“Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down.” That is the opening line from the memorable theme song of the iconic sitcom, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. The series revolved around Will Smith, who played a fictionalized version of himself. While living in Philadelphia, he gets into fights at the basketball courts. His mother sends him to live with his rich aunt and uncle in Bel-Air to avoid similar situations. She wants him to have a better life and get a good education. The street smart and wise-cracking Will, has to adjust to his wealthy relatives’ lifestyle, which clashes with his. The series starred Will Smith, Tatyana Ali, Joseph Marcell, James Avery, Janet Hubert, Alfonso Ribeiro, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Karyn Parsons, Ross Bagley and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired on NBC for six seasons. The series ran from September 10, 1990 to May 20, 1996. Andy Borowitz and Susan Borowitz created the series. Andy received a NAACP Image Award for his work on Fresh Prince. The series is very well known for the opening theme song, “Yo Home To Bel-Air”. The opening theme explains the backstory of how Will ends up knocking on the front door of a gigantic mansion in L.A. The theme song was written and performed by Will Smith. The series was enormously popular and the theme song is still remembered to this day. Recently, there have been rumors of a possible reboot of the series. At the time, the cast became huge celebrities but what happened to these great actors since the end of the series? Some are even bigger Hollywood stars, while others may not be in the spotlight but continue to have great success. Here is a look at the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Where Are They Know? “And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the Prince of a town called Bel-Air.”
12) Tyra Banks: Jackie Ames
Tyra Banks played the role of Jackie Ames in season four. Will knows her from back in Philadelphia but never stayed in touch with her after he moved to Bel-Air. They meet again at college. Tyra Banks started her career as a supermodel. She appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle and Seventeen. She was the first African-American to appear on the cover of GQ and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. She broke into television with her role on Fresh Prince. She was one of Will’s major love interests. After Fresh Prince, her career skyrocketed. She appeared in films such as, Love & Basketball, Halloween: Resurrection and Coyote Ugly. She is the judge, hostess and executive producer for the reality series, America’s Next Top Model. She also hosted her own talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which won two Daytime Emmy Awards. Tyra also wrote a novel, Modelland, which is based on her time as model. The novel was a New York Times Best Seller.
11) Ross Bagley: Nicholas “Nicky” Banks
Ross Bagley played the role of Nicky Banks. He was the youngest child of the Banks Family and Will’s little cousin. Ross Bagley got his big break with his role on Fresh Prince. For the season four episode, “’Twas The Night Before Christening”, Gregory Wheeler played the role of baby Nicky. In season five, Nicky went from being a baby to a preschooler and Ross took over the role for the last two seasons. He also played the role of Buckwheat in The Little Rascals Movie. After Fresh Prince, he appeared in Independence Day, Eye For An Eye and Judging Amy. In 2011, he enrolled at the California State University for Cinema and Television Arts.
10) Nia Long: Lisa Wilkes
Nia Long played the role of Beulah “Lisa” Wilkes. She was the fiance of Will in season 5. She was his most serious relationship and the first woman to get him to settle down. Before Fresh Prince, she appeared in Disney’s B.R.A.T. Patrol, had a recurring role on Guiding Light and appeared in the film, Boyz N The Hood. Her role on Fresh Prince was only for the one season. After being engaged for the 5th season, Lisa and Will break off the engagement and her character is never heard from again. After Fresh Prince, she continued her TV and film career. She appeared in several films, including, Friday, Soul Food, Boiler Room and The Best Man. In 2004, she won a NAACP Image Award for her role on the crime-drama series, Third Watch.
9) Joseph Marcell: Geoffrey Butler
Joseph Marcell played the role of Geoffrey Butler, the Banks’ Family Butler. He was sarcastic and cynical. Early in his career, Joseph appeared in television shows such as, The Professionals, Rumpole of The Bailey and Doctor Who. He had his biggest success with his role on Fresh Prince. After Fresh Prince ended, he continued both his theater and TV acting career. He’s a member of The Royal Shakespeare Theater and serves on the board of Globe Theater in London. He’s appeared in plays such as, King Lear, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Othello. He also appeared on several TV series, including EastEnders, Death In Paradise and The Bold and the Beautiful.
8) Daphne Maxwell Reid: 2nd Vivian Banks
Daphne Maxwell Reid played the role of the second Vivian Banks. Vivian was the mother of the Banks family and Will’s aunt. Daphne started her career in modelling and was the first African-American model to appear on the cover of Glamour. She took over the role of Vivian Banks from Janet Hubert, in 1993, which she played till the end of the series. Her version of Vivian was a homemaker and not as fiery as the previous incarnation, although she still deeply loved her family. The sudden change of character was referenced in the show when Will’s best friend Jazz, comments, “You know, Mrs. Banks, ever since you had that baby, there’s something different about you.” Will then breaks the fourth wall and stares uncomfortably into the camera. After the end of Fresh Prince, She had roles on Crossing Jordan, Eve and Let’s Stay Together. Along with her husband Tim Reid, they opened the New Millennium Studios, and she received the Women of Vision Award from Women In Film & TV.
7) Janet Hubert: The 1st Vivian Banks
Janet Hubert played the role of the original Vivian Banks. Vivian was the mother of the Banks Family and Will’s aunt. Before Fresh Prince, Janet appeared in the Broadway play, Cats. She also had roles on TV series, such as 21 Jump Street and Tales From The Crypt. She played the role of Vivian Banks for the first three seasons, from 1991 to 1993. She was nominated for an NAACP Image Award For Outstanding Actress in a Comedy for her role as Vivian. Janet’s version of Vivian was straightforward, outspoken and career minded. Apparently, Will and Janet had many creative differences and didn’t get along behind the scenes. She was fired after the third season and replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the rest of the series. In 2013, she said that she’d like to put the over 20-year feud with Will behind her and move on. After Fresh Prince, she appeared on One Life To Live, Friends and Gilmore Girls. She has many health issues and suffers from osteoporosis. She is an ambassador for the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
6) DJ Jazzy Jeff: Jazz
DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffery Allen Townes) played the role of Jazz. He was Will’s dimwitted best friend who lived in Compton. DJ Jazzy Jeff started his career as a school and block party DJ. He was a member of the duo, The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, along with Will Smith. They won two Grammy Awards for the singles, “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Summertime.” Fresh Prince had a recurring joke in which Jazz is literally thrown out of the house when he does something annoying or irritating. Uncle Phil usually throws him out but others have done it too. After the series ended, he continued to focus on his DJ and music career. He’s released several mix tapes and made appearances with Will Smith. He’s also become a very successful producer and created the production company, A Touch Of Jazz. He’s worked with Jill Scott, The Roots and Eminem.
5) Tatyana Ali: Ashley Banks
Tatyana Ali played the role of Ashley Banks. She was the youngest daughter of the Banks Family and Will’s younger cousin. She looked up to Will like an older brother. As a child, Tatyana appeared on Sesame Street and Star Search. Her big breakthrough came when she was cast on Fresh Prince. After Fresh Prince, she embarked on a music career, and released the album, Kiss The Sky, in 1998. She is best known for the singles, “Boy You Knock Me Out” and “Everytime”. She appeared in the film Jawbreaker, and appeared in TV series such as, The Young and The Restless, Love That Girl and Second Generation Wayans. In 2014, she released the album, Hello.
4) Alfonso Ribeiro: Carlton Banks
Alfonso Ribeiro played the role of Carlton Banks. He was the eldest son of the Banks family and Will’s cousin. Carlton was very intelligent, yet annoying. Despite their differences, Will and Carlton become very close and considered each other brothers. Alfonso started his career as a child and in 1983, starred in the Broadway Musical, The Tap Dance Kid. He also starred in a Pepsi commercial with Michael Jackson and played the role of Alfonso Spears on the 1980’s sitcom, Silver Spoons. He is best known for his role on Fresh Prince. Carlton was known for his love of dancing to Tom Jones. His dance would become very popular and known as “The Carlton”. After Fresh Prince ended, he hosted two game shows; Catch 21 and Spell-Magedonn. He also won the dance competition series Dancing With The Stars, in 2014. In 2015, he was named as the new host of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
3) Karyn Parsons: Hilary Banks
Karyn Parsons played the role of Hilary Banks. She was the eldest child of the Banks family and Will’s older cousin. She is portrayed as being an airhead and rich brat, but has a deep connection and love for her family. Karyn Parsons had her big breakthrough with her role as Hilary. After the show ended, she co-produced, co-created, co-wrote and co-starred in the sitcom Lush Life. She also starred in The Job, with Denis Leary. She appeared in films such as, Major Payne and The Ladies Man. She now focuses and dedicates her time on creating short-animated films about unsung black heroes called, Sweet Blackberry. She started a Kickstarter campaign to help produce a film about the first African-American ballerina in the Metropolitan Ballet. Her Fresh Prince co-stars helped her out and served as prizes to those that donated. The prizes included: a lunch with Will Smith and the rest of the cast, and a personal voice message from Joseph Marcell.
2) James Avery: Philip Banks
James Avery played the role of Philip Banks. He was the father of the Banks family and Will’s uncle. He was rich, sarcastic and tough, but was a loving father and truly believed in Will. He was the only real father Will ever knew. After graduating from high school, James Avery served in the Vietnam War. Later, he moved to San Diego to pursue a career in entertainment. He appeared in many shows, such as The Jeffersons, The A-Team and St. Elsewhere. He is best known for his role as the caring father/uncle Philip Banks. TV guide ranked him number 34 in the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”. After Fresh Prince, he appeared in numerous TV shows, including That 70’s Show, NYPD Blue, Star Trek: Enterprise and Grey’s Anatomy. Sadly, James Avery died at the age of 68 on December 31, 2013, after complications from surgery.
1) Will Smith: “The Fresh Prince” Will Smith
Will Smith played the main character of the series. Will Smith started his career as a rapper and was a member of the duo, The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff. They won two Grammy Awards for the singles “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and “Summertime”. Eventually, he owed $2.8 million in taxes and the IRS garnished his income and took many of his possessions. He was nearly bankrupt when the deal with NBC for Fresh Prince was being put together. The series was a huge success and helped launch his acting career. After the show ended, Smith became a major movie star. He starred in several films, such as Independence Day, Bad Boys, Six Degrees of Separation and Men In Black. He was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars for his critically acclaimed roles in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness.
Will continued his music career and released the albums, Big Willie Style, Willennium and Lost and Found. He will be starring in the upcoming sports drama, Concussion, and the DC film, Suicide Squad. He is married to actress Jada Pinkett Smith and they have two children; Jaden and Willow.
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