Will Smith is passing the torch with the reveal of Jabari Banks playing a new version of his character in Peacock's Bel-Air, a dark reimagining of the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As fate would have it, local West Philadelphia actor Jabari Banks has been tapped by Smith to play Will in the upcoming reboot, and it was Smith himself who delivered the news. It was all captured on video which has since been uploaded to YouTube, and you can see it for yourself below.
"From the deepest parts of my heart, I want to say congratulations to you. You have the role of Will in Bel-Air," Will Smith tells Banks in the footage. "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."
Elated, Banks responds: "I'm ready, I'm so ready to bite down... Thank you so much. This is a dream come true. You don't know, like, you probably do know, you feel it. The way the show has impacted me and my life, it's incredible to hear you say that. Thank you so much, I'm so grateful. This is incredible."
This is going to be a much darker version of the story with a very different tone compared to the original sitcom. Per Peacock, the official synopsis for Bel-Air reads: "Set in modern-day America, Bel-Air is a serialized dramatic analogue of the 90's sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that leans into the original premise: Will's complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air."
Bel-Air was inspired by a popular fan film by Morgan Cooper that reenvisions the sitcom with more of a gritty edge. The new show comes from Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith's Westbrook Studios and Universal Television. Peacock also has faith in the series as it was ordered for two seasons last year, almost a full year before the role of Will was even cast. Though it could be seen as a gamble deviating so far from the source material, the positive reception to the Bel-Air fan film may have convinced Universal that they have something special here.
T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson (The Chi, The 100) serve as executive producers and co-showrunners. Cooper is also on board to executive produce and co-write. Also executive producing are Will Smith, Terence Carter, James Lassiter, Miguel Melendez, Malcolm Spellman, Quincy Jones, Benny Medina, and Andy & Susan Borowitz. Westbrook Studios and Universal TV are serving as the studios.
Jabari Banks is making his television debut with Bel-Air, and the hope is that this will help launch him as a new superstar in Hollywood, similar to what happened with Smith. A West Philadelphia resident, Banks is a singer, rapper, and songwriter, so he even has the background in music heading into the series. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out. This news comes to us from Peacock on YouTube.