Recasting The Characters Of Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (If It Was Made Today)


The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was one of the most successful sitcoms of the ’90s. Airing from 1990 through to 1996, it starred now A-lister Will Smith as a young man who, after getting into yet another big fight on the streets of Philadelphia, is sent by his single mom to go live with his wealthy aunt and uncle in Bel-Air.

The fish-out-of-water story was hilarious as fans watched Will try to integrate into their uppity, lavish lifestyle, including living with a butler and going to private school. Meanwhile, the Banks family had to figure out how to handle this loud, oddly dressed young man who spoke in slang and listened to rap music.

RELATED: 10 Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Memes That Are Too Hilarious For Words 

It’s a timeless story and while the original cast recently reunited for a special, and a reboot is in the works for the streaming service Peacock, who might play the roles if the show were to have launched new today?

10 Will Smith: Jaden Smith

Will Smith Jaden Smith

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It seems logical that, if the show were to come to air today as a brand-new concept, Smith’s own son Jaden would be the perfect person to play the lead character. Jaden is already an actor and rapper like his father. He also bears a striking resemblance to him.

Jaden could totally pull off the role and his father Will could provide some pointers along the way.

9 Philip Banks: Laurence Fishburne

Philips Banks Laurence Fishburne

Laurence Fishburne is an accomplished actor with decades of experience under his belt. And while he might be a bit too old for the role, he could still pull it off.

Throw on a suit and fans could totally see Fishburne playing the Banks patriarch who didn’t take crap from anyone (he was a judge, after all) but also had a soft side. The role was originally played by the late James Avery, who passed away in 2013. He was 45 when the show started while Fishburne is now 59. But an older father and younger mother wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility today.

8 Carlton Banks: Caleb McLaughlin

Carlton Banks Caleb McLaughlin

Caleb McLaughlin might seem young, but it’s easy to forget that Smith was just 22 when the show started and Alfonso Ribeiro, who originally played Carlton, was just 19, the same age McLaughlin is today.

RELATED: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air: 10 Ways Uncle Phil & Geoffrey Aren’t Real Friends 

McLaughlin, of course, is best known for his role as Lucas on Stranger Things. Could fans see him playing a more playful, comedic character? And more importantly, could he pull off the Carlton dance? Chances are, he could do it without breaking a sweat.

7 Ashley Banks: Skai Jackson

Ashley Banks Skai Jackson

Just 18 years old today, Jackson has a great, fresh look to her that would make it super-easy to play the youngest Banks daughter Ashley. The role was originally played by Tatyana Ali, who was only 11 when the show started.

While Jackson would not be able to pull off playing an 11-year-old, it’s totally plausible that she could play a young teen if they aged Ashley by a few years for a re-do.

6 Hilary Banks: Yara Shahidi

Hilary Banks Yara Shahidi

Shahidi gained a lot of attention for her role as the eldest Johnson child Zoey on the sitcom Black-ish, followed by its spin-off Grown-ish. She is a talented actor who has already shown she can pull off playing the boy-crazy, spoiled daughter of well-off parents.

Her role on Grown-ish shares a lot of similarities with Hilary, the eldest Banks daughter, who was originally played by Karyn Parsons. However, Hilary was a bit more of a ditz than Zoey, but Shahidi could easily flip the script and play a less intelligent version of her Grown-ish character.

5 Geoffrey Butler: Lenny James

Geoffrey Butler Lennie James

Providing tons of comic relief for the show, Butler was, fittingly given his name, the family’s butler. Played by Joseph Marcell, he was quick-witted and would deliver insults under his breath that the family didn’t even catch on to half the time.

RELATED: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air & 9 Other TV Theme Songs That Defined The 90s 

Another brit, Lenny James, could totally play the role. Known for his leading roles on both The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead, James would be absolutely perfect as the sharp-tongued, passive-aggressive Butler.

4 Vivian Banks: Susan Kelechi Watson

Vivian Banks Susan Kalechi Watson

Watson is a force to be reckoned with as the wife of Randall Pearson on This Is Us and mother to their three children. She would make the perfect Vivian, modeled after the original character, which was played by Janet Hubert.

Of course, in one of the biggest sitcom shake-ups of the decade, Hubert was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid following some behind-the-scenes drama. But there’s no question the original Vivian was the best Aunt Viv. And Watson in that role? It would be brilliant casting, though it must be said there is an age gap between her and Fishburne that would need to be considered.

3 Jazz: Tyler James Williams

Jazz Tyler Williams

Best known for his leading role on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris and his short time on The Walking Dead as Noah (who died one of the most gruesome deaths), Williams is also a rapper.

He has the look and experience to play the hilarious and awkward Jazz, best friend of Will who would often show up to the house unannounced, only to subsequently get thrown out (literally) by Uncle Phil. Jazz was originally played by Smith’s real-life best friend DJ Jazzy Jeff, real name Jeffrey Allen Townes.

2 Viola “Vy” Davis: Taraji P. Henson

Vy Davis Taraji P Henson

An A-list actor, Henson can pull off pretty much any role that is thrown at her, from comedy to drama. And while the role of Viola was a small one, that of Will’s mother who only visited town from time to time, Henson is the type of actor who could make a big impression with only those minor appearances.

Viola often displayed pretty intense emotions, from love for her son who she didn’t get to see as much anymore, to upset over her decision to send him away, even though it was because she thought it was what was best for him. Originally played by Vernee Watson (no relation to Susan Kalechi), Henson would do the character justice.

1 Lisa Wilkes: Keke Palmer

Lisa Wilkes Keke Palmer

A recurring character on the series from the fifth season on, Wilkes, played by Nia Long, was Will’s girlfriend, and the one woman who finally helped him changed his womanizing ways. In fact, she almost married him twice until they realized that they weren’t ready.

A fiercely strong and independent woman, the character has Palmer written all over it. The singer, actor, and TV personality has plenty of experience in comedies, and most recently starred in the film Hustlers. She’d be a great fit.

NEXT: The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air: 5 Characters Who Got Fitting Endings (& 5 Who Deserved More) 


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Updated: November 11, 2020 — 4:00 am

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