Every Major Bel-Air Character That Has Become Grittier Than The Original Series

The Bel-Air reboot shows a darker side that was difficult to show in the 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Although it’s been told through a more modern lens, the show includes many of the same themes and realities as the original comedy about an upper-class family whose lives are turned upside down when a street-smart teenager from across the tracks moves in.

Despite being a completely different project, fans of The Fresh Prince will notice some similarities and differences in how some characters are portrayed, which is entirely warranted in this reimagined version and considering how much television has evolved over time. Users who aren’t familiar with The Fresh Prince however might have a hard time connecting with many of the characters. With that being said, here’s a list of every major Bel-Air character that has become grittier than the original The Fresh Prince

Will Smith

Fresh Prince’s Will Smith is one of the most iconic TV characters. It’s been a massive cultural phenomenon for decades, which is why the reboot is viewed by so many as an event. Will’s personality has remained somewhat the same. However, the new character developed quite grittily as time has gone on. Fortunately, some viewers were impressed when they saw the behind-the-scenes photos of 19-year-old actor Jabari Banks at home in front of a mirror pouring buckets of ice water over his head back in 2015 because Banks then looked like he was born to play Fresh Prince’s Will Smith.

Related: Actor John Wesley from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Passes Away at 72

Jabari Banks as Will Smith in Bel-Air
Jabari Banks as Will Smith in Bel-Air

Phillip Banks

James Avery, the original actor to play Uncle Phil died in 2013. As a result, the producers of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hired Adrian Holmes as his replacement. However, he is almost unrecognizable in his appearance and attitude compared to the original incarnation. In season 1, Phil decides to run for District Attorney under a campaign. It emphasizes a more conservative moral position than Will-Smith. He got portrayed as an eccentric child murderer who frequently leads neighborhood children into dangerous areas or allows them access to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.

Adrian Holmes as Philip Banks in Bel-Air
Adrian Holmes as Philip Banks in Bel-Air

Vivian Banks

The role of Aunt Viv was originally played by Anna Maria Horsford. But it was eventually recast with Cassandra Freeman due to Horsford’s desire to pursue other endeavors. Bel-Air’s actress came with a grittier personality than Horsford’s Vivian Banks. This is because the latter is shown not only to be far more dominating than her later counterpart; she prefers controlling things behind the scenes rather than doing things herself.

Related: Bel-Air: 5 Reasons Why The Reboot Can Be Better Than The Original

Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks in Bel-Air
Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks in Bel-Air

Carlton Banks

One of the biggest differences between the original characters and their new counterparts is the character of Carlton Banks. Will’s cousin in The Fresh Prince, Carlton was a bit arrogant, cynical, loyal, and popular in the original series. In Bel-Air, Carlton is played by Olly Sholotan. Currently, he’s been gaining positive attention for his music career. That same kind of success has not been given to him with his acting career which isn’t so much his fault but likely more specific to Hollywood itself.

Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks in Bel-Air
Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks in Bel-Air

Hilary Banks

While there are similarities between the characters of Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Coco Jones’s version, some differences make it grittier. As opposed to being a shallow airhead with no aspirations or integrity, this new Hilary Banks doesn’t take herself too seriously when it comes to her image or becoming better known as a celebrity. This family-oriented altruist is fiercely independent and sorted. She’s more interested in how she can contribute to making an impact on society rather than just live a lavish lifestyle. One of the reasons why one might connect with her is that she tries to juggle many roles at once: mother, friend, singer, TV personality, etc.

Related: 10 Unknown Facts About Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Coco Jones as Hilary Banks in Bel-Air
Coco Jones as Hilary Banks in Bel-Air

Bel-Air is available to stream on Peacock.

Number of episodes: 10

IMDb rating: 6.3

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