'Bel-Air' star Jabari Banks on huge task of taking over Will Smith's 'Fresh Prince' role

Jabari Banks takes over from Will Smith's famous 1990s role in new reboot series 'Bel-Air'. (Peacock/Sky)
Jabari Banks takes over from Will Smith's famous 1990s role in new reboot series 'Bel-Air'. (Peacock/Sky)

Bel-Air star Jabari Banks has opened up on the daunting task of taking over from his idol Will Smith in a reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The new Peacock series is a dramatic take on the classic sitcom that launched Smith's career and sees Banks take on the lead role as a disadvantaged teen from West Philadelphia moving in with his wealthy relatives in Bel-Air for a fresh start.

Banks, who is from West Philadelphia himself, has told how he looks up to Smith and what a huge task it was to be cast as Will.

He said: "I’m definitely filling some big shoes but I’m ready to take on the challenge. I’m ready to be there for the kids who felt like me, who didn’t really have that outlet, and who come from places like me. I’m ready to represent and I’m ready to open up doors for them in the same way Will has opened the doors for me."

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Jabari Banks is taking over Will Smith's character in Bel-Air. (Peacock)
Jabari Banks says he has always looked up to Will Smith. (Peacock)

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Talking about Hollywood star Smith, he added: "It’s because of his motivational words, the way that he carries himself and goes about his life, and his dedication to his craft.

"It’s something that I really admire and I’ve definitely applied that to my life. All of his work has been culturally relevant and poignant."

Showrunner Rasheed Newson admitted it was a huge responsibility to find the right person for the role.

He said: "I think that casting this role was the most stressful thing that either (co-showrunner) T.J. (Brady) or I have ever done in show business. You just can’t get it wrong and you’ve got to find somebody that everybody agrees is the one - all the way up to the real Will Smith.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Credit: NBC)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's cast. (NBC)

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"This person was going to be playing the role that put Will on the map. So we felt that the mandate was if you’ve got to impress just one person it’s got to be Will Smith, and Jabari did that with flying colours.

Brady added: "It was incredibly powerful to watch the video of Will Smith telling Jabari that he got the role as we witnessed the passing of the proverbial crown."

Newson has also hinted that fans of the original show can look out for plot developments mined from its famous theme tune which was performed by Smith.

He said: "If you listen to the words of the old original theme song, that could be a roadmap of Easter Eggs to look for. There are some mentions here and there and if you listen to the full song on Spotify or iTunes, there are some extra verses in there that we may even have pulled some things out of."

Bel-Air begins streaming on Peacock on Monday 14 February on Sky and NOW.

Watch: Bel-Air's first trailer