Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990)

How Old Was Will Smith in ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’?

Born in (North) West Philadelphia.
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From Bel-Air‘s pilot to the end of the first season, there’s been an almost weekly (or monthly in the off-season) discussion about the differences (good or bad) between it and the original show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Most of this has come down to plot, and how far the shows go regarding progressive politics.

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While some only remember a bit about class, gang violence, and Uncle Phil (played by James Avery) becoming a father-like figure, the original show regularly delved into still-discussed issues faced by people today. It was a sitcom format, limited by the default narrative favoring Black middle-class respectability politics, but it still talked more honestly than its high-profile Cosby predecessor. Bel-Air does this without the laugh track and garnered mixed reviews (that can’t all be homophobic attitudes about one of the major characters).

Because the show kept the premise of a young Will Smith (Will Smith/Jabari Banks) moving from West Philly to Bel-Air (California) into a mansion with his extended family (to escape street violence), much of the tension and story hits are comparable, too. Another similarity and an industry sample is having older adults play teenagers.

Jabari Banks’ and Will Smith’s Ages in the shows

Series Stars Jabari Banks, Adrian Holmes, Cassandra Freeman, Olly Sholotan, Coco Jones, Akira Akbar, Jimmy Akingbola, Jordan L. Jones and Simone Joy Jones
(Peacock)

Like many scripted shows, Smith was quite a few years older than the teenage character he was playing. When the first episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered in September 1990, Smith was 22 years old. Banks was 23 years old when the first episode of Bel-Air aired in February 2022.

The universal love for Smith’s portrayal of a fictionalized, younger version of himself launched the musician into new heights of stardom and proved to be just the beginning of his acting career. Hopefully, like his predecessor, Banks and all members of the cast are able to achieve a successful career in film and television, thanks to this show.

(featured image: NBC)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.