The legacy of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as one of the greatest sitcoms ever created cannot be understated. From the stacked cast of talented actors to the stories included within the Bel-Air universe, the famous show sticks with viewers for the rest of their lives. Its impact can be seen within the Peacock show titled “Bel-Air,” a reimagining of the original series with a new cast playing all of the original characters. While the new show has seen success with a new generation, viewers young and old still binge-watch the original “Fresh Prince.” If you ever wondered what happened to the original cast, here is a rundown.
Will Smith (Will Smith)
Will Smith skyrocketed to acting fame after his lead role in the NBC sitcom that was based around his rap persona. He portrayed a Philadelphia high school student who moved in with his rich aunt and uncle in Bel-Air, California. The series follows protagonist Will’s adjustment to his new life amongst the elite. His role on “Fresh Prince” took him from Grammy-winning rapper to worldwide success as an actor.
He starred in the 1995 action film Bad Boys, which became a commercial success and spawned three sequels. His other notable roles include Independence Day, Men in Black, Wild Wild West, Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness — which included the screen debut of his son, Jaden. Will married actress Jada Pinkett Smith in 1997, and together they share children Jaden and Willow, who are both stars in their own right. He also has his eldest son, Trey, from a previous marriage.
Philip Banks (James Avery)
James Avery’s shining role in his career was as Philip Banks, the esteemed judge and uncle of Will’s character who was known for his success and serious tone as a rising California politician. While balancing life as a judge, Philip was a father figure to Will, husband to Vivian and father to Carlton, Hilary, Ashley and Nicki, making him one of television’s most revered dads.
Avery went on to more success as a television and film actor, starring in films like Raise Your Voice, Hair Show and Dr. Dolittle 2. Avery passed away in 2013 at the age of 68 following complications from open heart surgery.
Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro)
Alfonso Ribeiro portrayed the preppy and serious, yet cheerful, cousin of Will: Carlton Banks. While known for his studious and respectful manner, his character shined once he was put to the test in compromising situations that were usually caused by Will. His character was also known for his obsession with singer Tom Jones, and had a reputation for breaking out in dance to Jones’ hit “It’s Not Unusual.”
Ribeiro went on to graduate from the New York Film Academy in 1999, and directed several episodes of hit TV shows including “One on One,” “All of Us” and “Meet The Browns.” He has also hosted several television shows ranging from game shows like “Catch 21″ to “Dancing with the Stars.” Ribeiro is married with four children.
Vivian Banks (Janet Hubert)
Janet Hubert portrayed the show’s first iteration of mother and aunt Vivian Banks. Her character was known for her no-nonsense, independent and nurturing demeanor. She was also a vital presence amid the day-to-day with her nephew and her four children.
After the third season of the show, Hubert was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid after rumors of conflict between her and the other cast members, most notably, Will Smith. It was confirmed years later that Hubert did not renew her contract. Despite the exit, she remains an essential part of the show’s legacy. After her time as Vivian, she has appeared in numerous television and film roles, including the soap opera “One Life to Live,” “Gilmore Girls,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and FX’s “Pose.”
Vivian Banks (Daphne Maxwell Reid)
After Hubert’s departure, Reid was cast as the Banks matriarch for the last three seasons. She brought the character through a new chapter as a mother to newborn baby Nicky. Reid went on to act in television shows like “Eve” and “Crossing Jordan.”
Ashley Banks (Tatyana Ali)
Actress Tatyana Ali became a household name in the ’90s during her time as the youngest Banks daughter, Ashley Banks. The character grew from a shy schoolgirl to an independent, talented young woman by the series’ end. From her close relationship with cousin Will to moments of rebellion during her teenage years, she became a lovable figure among viewers. Ali’s character also became a one-hit wonder with a song called “Make Up Your Mind,” but quickly became forgotten after her album didn’t sell.
Her character’s music career was shown in tandem with her own budding music career. After the show ended, Ali released her debut album Kiss The Sky in 1998. The album was certified gold months after its release and spawned hit singles like “Daydreamin’” and “Boy You Knock Me Out,” featuring Will Smith in its “Big Willie Style” edit. Ali also continued her acting career while obtaining an education at Harvard University. Some of her notable film appearances include Nora’s Hair Salon, Jawbreaker and Locker 13. Ali married Vaughn Rasberry in 2016, with whom she shares two sons.
Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons)
Karyn Parsons notably portrayed the beautiful, yet snobbish and shallow eldest daughter of Vivian and Philip, Hilary Banks. The character was introduced to audiences as a spoiled daughter, unable to execute basic life skills like cooking. Hilary dropped out of UCLA and eventually ended up as a local weather girl and a one-time Playboy centerfold. Hilary memorably became engaged to news anchor, Trevor, who tragically died in a bungee jumping accident while proposing on live television.
While starring as Hilary, Parsons co-created, produced, wrote and starred in the Fox sitcom “Lush Life,” which was canceled after four episodes. After “Fresh Prince,” she starred in the television series “The Job,” with actor Denis Leary, and is recognized for roles in Major Payne, The Ladies Man and 13 Moons. Parsons married director Alexandre Rockwell in 2003, and they share a daughter and son.
Geoffrey the Butler (Joseph Marcell)
Joseph Marcell starred as the hilarious and lovingly shady British butler, Geoffrey. The Saint Lucia-born and British-raised actor took his role to new heights. He continually left viewers laughing with his wit and funny one-liners when serving and giving perspective to the various members of the Banks family.
Marcell began his career on stage as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He appeared in productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Othello.” After his time in “Fresh Prince,” he starred in the soap drama “The Bold and the Beautiful” from 2003 to 2004. Marcell has starred in other film and television roles, including British soap “EastEnders” and 2020’s “The Sandman,” and also continued his career on stage, taking roles in “Gem of the Ocean,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan” and “The Tempest.“
Nicky Banks (Ross Bagley)
Ross Bagley starred as the youngest member of the Banks family during the last two seasons. Nicky was known for being wise beyond his years as a toddler, and having a keen ability to keep up with the comedic timing of the rest of the family. Bagley was only six years old upon starring in the hit sitcom but got his start a year earlier in the 1994 film adaptation of “The Little Rascals.”
He went on to star with Smith in his box-office hit Independence Day. While Bagley hasn’t acted much after his days as Nicky, he is still featured in television and film roles, and has made small appearances in shows like “The Wild Thornberrys” and “Judging Amy.”
Jazz (Jeffrey A. Townes aka DJ Jazzy Jeff)
Jeffrey A. Townes, also known as DJ Jazzy Jeff, starred alongside his best friend and music partner as his TV best friend. His character, Jazz, was infamous for literally getting thrown out of the Banks’ Bel-Air mansion by Uncle Phil himself. He also was known for his crush on Hilary. Most notably, Jazz and Will shared a signature handshake that even today’s NFL players emulate.
Townes went on to pursue a storied music career as a legendary DJ and record producer, impacting the careers of artists like Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild and The Roots. Since his role in “Fresh Prince,” Townes has established his own production company, A Touch of Jazz, and went on to marry Lynette Jackson in 2010. He has two sons from a previous relationship.