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‘We Hate You’: Karyn Parsons Talks Hilary Banks Being the Most Hated Character When She Played Her, Praises Coco Jones

Will Smith has debuted his new series “Bel-Air,” a drama based on his hit ’90s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” to rave reviews.

While a lot of attention has been placed on the darkening of the role that made Smith a household name, many can’t help but celebrate the other characters that made the show one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 Best Sitcoms in History. One break-out character, on both shows, is Will’s cousin, Hilary Banks. 

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 01: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Actress Karyn Parsons visits SiriusXM Studios on June 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Played by Karyn Parsons on the original show, and now Coco Jones on the revamp on the NBC streaming service Peacock. Check out how one actress reflects on the love-hate relationship fans have had with the Fresh Princess of Bel-Air over the years.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Parsons dished on what it was like not only to play the iconic socialite, but create her from scratch.

Parsons said that when she first got the role, there was no real reference for her, “just this thing written on paper.” Producers describes the oldest Banks daughter as a “model type,” so she had to figure out how to make that work. The young actress said she tapped into her real life.

“I grew up in Santa Monica, and at my school, there were girls from Malibu who would drive up in their fancy cars and stuff,” she said. “I took a little bit of that, a little bit of my cousin Garland, a little bit of my friend LeAnne, and kind of threw ’em in a blender, and that’s how the key character started for me.”

From those initial elements, she said she grew the character, allowing her to become “more.” She had to grow the character because, at first, people didn’t like her.

She gave examples of just how much they “hated” Hilary.

“I remember in the first season, Will and Carl blackmailed Hilary because they found out she dropped out of college. She ended up having to bark like a dog and all this stuff. And in that episode, it’s Will that’s blackmailing me first. When I go to Carlton for help, he decides to jump in on it and blackmail me too.

“So I’m supposed to be outraged. The audience, when we shot it, they did not just laugh and applaud like normal —they started stomping their feet in the stands. They were so happy to hear her get hers.”

She also shared about one incident at a party in Paris. She was with friends when a girl came up to her and said, “ ‘Do you play that Hilary on The Fresh Prince?’ “

When she confirmed the girl’s suspicions, the Parisian said to her, “Oh, we hate you.” 

But through working with writers and growing Hilary over the show’s six seasons, the new incarnation of Hilary is a lot more focused, confident, and appreciated by fans.

“There have been people all along who have liked her, but it’s also changed…the appreciation for Hilary, I have to say, has changed,” Parsons said. 

“It’s gone from people kind of laughing at this ditzy quality to people saying ‘No, no, no, she’s ambitious! She wants what she wants! She’s incredibly confident!’ I think more modern women have an appreciation for her.”

With the new show, Hilary Banks is updated and ready to take on the 21st century.

“And I think they were very smart in the reboot to make that so much a part of the Hilary Coco is playing. She’s a fierce woman,” Parsons shared, before pointing out what she finds to be another smart move that show creators made from the jump with the franchise.

As a show, it exposed people to different types of Black people.

“I think one of the reasons the show was so successful and endures is that you simply got to see Black people as very different. You’ve got this family where everybody’s not the same. Carlton’s this young Black Republican. Then you’ve got Hilary and Ashley, and she’s the intellectual kid, and then of course you’ve got Will. The parents and the butler and everybody—they’re all individually very, very different.”

She added, “Today, that’s still really important and valuable. I also think that a lot of the stuff in the original, thematically, is still relevant. Now it’s a great time to explore some of those things and go deeper. We’re in a time where people aren’t dismissing certain things, either. They’re actually really looking and calling society out — and the Banks family is the vehicle for it.”

The original series of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” can be streamed on Peacock, Philo and other popular streaming platforms. “Bel-Air” is playing exclusively on the NBC affiliate.

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