The days of awesome TV shows seem to be a thing of the past. Don’t get me wrong; we have some pretty great shows to tune into these days, but are they as good as the 90s-era shows that we grew up on? I’m not sure that they are. When we think back to our favorite shows, we can’t help but add The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to that list. It was an incredible show with great values, and it was a stepping stone for Will Smith to build the amazing career that he has today. We can’t get enough of the show, and the re-runs are still playing to this day. When we think about that show, we can’t help but wonder how the other actors have fared over the years.
There’s that great song that goes, “Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside-down…” That got us right in the mood for our daily program. The show may have ended in 1996, but it will live in our hearts forever. It’s really hard to believe that the show came out almost 25 years ago. Where has the time gone?! We fell in love with not only Will’s character but the entire Banks family as well as they went through many of the hijinks of their day. We know that you’re dying to know already, so tune in and find out what the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air looks like now.
15. DJ Jazzy Jeff – Jazz
DJ Jazzy Jeff played Jazz on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He was also the other half of the rapping duo with Will Smith before they decided to do their own show. The two were the first to win a rap Grammy for their rapping career. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as both went into acting. Also, known as Jeff Townes, he was Will’s best friend on the show, but his character mainly had cheesy one-liners and no real depth. He was well-known on the show for how many times Uncle Phil literally tossed him out of the house. After the show had ended, DJ Jazzy Jeff decided to leave acting behind and to go back to working on his music career. He has pumped out many widely well-received albums. During the Hancock premiere in 2008, Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith reunited once again and actually performed together. These days, he is known for doing the audio work in the 2015 film Straight Outta Compton.
14. Vernee Watson-Johnson – Vy
Vernee Watson-Johnson played the role of Aunt Viv’s sister Vy, who was, of course, Will Smith’s mother on the TV show. On the show, she was very much like her son who was always cracking jokes. She wasn’t on the show very often; she just had a few appearances, but they did have her take on a longer role in Season Five when she hooked up with Lisa’s father. Vernee had one hell of a resume before she even got on the show, including a stint on The Love Boat, so she was considered to be a veteran. After the show, she continued to have a successful career in TV and had some voice work. These days, she’s had some roles in The Big Bang Theory as well as Suit Up. In 2005, she actually testified against a woman who accused Michael Jackson of molesting her child.
13. Karyn Parsons – Hilary
Karyn Parsons played the stuck-up and spoiled Hilary Banks. The character was seen as a vapid character that was generally clueless all the time. She was the oldest child in the family, though definitely not the smartest. She loved to shop, which angered her father a great deal. Later on, in the series, she seemed to get herself together more and became a weather girl. After the show, Karyn got married a few times, marrying her second husband in 2003. The two had a couple of children, and she hasn’t done much acting since the show. She is more focused on her company Sweet Blackberry, which she has great passion for. It educates children on the achievements and successes of African-Americans. Despite the fact that she is married to a director, she left Hollywood behind and focused on her company.
12. Tatyana Ali – Ashley
The sexy actress Tatyana Ali was more of an awkward child star during the years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She was the younger sister to Hilary, the Miss Ashley Banks, and she grew up into quite a hottie on the show. On Fresh Prince, she showcased her talents as a singer, and she brought that out into the real world after she left the show. Instead of acting, she decided to pursue her singing career once the show ended. She released her debut CD called “Kiss the Sky” in 1998, and it produced many hits that brought the young actress up to No. 6 on the Billboard singles chart. Not too bad for the young actress turned singer. She ended up going back to school after the show as well and went to Harvard where she graduated in 2002 with a degree in African-American studies and government. She went back to acting and has had some small roles in The Young and The Restless and Second Generation Wayans.
11. Nia Long – Lisa
Nia Long played Will Smith’s girlfriend and the eventual love of his life Lisa. She’s still as beautiful today as she was back then, and that sexy glint she has to her eyes hasn’t left either. The two were engaged on the show and were supposed to wed — that was, until Season Five when they called the whole thing off. We thought Will had to be crazy to let the girl go. After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, she went on to have a great career in both film and TV. She’s been seen in films such as Are We There Yet?, Soul Food, Best Man, and Big Momma’s House. She also appeared on TV shows such as Third Watch, House of Lies, The Cleveland Show, and Family Guy.
10. Ross Bagley – Nicky Banks
Ross Bagley played little Nicky Banks, the last of the clan born from Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil when Season Three ended. Of course, they fast-tracked his life so that he was a little kid in Season Five, and that was when we met Ross Bagley. He was a cute little kid that went on to make some movies, including one where he got a role alongside Will Smith: Independence Day. He was also in The Little Rascals. After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had ended, he didn’t do much else with his career aside from a few small roles on TV shows before he took a long break from the movie business. He went on to be a normal kid and graduated from college in 2012. These days, he is back into acting, mostly in the horror genre in movies such as Gnome Alone. After James Avery had passed, he was seen tweeting frequently about the great memories he had of James while on the show.
9. Joseph Marcell
Joseph Marcell played Geoffrey; the British butler that ran the Banks house. He was a very formal butler who liked the house run a certain way, but he had no problem cracking jokes throughout every episode. He most especially made jokes about Uncle Phil’s weight and the fact that he loved food so much. The English actor went on to play in a few TV shows after the popular show ended. He spent a few years on The Bold and The Beautiful as well as EastEnders, a popular British soap opera. The actor lives in London and is also on the board of the Globe Theatre, which allows him to be part of many Shakespearean stage productions. We could totally see Geoffrey being interested in something like that. The last production he was part of was the Shakespeare adaption of Caesar where he played Artemidorus.
8. Will Smith – Will
Will Smith didn’t start off his career as an actor; he was a rapper. He was one part of the Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff duo. That, of course, was before he became the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the fictionalized version of himself that hit NBC with a storm. It was the story of a teenager who was sent to live with his rich aunt and uncle. The show was a hit, and it wasn’t long before Will was in blockbuster films like Men in Black and Independence Day. He has done well in Hollywood being an actor that has gone quite far with his career. These days he is married to Jada Pinkett-Smith and has children that are also following in his footsteps in Hollywood. He is starring in Suicide Squad and has two more installments of the Bad Boys franchise coming out.
7. Alfonso Ribeiro – Carlton
Alfonso Ribeiro played Carlton Banks on the famous TV show, and he has barely aged at all. He looks fantastic for someone that was on a TV show a whopping 25 years ago. He played the cousin to Will and was often the butt of his cousin’s jokes. He was made famous because of his dance moves, the “Carlton dance.” He was also popular on the TV show Silver Spoons. He hasn’t had the same kind of success in Hollywood as Will Smith has had. After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had gone off the air, he had a few reality TV shows as well as some hosting gigs. In 2007, he competed on the popular show Dancing With the Stars, but he didn’t win. He did hosting on the shows 21 and the Game Show Network’s GSN Live. In 2014, he made another appearance on Dancing With the Stars and took home the mirror-ball trophy. The audience got a taste of the “Carlton” all over again.
6. James Avery – Uncle Phil
James Avery played Uncle Phil, the strict and very wealthy Uncle of Will who was also a lawyer and who made his way up to the position of judge. He was a hardworking man who expected the same from his children and raised Will to be a gentleman with values. James Avery spent his whole life acting right from the beginning when he was classically trained. It was a sad day indeed in 2013 when our beloved Uncle Phil died of complications due to open-heart surgery. What made it even sadder was the fact that it happened on New Year’s Eve. The last film that he made before he died at 68 was the Zach Braff dramedy Wish I Was Here. Will Smith paid tribute to the man at his funeral by saying these kind words: “Some of my greatest lessons in acting, living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery. Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace.”
5. Janet Hubert – Aunt Viv
If you remember, there were two Aunt Vivs during the course of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Janet Hubert played the first Aunt Viv, and she was there for the first three seasons. Many people wondered what happened to the actress and why she was replaced. There have been rumors that she was fired from the show. Actually, she was quite angry with the show. In 1994, she sued NBC as well as Will Smith for slander, but the actress didn’t succeed with her lawsuit. After she had left the show, she starred in a few small parts in TV shows and eventually wrote her memoir called Sitcom Mom. She ended up on the show One Life to Live for a long period of time and had a long career there. In 2011, she made the news when she started calling Will Smith an “a$$hole” and an “egomaniac,” and many people thought she was still bitter after being fired.
4. Daphne Maxwell Reid – The Second Aunt Viv
The “other” Aunt Vivian was played by Daphne Maxwell Reid, and she took over the position from Janet in Season Four for the remaining time that the show aired. It was definitely hard to get used to the new Vivian; I admit that I preferred the original Vivian, but it might be just that I was used to her. She did win the hearts of fans and stayed until Season Six. She is married to another actor, Tim Reid, who played Ray Campbell on Sister, Sister. She continued acting after the popular show ended but it was always small roles in films or TV. A few of those shows were Let’s Stay Together and Eve. These days, she is more into running New Millennium Studios, the film company that she shares with her husband. She is a big fan of Will Smith, which is very different from the old Vivian.
3. Tyra Banks – Jackie
Tyra Banks had a recurring role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Jackie Ames during the Fourth Season. She was a character that came from Philly and was known as one of Will’s best friends as well as a previous girlfriend. You can see why Will would be interested in the hottie. She ended up at the University of Los Angeles after getting a basketball scholarship. It was just a guest appearance, but Tyra Banks already had a pretty solid career as a model at that point. Known as one of the supermodels in her generation, Tyra went on to do some acting as well as host a show she created called America’s next Top Model for a whopping 23 seasons. She was also the host of her own show called The Tyra Banks Show. She has had a hell of a career and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
2. Jenifer Lewis – Aunt Helen
Jenifer Lewis played Aunt Helen on the popular TV show. She had a recurring role as the smart-mouth aunt of Will Smith who popped in from time to time. Although she wasn’t on the show very often, she stayed between 1991-1996. After the show ended, she played the role of a gay judge in the TV show Courthouse in 1995. She went on to play in a few films like Sister Act and Poetic Justice. In the 90’s the actress was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after her friend found her screaming on the floor in her home. She had embraced it, though, and sought out help. These days, she stars in the TV show Black-ish which she has been on since 2014. She’s healthy and doing well these days and is looking forward to more success in the industry.
1. Virginia Capers – Hattie Banks
Virginia Capers played Hattie Banks, the mother of Uncle Phil. She bonds with all her children including Will. She was only in the series for eight episodes, but she played a sweet grandmother who had a witty personality. After the show ended, she went on to play roles in many TV shows such as Married with Children, The Hughleys, The District, ER, and Kingpin. She also starred in many movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, What’s Love got To Do with It, Beethoven’s 2nd and Howard the Duck to name just a few. She had a long career in the film industry before she passed away in 2004. She was known as a woman with a heart of gold, and when she passed in 2004 due to complications from pneumonia, it broke a lot of hearts. She believed in the role of African-Americans in the industry and fought to erase stereotypes.
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