the fresh prince of bel-air - where are they now?

As news of a remake gathers pace, we look at where the original cast have ended up.

by Hattie Collins
18 September 2015, 12:48am

With the 25th anniversary just behind us, and talk of a reboot on the way (we're picturing Jaden as Will, Willow as Ashley), we find out what happened to the cast of 90s TV phenomenon the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The series, exec-produced by music maestro Quincy Jones, was based partly on the life of music manager Benny Medina who attended Beverley Hills High and ended up living with Berry Gordy's family. With little acting experience to his name, Will Smith only agreed to take the title role after failing to pay taxes on his rap career - he owed the IRS $2.8m and had to hand over 70% of his earnings for the first three series. Still, he's more than made up for it since then. Join us as we take a little trip to find out how Will's life got flip turned upside down….

James Avery: Philip Banks
Uncle Phil died last year, aged 68, following complications from open heart surgery. J Cole paid tribute to the authoritarian uncle with a heart on No Role Modelz, found on last year's Forest Hills Drive album. "First things first rest in peace Uncle Phil/ For real/ You the only father that I ever knew." Later in the song Cole raps, "I want a real love, dark skinned Aunt Viv love/That Jada and that Will love/That leave a toothbrush at your crib love/And you ain't gotta wonder whether that's your kid love." Will Smith also noted Avery's importance as a role model among impressionable teenagers. "Some of my greatest lessons in Acting, Living and being a respectable human being came through James Avery," he tweeted after Avery's death. "Every young man needs an Uncle Phil. Rest in Peace." The big man was one of TV's best-loved grumpy old codgers, and Avery played him with aplomb. When those eyes got big and wide, it was time to hide.

Janet Hubert: Vivian Banks
The original Aunt Viv left the show in 2003 after clashing with Will Smith, not only the show's star, but also one of its writers and producers. Never mess with a writer - just ask Sons of Anarchy's Opie. But we digress; the former Juilliard trained ballet dancer has popped up here and there, including NYPD Blue, Friends (as Chandler's boss) and The Jamie Foxx show, but doesn't appear to have been seen on screen since 2011. On the upside, recent pictures are testimony that Hubert looks a good 40 years younger than she did when she played Aunt Viv a quarter of a century ago. And, hey it looks like Hubert has finally gotten over her hatred of Will Smith:

Jeffrey Allen Townes: Jazz
Smith's partner-in-crime since childhood, the Philly pair won a Grammy for Parents Just Don't Understand, before Smith bought his buddy with him into the successful Fresh Prince franchise. Jazzy Jeff may not be a Hollywood superstar, but he's one of the finest scratch DJ's alive today (his cutting can be heard on the overdubs in the recent N.W.A. biopic Straight Outtta Compton). Since working with Will, Jazz has toured the world and produced for everyone from Method Man to Jill Scott, via his Touch of Jazz studios in Philadelphia. We like to imagine that he and Will still do the handshake every time they meet. But they probably don't. Oh well.

Daphne Maxwell Reid: Vivian Banks (2.0)
In a move only usually pulled by soaps (See: Neighbours swapping the original Scott Robinson for Jason Donovan despite them looking absolutely nothing alike), the Fresh Prince also did a character reboot, acknowledged brilliantly in the scene below with Jazzy Jeff.., Reid has appeared on TV shows no British person would ever have heard of, and owned a production studio in Virginia (Lincoln was shot there), with her husband Tim Reid (him off Sister, Sister) but best of all, she has a website called The Fresh Prints Of Bel-Air, which features images from her travel over the years. We definitely see what she did there.

Tatyana Ali: Ashley Banks
Still only 35-years-old despite the show ending four million years ago, Ali was one of TV's cutest kid stars, alongside Ruby Cosby and Arnold 'whatchu talking bout Willis' Jackson (R.I.P). Following her time as the enthusiastic Ashley, Tatyana starred in Kiss The Girls with Morgan Freeman, before returning to TV on classic US cheesefest The Young & The Restless. She also carved out a (brief) career as a singer, working with Rodney Jerkins and Bronx rappers Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz (now seen on Love & Hip Hop SMH) on R&B banger Daydreamin'. Ali is also quite the politician; after graduating from Harvard in 2002, she toured the US in support of Obama before his 2008 election. Like many on the show, Ali has also been namedropped in numerous rap songs, including Drake's recent Tuscan Leather ('Just had dinner with Tatyana Ali, no lie'). Lets not tell Serena, eh.

Karyn Parsons: Hilary Banks
Hillary is now 47-years-old and a mother of two. She also lives in Brooklyn, which we imagine would be Hilary's idea of hell. Unless it was Cobble Hill, but even that's probably a push. Parson's has just written a biography, Janet Collins, about the life of America's first black Prima ballerina, with an accompanying film, produced by Parsons and narrated by Chris Rock. After Avery's death last year, Parsons revealed she kept a notebook during filming, which she stashed in the kitchen's island; crew and actors would all make notes about the show and each other. We would really like to read that please. You can follow the self-described 'Mama/ Writer/ Actress / Producer' on twitter.

Joseph Marcell: Geoffrey
The ultimate no-fucks-given butler with attitude, RSC trained Marcell returned to British shores after the Fresh Prince for a role on Eastenders. Marcell played Aubrey Valentine, who got off with Yolanda and was, or maybe wasn't Denise's dad. Marcell was also in barbershop sitcom staple Desmonds, which we'd also be very much into seeing a reboot of. As Geoffrey, Marcell excelled, playing the part with a hint of campness, a smidgeon of sneer and razor-sharp sense of timing.

Alfonso Ribeiro: Carlton Banks
Ok, there wasn't much going on for post-Prince Carlton besides appearing alongside LL Cool J in long-forgotten sitcom In The House and co-starring with Amanda Bynes in the best-forgotten film Love Wrecked. But while you may be mistaken for thinking Alfonso couldn't possibly touch the hugely, wildly successful career of his cousin Will, you would indeed be just that - mistaken. One of TV's finest moments happened in October of last year, when Ribeiro hit up Dancing With The Stars and dropped 'the Carlton'. Televisual gold.

Ross Bagley: Nicky Banks
Introduced when the original Aunt Viv got pregnant, Nicky arrived in season three and was bestowed with the full name of Nicolas Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanya Banks- aka the first names of the full line-up of Boyz II Men, which is really so great. Banks appeared alongside his screen uncle in Independence Day in1996 and voiced the role of 'Dog' in Babe, but since then the now 26 year-old has concentrated on his academic career, graduating in cinema and television arts from California State University in 2012.

Benny Medina
Based on Medina's own upbringing, Medina worked at Motown and wrote for The Temptations and Teena Marie before giong on to went on to become a successful manager, having a hand in the careers of J.Lo, Diddy, Brandy, Usher and Mariah - the latter four of whom fired him, such is a manager's lot. He still works with J.Lo and recently put up his LA mansion on the market for $12.9m - the Fresh Prince would definitely approve.

Tyra Banks: Jacky Ames
America's Next Top Model made her TV debut on the fourth season of the show as boho basketball babe Jacky Ames, Will's old friend from West Philly. Already a successful model by this point, Banks was only in seven episodes before she sashayed her bad self back to the catwalk and onto her own very successful onscreen career.

Will Smith: Will Smith
Poor Will. Life post-The Fresh Prince didn't work out so well. Sure, there were the multi-million dollar movie franchises like Bad Boys and Men In Black, the Oscar worthy moments like Ali, three children who are incredibly successful in their own right and the marriage to a beautiful intelligent actress (whom he met when Jada auditioned unsuccessfully for a role on the show). Oh well Will, we can't all be life's winners, can we?


Text Hattie Collins

Will Smith
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
where are they now?