How Bel-Air's Jabari Banks Is Fighting for Authentic Storytelling

Bel-Air's Jabari Banks wants his work to be "a reflection of our world," even if it's "ugly." Hear him explain why during E! News' Ones to Watch: Celebrating Black Voices.

By Allison Crist Feb 15, 2022 5:36 PMTags
Watch: Jabari Banks Gets Us HYPED for "Bel-Air": Celebrating Black Voices

This is a story all about how Jabari Banks plans to usher in a new era of storytelling. 

Starting with Peacock's Bel-Air and how the reboot explores race and class. "We are opening up these conversations," Banks, who plays Will on the dramatic retelling of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, explained on E! News' Ones to Watch: Celebrating Black Voices. "It's something that the original didn't really have the opportunity to do, being in a sitcom format. And you know, it's a reflection of our world, and sometimes it gets ugly."

This means avoiding the urge to "sugarcoat" stories, he added: "We want the truth now."

That's not to say Bel-Air doesn't have its lighthearted and funny moments, too. There are even callbacks to the original show and several Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the series.

For Banks, the connection between Bel-Air and his own life is almost meta. 

"There's so many similarities and parallels between my life and Will the character's life, coming from Philly to L.A.," he began. 

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

"Looking over Mulholland Drive, a big part of that was Will, but a big part of that was Jabari," Banks continued. "And so there's so many moments like that in the show that mirror my life, and it's been an amazing opportunity to just exist in that."


Feeling such a personal connection to the show made Will Smith's advice for Banks—"to just be myself authentically," he recalled the veteran actor telling him, "and bring myself to the role,"—all the more special.

"When you think back to Fresh Prince in the 90s, he wasn't trying to be anyone but himself," Banks said of Smith. "He's so boisterous and he's so unapologetically himself. He wasn't trying to be anyone else. And so that was definitely some big advice that he gave me and I definitely think I've done that." 

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Hear more from Jabari Banks in the above Ones to Watch: Celebrating Black Voices segment. 

Bel-Air is now streaming on Peacock

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

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