The coming-of-age drama series ‘Bel-Air’ tells the story of Will Smith (Jabari Banks), a teenager originally from West Philadelphia. At his school, he excels academically and is the star basketball player with a scholarship to the VCU in Richmond. However, his life undergoes sudden drastic changes after he gets arrested with a gun and is threatened by a drug dealer. Justifiably afraid for his safety, his mother sends him to live with her wealthy sister and her family in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angles.
As Will struggles to fit into his new surroundings, he fears that he will lose those parts of him that make him who he is. ‘Bel Air’ has much in common with ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ the iconic sitcom that ran on NBC from 1990 to 1996. If you are wondering whether ‘Bel Air’ is a sequel or a reboot of the original show, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Bel-Air a Sequel or Reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
While ‘Bel-Air’ and ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ belong to fundamentally different genres, we know they are associated with each other. ‘Bel Air’ is developed by Will Smith and Morgan Cooper. ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ is supposed to be the fictionalized version of Smith’s life. The Fresh Prince was his stage name as a rapper. He was part of a West Philly-based hip-hop duo with DJ Jazzy Jeff, who also appears as the fictionalized version of himself in the show. The truth is that ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was developed by record executive and talent manager Benny Medina and his partner Jeff Pollack using the early life of the former as an inspiration.
Medina is originally from the impoverished East Los Angeles but later moved to Beverly Hills to stay with the wealthy family of his white friend. While developing the show, Medina and his collaborators turned the host family from wealthy white to wealthy black for two primary reasons. Number one, there were already plenty of shows with the premise of black characters coming to live with white families. Number two, these changes allowed them to delve into black-on-black prejudice and black class differences.
‘Bel-Air’ is not a sequel of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ but a dramatized retelling. For a long time, Smith maintained that there wouldn’t be any reboot of the sitcom. But he saw Cooper’s 2019 fan-made trailer of a dramatized rendition of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ on YouTube and immediately fell in love with it. Smith later interviewed Cooper for his channel. And that eventually led to ‘Bel-Air.’
“The pilot for Bel-Air is all the nostalgia you’re going to want, but there are parts where you’re going to stand up and cheer and hold your mouth,” Smith said in an interview. “It’s such a perfect balance and a reimagining of this world. It’s going to be like, duh, yes, of course there’s a dramatic version of this story. Of course that would be brilliant. It’s like you’re in a new place and at home at the same time, and that’s such a difficult thing to pull off for [creator] Morgan Cooper and the team. I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Is Will Smith in Bel-Air?
No, Will Smith is not part of the main cast, at least not in the first season of the series. However, he is highly involved behind the camera as one of the developers and executive producers. He also took part in the promotion of the reboot. So, even if he doesn’t appear in this season, we can’t rule out that possibility if there are more seasons. It will be wonderful to see Smith making a guest appearance at some point in the series. On that note, other actors from the original series can potentially make an appearance as well. Tatyana M. Ali, who played Ashley in the first series, revealed in an interview that she loved the concept of the reboot.
“I think it’s brilliant,” she stated. “Flipping it and making it a drama is so dope. I think that’s part of this lasting power of the sitcom — it was based in real stuff.”
Read More: Is Bel-Air Based on a True Story?