In several ways, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is an iconic show. The TV sitcom aired for six seasons between 1990 and 1996, and has had a significant and lasting impact on both television and pop culture. The show featured a predominantly Black cast and addressed issues of race, class, and culture. Evidently, it was one of the first sitcoms to do so with humor and authenticity. Additionally, the positive portrayal of a loving, wealthy Black American family in the affluent Bel-Air neighborhood countered negative stereotypes often seen in the media.
Consequently, the show was a huge commercial success. Furthermore, it launched the acting career of Will Smith, its leading man. It also left a positively indelible mark on the portfolios of its supporting cast. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped up 27 years ago, so of course, the cast members have since moved on from it. However, the show remains a significant part of pop culture, and its characters are still very much loved. The cast reunited in 2021 for an immersive, bittersweet reunion special, which aired on HBO Max.
Will Smith (William “Will” Smith)
Will Smith’s role as the titular character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a defining moment in his career. Evidently, it also had a significant impact on television and popular culture. In the show, he played the central character, a fictionalized version of himself. The success of Fresh Prince played a pivotal role in Will Smith’s transition from a rapper to a Hollywood superstar. This eventually led to a string of successful films in the ‘90s and after.
He has since built an extensive filmography and is now one of the most bankable figures in Hollywood. He has starred in many blockbuster movies, including the Men in Black franchise (1997 – 2012), Aladdin (2019), and King Richard (2021). For his performance in the latter biopic, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He has been married to actress and host Jada Pinkett Smith since late 1997.
James Avery (Philip Banks)
Uncle Phil was a standout and beloved character in the popular sitcom. The character was brilliantly played to perfection by the late-great James Avery. Avery brought a wealth of acting experience and talent to the role. Additionally, he had excellent on-screen chemistry with the rest of the cast. The veteran actor unfortunately passed away in December 2013 due to complications from open heart surgery. Before his death, Avery made multiple appearances in films and TV shows after finishing with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These include The Closer (2005-2007), Steppin: The Movie (2009), and Let the Game Begin (2010), among many others.
Janet Hubert (Vivian Banks)
Janet Hubert originated the role of Vivian Banks in The Fresh Prince. She was a prominent member of the main cast, but she only stayed on for the first three seasons. Hubert has appeared in many shows and movies since, including One Life to Live (2005-2010), General Hospital (2018-2020), and The Perfect Find (2023). She is a mother of one and has been married to Larry Kraft for 18 years. Hubert suffers from a skeletal disorder called osteoporosis and serves as the ambassador of the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks)
Daphne Maxwell Reid took over from Hubert and played Aunt Viv from season four until the end. Prior to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Daphne Maxwell Reid had an established acting career in both television and film. At the show’s conclusion, her career continued to take off, and she kept bagging roles. Now 75 years old, she’s taking on fewer roles these days but still very active. Her last two film roles were in Harriet (2019) and A Jazzman’s Blues (2022). Reid has also played the role of Janice in Bel-Air, a drama reimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, since 2022.
Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks)
Carlton Banks was known for his preppy and conservative personality, contrasting sharply with his cousin Will’s laidback and street-smart demeanor. Alfonso Ribeiro’s portrayal of Carlton remains one of the show’s most iconic and enduring characters. Ribeiro is celebrated not only for his comedic talent, but also for the depth he brought to the character.
Since his role as Carlton and the iconic “The Carlton” dance, which he was known for, Ribeiro has gone on to become a prominent actor, director, and entertainment star. He has also directed several episodes of shows, including In the House (1997-1998), All of Us (2006-2007), and Shake It Up (2012-2013). Furthermore, Ribeiro was the champion of the 19th season of Dancing with the Stars. He is also set to appear as the main host of the 32nd season of the dance competition television series.
Karyn Parsons (Hilary Violet Banks)
Karyn Parsons’ portrayal of Hilary Banks in The Fresh Prince contributed significantly to the show’s humor and dynamic. Parsons’ impeccable comedic timing and her ability to deliver sharp one-liners were quintessential to the show’s spirit. She has kept a relatively low profile since finishing with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and has only appeared in a handful of movies and shows. She has been married to director Alexandre Rockwell since 2003, and they have two children together.
Tatyana M. Ali (Ashley Banks)
Tatyana M. Ali was only 11 years old when she appeared in the first season of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her role as Ashley Banks allowed her to grow as an actress alongside her character, from a young girl to a young woman. Her character’s relatability and charm also contributed to the show’s appeal and legacy. Ali is now in her 40s, and has built up an impressive filmography since completing the show’s end. She has starred in several films and shows, including Glory Road (2006), Half and Half (2003), and Fancy Nancy (2018-2022). She is married to Dr. Vaughn Rasberry, and they have two sons together.
DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jazz)
DJ Jazzy Jeff is the second half of the iconic rap duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. He played the character Jazz, Will’s best friend in the show. Jazzy Jeff was a recurring member of the cast, but he also appeared on all six seasons of the show. DJ Jazzy Jeff became a prominent record producer in the music industry. He has since worked with many prominent artists and released multiple solo works over the last two decades.
Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey Butler)
Joseph Marcell portrays Geoffrey Butler, the Banks family’s loyal butler, in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His snooty, sarcastic wit provided much of the show’s hilarious moments. Following his role on the show, Marcell continued to work in the entertainment industry, appearing in film and television. Some of the shows and movies he has starred in are The Bold and Beautiful (2003-2004), The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019), and Ratched (2020) among others.