Hoops-loving teen and Philly transplant Will Smith (Jabari Banks) may be the central character in this contemporary drama that reimagines the 90’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but one of the things to cheer about in this series is that it tells the story of an entire family; each person is always growing and changing, and that individual journey affects the whole.
Take Will’s aunt Vivian Banks (Cassandra Freeman), who fights the good fight in Season 2: both in her job as an artist and over the firing of one of the few Black teachers at her children’s elite school.
Over the course of the season, the question for Viv becomes: “Is she brave enough to figure out how to speak for herself? It’s the journey of, ‘how do you claim your voice?” Freeman says. “She’s also trying to stand up for her kids. How do you help your kids navigate a world where they might feel diminished, and you want to give them the tools to stand up for themselves? Can you be graceful in the midst of a fight?”
That’s also a concern for her husband, Phillip Banks (Adrian Holmes), who returns to the law firm he built with his friends from Harvard. “This character is all about justice and wanting to give a voice to those who have none,” says Holmes, who loves the nuance this season of Phillip trying to balance family and work. The actor teases that there could be a new professional path in the attorney’s future.
Another avenue to be explored: what was house manager Geoffrey Thompson’s (Jimmy Akingbola) life was like before he came to work for the Banks family. “What happened at the end of Season 1 has triggered something in Geoffrey’s past. He’s a mystery box, and we’re slowly trying to unlock what’s behind the protective shield he has,” Akingbola tells us.
We’ll also learn more about Will’s cousins; they make significant strides. The always-chic social media influencer Hilary (Coco Jones) manages the influencer house. “What I love about this season is you get to see a young Black woman making these calls and being decisive and not coming off as hard to deal with or overly opinionated,” Jones says.
Her little sis Ashley (Akira Joli Akbar) turns thirteen, and life as a teen presents new challenges. “She has to go through a lot more obstacles,” Akbar says. “She shows a lot more of her activism and becomes more of a woman.”
Also stepping up to another level of awareness and being more of a leader at school is Carlton (Ally Sholotan). “In Season 2, he explores what it means to be Black in America – and his responsibility in his school and in his family,” Sholotan says. “It’s an interesting season – I think fans are going to be a little bit surprised by the Carlton they see.” We can’t wait!
Bel Air, Season 2, Thursdays, Peacock