Why Jabari Banks Says Stepping Into Will Smith's Shoes on Bel-Air Was "Fate"

By Allison Crist Feb 11, 2022 10:49 PMTags

It's back to Bel-Air this weekend.

Jabari Banks will officially take the reins of Will Smith's beloved Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character when Peacock's reimagined version of the sitcom premieres this Sunday, something that the 23-year-old actor is still trying to wrap his head around. 

"I got on the call, and there Will was," Banks said during E! News' Daily Pop on Feb. 11, reflecting on the moment he got the big casting news. "And I was like, 'Wait...' I was just so confused. I was stuck. 'Cause Will's been such a hero to me and such a teacher throughout my whole life."

"That was such a beautiful, beautiful experience," he added. "I will never, ever forget that."

Olly Sholotan, who stars as the new Carlton Banks, shared a similar sentiment on Daily Pop. "Will Smith, he's executive producing this show and he has just given us so much love and support."

The same could be said for the entire Smith family, actually. 

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cast, Then and Now

As Sholotan revealed, "I remember the first day of that camera test, the showrunners, they were like, you know, the Smith family wants you to know this is about to be just the craziest experience of your life. So use us as a resource."


The new Fresh Prince iteration is set in modern-day America and offers a much more gritty interpretation of Will's story, but just as Carlton remains an important character, so do Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil.

However, Adrian Holmes looks just a tad bit different than the O.G. uncle played by the late, great James Avery. He admitted to frequenting the gym, and according to Cassandra Freeman, who plays his on-screen wife, "That's the reason why he thought he wasn't gonna get this role."

Added Holmes, "I thought they were gonna follow the pattern of the original show."

That was, until he met Freeman. 

"When we did the chemistry test and I saw him in the room, I was almost offended," she joked. "I was like, 'So this is Uncle Phil?' I was like, 'I don't know.'"

Freeman continued, "Then as soon as Adrian started speaking, the whole vibe and swag that is just Adrian in the character just felt like truth."

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With the cast beginning to round out, everything else soon fell into place. Bel-Air had its premiere event on Feb. 9, where E! News' The Rundown once again caught up with Banks, who was having a full-circle moment. 

"Growing up as a child, you always think about moments like this and the fact that I'm here now is such a blessing," he said. "It was already written. It's fate. I'm from Philly. It all happened for a reason for sure."

Not to mention his last name is literally Banks.

Hear more from him and his co-stars in the above Daily Pop interview and by heading to E! News' Snapchat to watch The Rundown.

Bel-Air premieres Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13 on Peacock with the first three episodes at launch then new episodes released weekly.

(E! and Peacock are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)