying to acclimate to life with his richer side of the family, the Bankses, and he was surprised with a virtual call from the real-life Will Smith, who broke the exciting news to him.
“It is an absolute pleasure to meet you, to be on with you, and from the deepest parts of my heart, I want to say congratulations to you. You have the role of Will on ‘Bel-Air,'” Smith told the young actor with a smile.
“I’m ready. I’m so ready, y’all,” Banks responded after he took a moment to let the news sink in.
During their chat, Banks told Smith that he was encouraged to audition for the role after his father sent him an article about the show and said he should go for it. After explaining to his dad that “that’s not how auditions work,” Banks ended up being set up for an audition through his agent a couple of months later.
As if his last name weren’t fitting enough, Banks, who is also a West Philadelphia native and a 2020 graduate of his hometown University of the Arts, showed the “Independence Day” actor a high school photo of himself and some friends dressed as Will and the cast, unknowingly foreshadowing his own future.
Smith had nothing but encouraging words for the rising star and let Banks know that he has plenty to look forward to. “You’ve got a fantastic road ahead of you, and I’m looking forward to being an asset for you in this process as you build out your life and build out your career,” he promised.
“This is a dream come true!” exclaimed the young actor. “The way the show has impacted me and my life, it’s incredible to hear you say that.”
The “dramatic analogue” “Bel-Air” will follow “Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air” and seeks to “dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions, and biases that were impossible to fully explore in a 30-minute sitcom format, while still delivering swagger and nods to the original show.”
The darker reboot has been in the works since 2020 following Morgan Cooper’s viral 2019 fan trailer but has hit a few bumps along the road to production, having to replace showrunners twice before landing on writing pair T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson. Cooper will serve as director, co-writer, and executive producer.
“Bel-Air” will debut on Peacock and has already been given a two-season order, although a premiere date has yet to be announced.