The Cast of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”: Then and Now
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1990s and arguably influenced several sitcoms throughout the decade, including “Martin” and “The Jamie Foxx Show.” The show centred around Will (played by Will Smith), a teenager living in West Philadelphia who is forced by his mother to move and live with his rich aunt and uncle in their Bel-Air home after he gets into a fight with some local trouble makers. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” lasted a total of six seasons (and its theme song by Smith went down in history as one of the best), so it’s no surprise that – amid the reboot surge of the 2020s – the classic is getting the reboot treatment with “Bel-Air.”
“Bel-Air” is a spinoff from the popular sitcom with less comedic punches and more depth and drama. The series still features the same characters from the original series, but it revitalises them and adds a modern context to their stories. With a new cast, including Jabari Banks as Will, and a great soundtrack, the new series is already pulling in both new and old audiences.
“Bel-Air” premiered on Feb. 13, so there’s no better time than now to take a look back at the original cast of the show and where they are today.
Will Smith as Will: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” a 22-year-old Smith played a larger-than-life teenager from Philadelphia, a character loosely based on his real-life persona.
Will Smith: Now
Since Smith’s big break in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” he has cultivated a successful music and acting career, releasing a number of solo albums and starring in several blockbuster films between the 1990s all the way until now. Outside of the show, Smith is most known for his roles in classic action films like “Bad Boys,” “Men in Black,” and “Independence Day.”
Most recently, Smith played the role of Richard Williams, father of legendary athletes Venus and Serena Williams, in “King Richard,” snagging a best actor Oscar nomination for the role. The actor also has a show on Disney+ called “Welcome to Earth,” as well as a personal Youtube channel that features everything from behind-the-scenes vlogs to life advice.
Smith is married to actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and is the father to Jaden and Willow Smith, both of whom have followed in Smith’s footsteps into the music and acting business.
James Avery as Uncle Phil: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Avery played Philip Banks, Will’s uncle, and the father of Carlton, Hilary, Ashley, and Nicky Banks. As a character, Philip is the strict but nonetheless loving patriarch of his family.
James Avery: Now
Though Avery was most known as Uncle Phil in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” he had an extensive film and TV acting career that spanned over 30 years. After “Fresh Prince” ended in 1996, Avery continued to take on TV roles, including Alonso Sparks in “Sparks,” Dr. Crippen in “The Closer,” and even a small role in “That ’70s Show” as Officer Kennedy. The actor also took on voice acting and was the voice behind Shredder in the 1980s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series and War Machine in the 1990s “Iron Man” series.
Avery continued to act up until his passing on Dec. 31, 2013, due to complications from open-heart surgery. In a Facebook tribute, his costar and friend Smith said, “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.” Avery is survived by his wife, Barbara, and his stepson.
Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Hubert played Vivian Banks, the wife of Uncle Phil and mother to the Banks children, for the first three seasons of the show.
Janet Hubert: Now
Since her departure from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in 1993, Hubert has mainly focused her TV career, appearing in a number of popular shows, including “Friends” and “Gilmore Girls.” The actress had a recurring role in the daytime soap opera “General Hospital” and currently stars in HBO Max’s “Love Life.”
Hubert appeared in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion on HBO Max in 2020 and reconciled with Smith after a serious falling-out, which according to Hubert was in part due to Smith labelling her difficult to work with back in the ’90s. In a conversation with Smith during the reunion, she opened up about her experience, saying, “Words can kill. I lost everything. Reputation. Everything. And I understand you were able to move forward, but you know those words, calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood, is the kiss of death.” The two have since reconciled and remain friends to this day, with the actress telling People that they regularly text. “As a matter of fact, we have a very good relationship. Had we had an opportunity to talk back then, I think this would have never happened.”
Hubert is married to Larry Craft and has one child.
Daphne Maxwell Reid as Vivian Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Reid took over the role of Vivian Banks for the remainder of the show following Hubert’s departure.
Daphne Maxwell Reid: Now
After the ending of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Reid landed small roles in both film and television. Outside of her acting career, Reid is an accomplished photographer, author, and clothing designer. On her website, Reid sells her books, face masks, calendars, note cards, and photograph prints.
Reid is married to actor Tim Reid, most known for his role as Ray Campbell on “Sister, Sister,” and has one child.
Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Ribeiro played Carlton Banks, the preppy, uptight son of Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian.
Alfonso Ribeiro: Now
Since his days as Carlton Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Ribeiro continued to have a successful acting career with a role in the 1990s sitcom “In The House” as Dr. Maxwell Stanton and various other small film and television roles.
Ribeiro has been the host of “America’s Funniest Videos” since 2015 and also hosts the game show “Catch 21.” Outside of hosting, Ribeiro continues to act and most recently appeared in the Halloween TV special “Muppets Haunted Mansion,” which aired on Disney+ in October 2021.
He is married to Angela Unkrich and has four children.
Karyn Parsons as Hilary Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Parsons played Hilary Banks, the beautiful but self-absorbed oldest daughter of Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian.
Karyn Parsons: Now
Following the end of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Parsons continued to act in both film and TV shows. She created, produced, and starred in “Lush Life” as Margot Hines, though the show was cancelled after four episodes. Parsons also has acting credits in films like “Max Payne” and “The Ladies Man.”
Today, she is the creator and owner of Sweet Blackberry, a company whose focus is “creating content that works across multiple media platforms, leveraging the power of stories to teach and reach young children.” She has written two books and shares two children with her husband, Alexandre Rockwell.
Tatyana Ali as Ashley Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Ali played Ashley Banks, the youngest daughter of Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian.
Tatyana Ali: Now
After “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Ali attended Harvard University and graduated in 2002. The actress has appeared in several film and TV shows, most notably Hallmark and Lifetime TV movies, including “Vanished: Looking for My Sister,” “Christmas Everlasting,” and “Christmas Hotel.” She also had a recurring role on the daytime soap opera “The Young and The Restless” for six years.
Ali is married to Vaughn Rasberry and has two children.
Joseph Marcell as Geoffrey Butler: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Marcell played Geoffrey Butler, the witty and very British butler for the Banks family.
Joseph Marcell: Now
Prior to his role in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Marcell was already an accomplished theater actor, with acting credits in Shakespearean plays “Othello” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Following the end of the show, Marcell continued to act in film and TV but focused mainly on theatre.
He is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and a part of the board at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where he continues to perform. At one point, he tried to lure costar Smith into the world of Shakespeare, telling The Guardian, “I did want him to play Mark Antony but he was busy with Independence Day.”
The actor is married to Joyce T. Walsh and has two children.
Jeffrey A. Townes (aka DJ Jazzy Jeff) as Jazz: Then
Smith’s real-life friend and collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff played Will’s troublemaking bestie Jazz on the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Ross Bagley as Nicky Banks: Then
In “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Bagley played Nicky Banks, the youngest child of the Banks family.
Ross Bagley: Now
Ross Bagley starred in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for three seasons as the adorable child of Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian. After the end of the show, Bagley went on to act in other popular films, including “The Little Rascals” and “Independence Day” alongside Smith.
He is currently a realtor and DJ and maintains a low profile on social media.