‘We Had to Have a Very Honest Discussion’: ‘Bel-Air’ Cast Explains How They Tackled Hollywood’s Problem with Colorism 

The “Bel-Air” re-imagining is putting a dramatic twist on a beloved sitcom for a more modern-day feel a new generation could relate to and love as did fans the original in the early ’90s. However, it’s also taking a different look at some of the present-day issues affecting the Black community. 

Only three episodes in, the show has already discussed subject matters including code-switching, cultural appropriation on social media, and the class divide between those who can afford certain luxuries in life and those barely getting by. During an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, executive producer Rasheed Newson shared how the show’s creative team strategized and tackled the topic of colorism in Hollywood

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 09:(L-R) Will Smith, Jabari Banks attend Peacock’s New Series “BEL-AIR” Premiere Party And Drive-Thru Screening Experience at Barker Hangar on February 09, 2022 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“We’re putting a show together about a Black family,” Newson explained. “These parents have to look like they — they made these children. So we had to have a very honest discussion about what complexion are Viv and Phil, and how does that manifest itself into the kids? And we chose that we’re gonna have a family with a darker complexion.” 

Still, Newson admitted that as significant as it was to have the conversation, many in the “Bel-Air” offices were hesitant to have that initial talk. “It was one of those issues that, at first, people wanted to talk around,” the producer recalled. “But it was like, ‘Guys, if this is going to make sense, we need to confront this, and we need to make a decision.'”

“It’s important for us to really interrogate some of the past biases that we’ve seen onscreen. Saying like, ‘This shade of Black is better than this shade just because this shade is lighter,’”  Morgan Cooper, who directed the viral 2019 short film that caught Smith’s eye and subsequent series added. “We’re here to throw all of that nonsense out the window and say Black is beautiful, period. We don’t just talk the talk, we walked the walk.”

Reception to the reboot so far appears to be primarily positive, as many took to their social media pages to share their opinions.

“Bel-Air is actually really good. 10/10 would recommend,” wrote one Twitter user. Another person commented, “Bel-Air is just the best! @JabariBanx as Will is a perfectly awesome homeage to the original Will Smith. I’m hooked after 2 minutes viewing.”

“Bel-Air” is currently streaming on Peacock. It stars Jabari Banks as Will, Adrian Holmes as Phillip Banks, Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks, Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks, and Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey. 

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