Entering the world of acting is no easy feat but taking on the task of reimaging a beloved character adds even more pressure. Just ask Jabari Banks, the actor who is charged with playing Will in BEL-AIR, Peacock’s dramatic reboot of the iconic 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Belair, which starred veteran actor Will Smith.
“A lot of people don’t know, but I booked the role. And two days later I was flying out to call. I was moving, right? I got shot out of a cannon,” Banks shared with VIBE during a virtual interview. “The next week after that I was filming in Philly. Two weeks went by and I’m filming this new show, BEL-AIR, and before that, I was sleeping on a friend’s couch. You understand? It was such a quick turnaround for me.”
The 23-year old continued, “That was a lot of pressure for sure. But I remember talking to [the show’s creator] Morgan [Cooper] when I was in Philly, and he was like, ‘I remember when I first met you…I really knew it was you.’…I just leaned on that and I’ve been doing that ever since, and it’s been such a beautiful, beautiful learning experience. I’m telling you, it’s crazy.”
For Banks, who, like the character he plays, hails from West Philadelphia, he also had a big assist from Smith himself. The original Fresh Prince has been very hands-on with the creation of the reboot. Serving as an executive producer, the Academy Award-nominated actor was welcomed by all as a leader and mentor.
Banks shared how Smith allowed him to play the character of Will his way.
“Will has been such a beautiful collaborator in this whole process, and it’s been such an amazing journey getting to know myself through this role,” the new actor passionately expressed. “I think one of the biggest things that he’s allowed me to do is to create this whole… this new interpretation of this character. And he left it to my own volition. That was super trusting of him. And, through that, I was like, man I can’t mess this up. It’s gonna be super exciting for people to watch what I do.”
Creator Morgan Cooper also shared more on his experience with Smith during a virtual interview with VIBE.
“Will is [unbelievable]. I can’t say enough about Will,” he expressed. “All of the wisdom that he’s been so generous with, to impart on me. Working with him has been incredible and he just has so much passion, and the fact that he believed in my vision enough to be a part of this is a dream come true. I can’t say enough about that guy.”
BEL-AIR premieres on Peacock this Sunday (Feb. 13), following the Super Bowl with three episodes at launch, and new episodes every Thursday. Watch the trailer for BEL-AIR starring Jabari Banks below.