Why Tatyana Ali Says It Was "Crazy" Returning to Her Fresh Prince Roots for Bel-Air

Original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Tatyana Ali gushed all about her season two role on Peacock's Bel-Air and why she said it was "weird" returning to the franchise 32 years later.

By Brett Malec Feb 22, 2023 5:00 PMTags
Watch: Tatyana Ali Talks Exciting Return to Bel-Air as a Teacher

Ashley Banks is back in Bel-Airbut in a whole new light.

More than three decades after becoming a household name on the beloved '90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, original star Tatyana Ali is returning to the franchise on season two of Peacock's dramatic reimagining of the series.

"I was really excited," the 44-year-old exclusively told E! News of the opportunity. "I've always seen Bel-Air as it's own show, not at all a reboot of Fresh Prince. It's its own world, it's a drama. When it came in, the offer, I really saw it as an offer for any other job. I was like, 'That's exciting, but let me read it and let me see.'"

Luckily for fans, Ali adored the script and jumped at the chance to play a new role as a teacher in the world of Bel-Air.

"I loved the way it was written," she gushed. "But when I got to the set and I was actually on Bel-Air Academy, that set with all the kids walking by in their uniforms, it was crazy. It was like nothing I've ever experienced. The emotional, psychological stuff that went on was weird in a really good way."

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

In her recurring season two role, Ali plays Ms. Hughes, the Bel-Air Academy private school teacher of the Banks family's youngest child Ashley (played by Akira Akbar).

"She's taken on a mentorship role with Ashley and sees real brilliance and spark in her," Ali explained, "and despite the curriculum that she's allowed to teach at the school, she really shares with Ashley Black feminist, Black radical books from her own library. Ms. Hughes experiences challenges that a lot of teachers across the country are experiencing right now when trying to make their curriculum more representative of the world that we're in. Her desire to feed the genius and the brilliance, the light that she sees in Ashley, is definitely in conflict with what she's supposed to be doing."

FilmMagic;Alice S. Hall/NBCU Photo Bank

The return to Bel-Air comes just two years after Ali reunited with Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons and the rest of the original Fresh Prince cast to celebrate the series' 30th anniversary. And it's an experience that continues to move the star.

"I loved every minute," she admitted. "I thought that the producers did a really good job of distilling what it's like when we all come together and how it feels. It was just fun to spend time with each other. Over the years maybe it's two of us or three of us, but to have us all together again, it just felt good it was really fun."


While Ali revealed "we all have a text chain" to stay in touch all these years later, there is one person in particular she's remained close to.

"I probably talk to Karyn the most, she played Hilary on the original show," she noted. "We talk a lot. She's my big sister for real."

As for Fresh Prince's decades-long legacy, Ali says she never dreamt the series would still be resonant with viewers today.

"You know you're having fun at the time, but for something to last so many decades," she said, "it's a real blessing that anything that you make or are a part of making could mean that much to people."

Bel-Air season two premieres Thursday, Feb. 23, on Peacock.

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

Peacock is live now! Check out NBCU's streaming service here.