Everyone knows the show, everyone knows the theme song, and everyone knows the characters. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air dominated TV in the 90s, being one of the most watch TV shows in television history. As Will Smith’s first foray into acting, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was the starting point for so many stars we know and love today. Let’s take a look at the stars of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – Then and Now! Because this is a story all about how my life got flipped tur…
Will is originally from Philadelphia, but was forced to move after he got in “one little fight.” His mother, who feared for his safety in their dangerous neighborhood, decided to make Will move in with his wealthy Aunt, Uncle and cousins in their Bel-Air mansion. Will is outgoing, laid back and at times a bit immature. He is also known as being quite the womanizer. He is the complete opposite of his cousins, who he at first sees as spoiled stuck up rich kids.
Will started working in the late ’80s as a rapper. In 1990, when he landed his role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, his fame increased dramatically. After the series ended, he focused mostly on landing roles in film. Not before long he was considered one of Hollywood’s most sought-after movie stars. He’s been married to his lovely wife and actress Jada Pinkett since 1997. They have two children, Jaden and Willow and Will also has a son named Trey from his first marriage with Sheree Zampino. We are looking forward for the 49-year-old’s next big role, as Genie in the upcoming Aladdin movie.
Vivian is the mother of Ashley, Hilary, Carlton and Nicky, the aunt of Will and the wife of Philip. In the first three seasons she was played by the actress Janet Hubert and had a more cynical and feisty side to her than in the later seasons. She enjoyed making fun of others with sarcastic jokes. She is very close to her sisters, and when they all get together they tend to jump up and down in excitement (with Will who often joins in.)
Janet was fired from the show after only three seasons due to her diva-like attitude and jealousy of newbie Will Smith. Many of the cast members revealed later on that she would often freak out and yell at them, and was always difficult on set. After getting fired from the highly successful show, the actress held a grudge. Although she was still able to land some roles here and there, her career was never the same. The 61-year-old is still working, and is currently playing Diane on the soap opera If Loving You Is Wrong.
Geoffrey is the cynical, sarcastic and British butler of the Banks family. Geoffrey was a graduate of Oxford University with a long history of working for British aristocrats. He was an Olympic runner before he was forced to flee his country after cheating on a race and getting slapped by Queen Elizabeth II. Once arriving in the US, Geoffrey worked for celebrities including Chuck Norris, before landing his job with the Banks. Despite Geoffrey’s frequent insults to Will and the children, he does show at times that he cares deeply for them all.
Although Joseph worked in a few shows before being the Banks’ butler, getting casted in The Fresh Prince ultimately made his career. After the series ended he continued to work, and landed a recurring role as Hudson in The Bold and the Beautiful. At 69-years-old, the actor is still working here and there and recently appeared in a Canadian film titled Hero. In 1995, he married Joyce Marcell and they have a daughter and son together.
Lisa first appeared in the 5th season as Will’s girlfriend who tries to tame him from his womanizing ways. The two end up falling in love and later on are engaged. They try to get married on two different occasions, but ultimately Will backs out after realizing that he doesn’t know much about her, including her real first name (which is actually Beulah.) After they cut their second wedding short, Lisa’s father and Will’s mother use their planned ceremony and get married instead. Thus, Lisa and Will become step-siblings.
Nia’s role as Lisa was one of her first roles in her career, and is also what she is most well-known for to this day. She did continue to appear in several movies after, such as Boiler Room and Big Momma’s House. Most recently, she has appeared as Assistant Director Shay Mosley in NCIS: Los Angeles and also in the Fox series Empire. In 2010, she married former basketball player of the San Antonio Spurs, Ime Udoko.
Viola or “Vy” is Will’s loving mother. After her husband and father to Will, Lou Smith, abandoned them when Will was only 5-years-old, she had to raise her son by herself. They lived in a dangerous neighborhood in Philadelphia, where she was always worried about her son getting into trouble. Vy chose to send Will to live with her wealthy sister Vivian and her family in Bel-Air. She eventually gets married to Lisa’s father Fred Wilkes.
Vernee has had quite the impressive acting career, and was popular for her roles in Welcome Back, Kotter and Carter Country before getting casted as Will’s mother. Now 63-years-old, the actress is still appearing as recurring roles on several TV shows. Since 2007, she has been playing the nurse Althea on The Big Bang Theory, and is also currently playing Stella in the long-running soap opera General Hospital.
After Janet Hubert’s dramatic and surprising dismissal from the show, Daphne Reid came in to take her place. She continued playing Aunt Viv from the fourth season all the way up to the final sixth season. Not only did the actress change, but Viv’s personality also seemed to change a bit in the fourth season. Although she still was considered feisty at times, she had much less of an attitude than the previous seasons.
When Daphne was hired to take Janet’s place, she was already a well-established actress in the world of television. She had appeared on several series including Simon & Simon and Frank’s Place. After playing Aunt Viv, she continued to work here and there but mostly in smaller roles. The 69-year-old’s most recent role was in 2016 in a comedy movie called By the Grace of Bob. Since 1982, she has been married Simon & Simon costar Tim Reid- who you may remember as Tamera’s father in Sister, Sister.
Jazz is Will’s best friend and musical partner who was often (physically) thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil and other members of the family. Throughout the series Jazz has a massive crush on Hilary, although she doesn’t feel the same way about him whatsoever. Jazz is known for his colorful clothing choices and his sunglasses (which he only took off once when he was on a set-up date with Hilary.)
DJ Jazzy Jeff was one half of the rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince with Will Smith. The pair won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989 for their hit song “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Later, they won another Grammy for their 1991 song “Summertime.” Jazz and Will took their off-screen musical chemistry on-screen and their popularity only increased even more. This year the duo announced that they are back to making music together 20 years later! In August 2017, they debuted their new song “Get Lit” at Blackpool Livewire Festival.
Philip Banks aka Uncle Phil is the short-tempered Uncle of Will and father of Hilary, Carlton and Nicky. He is known for getting easily annoyed by all of the children in the house, and Vivian is the only one who knows how to calm him down when he loses his cool. Although Philip is very strict, he is a good father and Uncle and deep down he cares very much for his family. He was a lawyer before becoming a judge, and has made a good amount of money from his careers (although he is still considered very cheap.)
James was a successful actor and voice actor before landing his role on The Fresh Prince. However, after he became Uncle Phil, that is what he continued to be remembered for. Despite constantly being labeled as Uncle Phil, he continued to land several roles in TV shows. Sadly, the beloved actor passed away on December 31, 2013 at the age of 68 due to complications from an open heart surgery. After his death, the whole cast got together to grieve over the loss of the man they loved like family.
You may have forgotten, but supermodel Naomi Campbell made a guest appearance in the first season of The Fresh Prince. She played Ashley’s friend’s nanny who Will set Geoffrey on a blind date with. After Will sees her and realizes that he wants her for himself, Geoffrey ends up giving Helen’s number to Will so that he can ask her out instead.
Naomi was one of the most recognizable model’s of the late ’80s and early ’90s. After becoming famous, she decided to venture into the world of film and television. She also appeared as a judge on the reality TV model competition The Face. The still stunning 47-year-old is still working as a model and actress. She recently played Camilla Marks in Empire, and is currently starring as Rose Crane in the new Lee Daniels series Star.
Jackie first made her appearance in the fourth season. She is Will’s former friend/ex-girlfriend who he grew up with in West Philadelphia. After she lands a basketball scholarship at University of Los Angeles, she moves out to Bel-Air and reconnects with Will. While attending school in LA, she takes a job as the manager of the campus convenience store The Peacock Stop, and hires Will as one of her employees.
Jackie was played by the one and only Tyra Banks. At the time, she was one of the top fashion models in the industry. She was also the first African American woman to appear on the cover of GQ and Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, and to appear in Victoria’s Secret lingerie catalogue. Years later she went on to produce America’s Next Top Model and The Tyra Banks Show. Tyra is now 43-years-old and just recently called it off with her boyfriend of 5 years, Erik Asla. The couple share a 1-year-old son named York Banks.
Mimi appeared in the first season as a woman Will is fascinated by and tries to impress. Knowing he needs to impress her father before he can date her, he gets help by Uncle Phil, Carlton and Geoffrey on how to be a gentlemen. Will ends up impressing Mimi’s father by pretending to be a preppy guy named Kipp Smithers. Unfortunately the plan backfires when he finds out that Mimi prefers bad boys. Will gets exhausted going back and forth between bad boy Will and preppy Kipp, and he eventually gives up on the relationship.
Victoria’s role as Mimi was one of her first ever acting gigs. She later went on to become a soap star with her longtime role as Drucilla Barber Winters in the The Young and the Restless. The 58-year-old, sued Sony Entertainment in 2015, after getting fired from her award-winning role of 14 years on the soap. She claimed that she suffered from harassment and racial discrimination for years, and that her white costars were given far more opportunities than her. The lawsuit was dropped this year, after both sides agreed on a hefty settlement.
Nicky is Will’s adorable little cousin and the youngest child of Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv. He was born in the third season of the show and was played by Gregory Wheeler as a baby. In the fifth season Nicky suddenly grows into a pre-schooler in the last two seasons, and that is when Ross Bagley took over as the young actor. Nicky is often the comic relief or emotional punch to the series’ storyline, and looks up to his big cousin Will.
Believe it or not, little Nicky is actually 28-years-old now. In the mid ’90s he was one of the most popular child actors, and became most well-known for his role as Will’s cousin. He also played Buckwheat in the 1994 film The Little Rascals. A couple years later he went on to star alongside Will once more in the popular alien-invasion film Independence Day. Like most child actors, Ross’ career peaked at a young age. Now, he is focusing on his new passion, working as an LA real estate agent.
One thing is certain, The Fresh Prince would never have been the same without Will’s cousin Carlton. Although Carlton is highly intelligent, he has the tendency to annoy everyone around him with his arrogance. He is an uptight conservative who often wears collared shirts with a sweater tied around his neck. He quickly became a fan favorite, and is still remembered to this day for his famous dance to Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual.”
Alfonso was known for his appearance on the series Silver Spoons before landing his role of a lifetime as Carlton. After The Fresh Prince came to an end, he went on to work as a voice actor for the animated series Spider-Man and Extreme Ghostbusters. He later landed a job playing Dr. Maxwell Stanton on the series In the House. In 2014, Alfonso returned to television as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars where he revived the infamous Carlton dance. Alfonso has been married two times, and is currently married to blonde bombshell and professional writer Angela Unkrich. He is also the father of four children.
Let’s be honest, there are always going to be members of your family that you don’t particularly get on with – but we don’t think anyone could hate Aunt Helen. Yep, this lady was so cool! Helen Smith is Will’s aunt and Phillip’s sister-in-law. She was never one to tell off the kids or act like a real parent. Instead, she constantly jokes around with Phillip and makes fun of him, while letting her nephew get away with anything. Can we have an aunt like Helen, please?
Although Jennifer Lewis is still recognized for her role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, she is one talented lady with hundreds of roles to her name. In fact, she started her career as a singer, and worked as a backup singer for Bette Midler (errrr, how cool is that?!) She later went on to appear on Broadway before scoring roles in the likes of Sister Act, The Wedding Ringer, What’s Love Got to Do With It and The Princess and the Frog. Recently, she has lent her voice to Cars 3.
If you haven’t seen The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (why not? What are you doing? WATCH IT NOW!) you might think that Coach Smiley sounds like a pretty friendly guy. Of course, nothing is as it seems in Bel-Air because Coach Smiley was anything BUT smiley. Instead, he was ridiculously strict, with a love for punishment. This basketball coach also doubled up as the history teacher and taught both Will and Carlton. Although it’s fair to say that he liked Will a lot more than he liked Carlton…
Although the Florek name is pretty famous, many movie fans recognize his brother’s name more than most. Sure, Dann Florek may be a legend in the world of Law & Order and Under the Dome, but did Dann star in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? We think not. The lesser-known (but cooler) brother has worked on numerous film sets over the course of his career, including Ghostbusters II, Hidalgo, and Priest. However, he’ll always be Coach Smiley in our eyes.
We first met Denise ‘Dee Dee’ Williams in the ‘She Ain’t Heavy’ episode. As the daughter of one of his uncle’s clients, Will is forced to go on a date with Dee Dee – and considering he luuuurves the ladies, Will is happy to oblige. However, Will is at first taken aback to discover that she is a little larger than his usual blind date. Despite this, the pair gets on like a house on fire and realize that they are very similar in terms of their personalities. Although Will doesn’t find her romantically attractive, they go on to form an awesome friendship.
Let’s be honest; Queen Latifah is a Hollywood legend. As an actress, singer, songwriter, rapper, model, television host, and producer, there really isn’t anything she can’t do. Latifah first rose to fame in 1989 when she released her first musical album, and soon took over the world with her bubbly personality and striking looks. Since her time on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Queen Latifah has continued to act and has appeared in major motion pictures such as Hairspray, Girls Trip, 22 Jump Street, and Bessie.
We absolutely love Jazz, but we have to admit…he’s a little odd. It seems the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, as we first met his sister, Janet, in ‘It Had to Be You.’ To start with, Janet seemed like a lovely, friendly, and polite woman when she met Phil and the rest of the Banks. However, they soon realize why Jazz preferred to live away from her, as she was often controlling and bossy. So, they push Janet onto Carlton, in an attempt to straighten her ways.
Before her time on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Vivica A. Fox had already made a name for herself in the world of Hollywood. She had managed to score minor roles on the likes of Days of Our Lives and Generations before she became Janet, and continued to dominate in movies and TV shows after the show. Since then, she has appeared in movies such as Kill Bill, Ella Enchanted, and Boat Trip. Recently, she has taken on roles in Empire and even had her own show entitled Vivica’s Black Magic.
Ashley is one of Vivian’s daughters, which makes her Will’s cousin. The character had always struggled with Phillip’s attempts to control her even from a young age, which only made her closer to her favorite cousin, Will. The relationship between the two got even closer as Ashley started looking up to her cousin in her teenage years, becoming more rebellious.
Tatyana Ali’s career continued after the series ended, but none of her other roles were as big as playing Ashley Banks. Meanwhile, she graduated from Harvard in 2002, participated in Obama’s 2008 campaign and got married to Vaughn Rasberry, an English professor. The couple have a son together and are now expecting another baby.
Hilary is the oldest daughter of the Banks family. She is known as being stuck up, snobby and incredibly shallow. She ends up landing her own talk show called Hilary after formerly working as a weather girl. After meeting and falling in love with news anchor Trevor Collins, he dies in a bungee jumping accident while proposing to her on live television. Hilary feels a tremendous guilt after his death, claiming that she was the one who demanded such a dramatic proposal.
Playing Hilary was the highlight of Karyn’s acting career. Although she went on to work in a few various TV shows and films after the show’s finale, she was constantly seen as the snobby Hilary. She ended up leaving her acting career behind her and created the Sweet Blackberry Foundation, a non-profit that specializes in educating children in African American history. Karyn is now 51-years-old and the mother of a 14-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son with her film director husband Alexandre Rockwell.