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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air… where are they now?

June 8, 2007

The Fresh Prince of Belair was one of my favorite shows as a kid. I’m sure I’ve seen each episode at least three times. It was funny, had great characters, and is easily one of the best sitcoms of all time.

When asking “where are they now?”, there’s one character we obviously already know the answer to. Will Smith has gone from TV sitcom star to arguably the biggest movie star on the planet. Nearly every movie he’s been in has been a huge box office hit. Lately, he’s come out with some incredible acting performances as well, in films like Ali and Pursuit of Happyness.

The rest of the characters, from Uncle Phil to Carlton hold a special place in my childhood memories as well. Let’s see what the cast are all up to these days…


Will Smith (“Will Smith”)

Will Smith’s first break in TV was as the lead role in Fresh Prince, playing the title character. The show was immediately a hit, and within a few years his movie career started to blossom. The Fresh Prince ran from 1990-1996, and during that time, Smith filmed the low-budget Six Degree’s of Separation and the very successful Bad Boys, with Martin Lawrence.

His career exploded once he was finished with Fresh Prince. Over the next four years, Smith appeared in Independence Day, Men In Black, Enemy of the State, and his only real disappointment, Wild Wild West.

Since 2000, Will Smith has appeared in several more successful films, such as the sequel to Men In Black, Bad Boys II, I, Robot, Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, and even lending his voice to the enjoyable animated film, Shark Tale.

Smith has even managed to continue his music career, while still releasing albums, despite his busy schedule. In 1989 he won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance, for the song “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. He has also had several other hit songs, such as “Gettin’ Jiggy”, “Miami” and “Men In Black”.

For 2007, Will Smith has one movie being released, called “I Am Legend”. It sounds like it’ll be a pretty entertaining film. Here’s imdb’s plot outline: “Robert Neville is the last man alive. He busies himself with preparing for a nightly attack from the rest of the world – all of which have transformed into blood-thirsty vampires.”

Two other Will Smith films have also been announced for 2008. “Tonight, He Comes” and “Time Share”.

Will Smith is quite possibly the most successful sitcom to movie star of all time.


Alfonso Ribeiro (“Carlton Banks”)

As popular as Will Smith was on this show, Alfonso’s character “Carlton” came pretty close to being as popular. Everyone loved Carlton. He was the butt of all Will’s jokes, he was completely different than Will, he was as big of a nerd as you can get, yet you couldn’t help but love the guy. Everyone remembers the “Carlton dance”.

Alfonso Ribeiro’s career prior to Fresh Prince was nothing all that exciting, besides his two episode spot on Magnum, P.I. During the run of Fresh Prince, Ribeiro didn’t do a whole lot else. He appeared in a forgettable TV movie, one episode of A Different World, and one episode of freakin’ Bill Nye the Science Guy. Ok, that’s pretty cool.

His career post-Fresh Prince hasn’t been great, but most sitcom stars quickly fade into obscurity, while Ribeiro has managed to continue getting work.

After Fresh Prince, it appeared he may only be meant for voice acting, as he lent his voice to the animated shows Spider-Man and Extreme Ghostbusters.

He then landed a role on the LL Cool J sitcom, In the House. The role lasted for four years, and he appeared in 51 episodes. It’s rare to see a sitcom star land another successful sitcom role.

In the House ended in 1999, and since then, Ribeiro has appeared in the Amanda Bynes film, Lovewrecked, and had a few one-episode roles on various TV shows. He also hosted the talent show, Your Big Break in 1999.

He then managed to land a role on reality shows Celebrity Duets in 2006, and the incredibly popular Dancing with the Stars in 2007, which has put him back in the spotlight.


James Avery (“Uncle Phil”)

James Avery played the tough but loveable lawyer Philip Banks on Fresh Prince. He was a key member of the show, and I really enjoyed his work.

James Avery has had a pretty successful career since Fresh Prince ended. He has had an incredible amount of work over the past 15 years.

There’s one thing that made ‘Uncle Phil’ even that much more cooler to me. Something I didn’t know until now, is that James Avery voiced “Shredder” on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon! How cool is that? It appears he is quite regarded for his voice acting, as he has done quite a bit of it over the years.

Avery has lent his voice to other shows such as Gargoyles, Duckman, Spider-Man, Extreme Ghostbusters, The Wild Thornburry’s, The Prince of Egypt, among others.

He has also appeared on many TV shows. Among them, include Murder One, In the House, C.S.I., Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, The Jamie Foxx Show, Strong Medicine, Dharma & Greg, Judging Amy, That 70’s Show, Crossing Jordan, Reba, Charmed, NYPD Blue, My Wife & Kids, The Closer and many, many more.

Among all the TV work, he has also had roles in several movies, although not many worth mentioning.

He is currently working on Steppin: The Movie, which may sound familiar, as it also stars several Family Matters cast members.


Karyn Parsons (“Hilary Banks”)

Karyn Parsons played Will’s attractive, but incredibly ditsy cousin, Hilary. She was stuck up, and was always shopping, and asking for more money from Phil. Hilary, who during one point during the show was an environmental activist, ending up getting her own day-time talk show, “Hilary!”. She fell in love with news anchor,”Trevor Newsworthy” (later known as Trevor Collins), who died in a bungee jumping accident while proposing to her.

Karyn Parsons’ career has been nothing to write home about (or rather, blog about?) since Fresh Prince ended. In 1995, just before Fresh Prince finished, she had a significant role in the film, Major Payne.

Besides a two-episode role on Melrose Place in 1999, and a bit part on the 2000 film Ladies Man, she hasn’t really done anything worth mentioning since Fresh Prince ended way back in 1996.

In 2002, she guest starred on the TV show, 13 Moons, where she met and fell in love with director Alexandre Rockwell. The two are now married with one child, and live in New York. She also has two other children with her previous husband, actor Randy Brooks (“Arthur Leeds” from The West Wing).


Tatyana Ali (“Ashley Banks”)

Tatyana Ali starred as the youngest of the Banks’ family, Ashley. Ashley and Will were always close, and Will was constantly looking out for her and making sure she stayed out of trouble. However, because of all the time she spends with Will, she becomes something of a “rebel” as she gets older.

Ashley at one point starts a singing career, and is a one-hit wonder. At the end of the show, she moves to New York with her sister Hilary, and they plan on living together.

Before Fresh Prince, Tatyana appeared in a few episodes of Sesame Street, in an episode of The Cosby Show, in the film Crocodile Dundee II, and even in a sketch on Eddie Murphy’s stand-up show, Raw.

Like Alfonso Ribeiro and James Avery, she also appeared in In the House, in a 1995 episode.

Since Fresh Prince has ended, she’s landed a few half-decent roles. She was in the Morgan Freeman/Ashley Judd hit, Kiss the Girls, playing Freeman’s daughter. She has also appeared in the films Nora’s Hair Salon, Nation Lampoon presents Dorm Daze, and Glory Road.

After showing off her singing abilities on Fresh Prince, she received a record deal, and released her album, “Kiss the Sky”, in 1998. One single from the album, “Daydreamin'” was certified Gold and even managed to land on Billboard Top 100 Singles, eventually peaking at sixth.

Tatyana Ali has a few films coming out over the next year. She’s completed work on the sequel, Nora’s Hair Salon 2, and has landed a role in two other films as well; Privileged and Hotel California.


Joseph Marcell (“Geoffrey Butler”)

Joseph Marcell played the incredibly dry, yet funny, “Geoffrey”, the Banks family’s British butler. The story of why he left England to become a butler is quite hilarious. According to Wikipedia, he “was an Olympic runner several years before being hired by the Banks family, but fled his home country in shame after cheating in a race and being slapped by the Queen of England. In the 1970s, he was a butler for the band Led Zeppelin.”

He was affectionately called “G” by Will, and in return, always called Will, “Master William”.

After Fresh Prince ended, Marcell has appeared in a few TV shows, such as Living Single, Brothers & Sisters, Jericho and like many other Fresh Prince characters, he also appeared in In the House.

In 2003, he landed a role in The Bold & The Beautiful, where he appeared in 12 episodes over two seasons. In 2006, he had a role on the UK hit EastEnders, where he appeared in 7 episodes.


Janet Hubert-Whitten (“Vivian Banks”, 1990-93)

Vivian Banks was played by two different actresses during the show’s run. From 1990-1993, she was played by Janet Hubert-Whitten.

Hubert-Whitten left the show because of contract issues, and it may also have had to do with the fact she was pregnant at the time.

After leaving Fresh Prince, she landed one-episode roles on television shows Coach, The Pretender, The Jamie Foxx Show, NYPD Blue, Gilmore Girls, and in a 2002 episode of Friends. She appeared in two episodes of The Bernie Mac Show, and most recently landed a four-episode role on One Life to Live in 2005.


Daphne Reid (“Vivian Banks”, 1993-96)

Daphne Reid took over the role of Vivian Banks in 1993. She appeared in 57 episodes during her run (compared to Hubert-Whitten’s 69 episodes).

Her career prior to Fresh Prince was filled with several acting jobs, but since it ended, her career has seemed to have slowed down. She has appeared in episodes of Sister, Sister, Crossing Jordan, and had a reoccurring role in Eve.

Most recently, she appeared in the TV movie, Polly & Marie.


Other Characters…

DJ Jazzy Jeff (“Jazz”)

DJ Jazzy Jeff played a version of himself on The Fresh Prince of Belair. He was “Jazz”, Will’s dim-witted friend. He had a long lasting crush on Hilary, and at one point she even falls for him, but he eventually married a prison inmate named Jewel, which he then quickly divorced.

The one thing you may remember most about Jazz, is the on-going gag of Uncle Phil throwing him out of the house. Something I don’t remember noticing at the time was that they actually used the same clip of him being thrown-out every episode.

DJ Jazzy Jeff hasn’t done anything else as far as acting is concerned, with Fresh Prince being his only acting work. He continues to work on his music career.


Ross Bagley (“Nicky Banks”)

Nicky Banks was Phil and Vivian’s third child, and was born during the 1993 season. Although the character began in 1993, Ross Bagley didn’t start playing the character until the 1994 season. He appeared in 25 episodes during his run.

In 1994, Bagley appeared in the film, The Little Rascalz, playing the popular “Buckwheat”. He also provided the voice of “Puppy” in the 1995 film, Babe.

After Fresh Prince, he landed a small role in Independence Day. He has also appeared in episodes of The Profiler, Providence, and The Wild Thornburry’s. His only work since 1999 has been in one episode of Judging Amy in 2004.


Nia Long (“Lisa Wilkes”)

Nia Long appeared in 16 episodes of The Fresh Prince, playing Will’s girlfriend Lisa. They became engaged and made it to the ceremonies twice, but never actually got married during the show’s run.

Nia Long has become a successful film actress appearing in films such as Soul Food, The Best Man, Stigmata, Boiler Room, Big Momma’s House, Are We There Yet?, Big Momma’s House 2, Premonition and Are We Done Yet?


There were several other reoccurring characters, such as Will’s Mom, Vy Smith (Vernee Watson-Johnson), Aunt Helen (Jenifer Lewis), Trevor Collins (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Judge Carl Robertson (Sherman Hemsley) and Fred Wilkes (John Amos).

An interesting trivia bit is that well-known model Tyra Banks appeared in 7 episodes as “Jackie Ames”, the object of Will’s desire during the fourth season.

So, we now know what the rest of the cast (if you didn’t know what Will Smith has been doing, you obviously were in a coma the past 10 years) are up to these days.

If you missed my past “Where are they now?” posts you can click the links below to check them out.

> Saved by the Bell … where are they now?

> Family Matters … where are they now?

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21 comments

  1. I hoped you would do Fresh Prince one day! This is my all time favourite show on tv. I think I can still sing the entire theme song =)
    Will was always my fav, but Ashley was a close second. That’s funny to hear she was in Kiss the Girls. I remember liking that show alot, but I just didn’t recognize her I guess!


  2. We spotted Carlton in a McDonald’s commercial a coupe years ago. Kind of sad in its own way.


  3. My favorite Fresh Prince episode is the one where Bell Biv DeVoe is filming a video at the house, and Will and Jazz keep trying to dance their way into it, and then Ashley and her Girl Scout friends come home and flip out.


  4. Fresh Prince was one of my all-time faves.

    Wild, Wild West has to be one of the worst movies of all time. Apparently, Smith turned down the lead role in the Matrix trilogy to film that wreck. Ouch!!! At least he recovered OK.


  5. Good stuff…but how could you forget to mention Alfonso Ribeiro on Silver Spoons way before Fresh Prince??


  6. Yeah – you shortchanged Alfonso in your depiction of his pre-“Fresh Prince” career. Remember he was the original “Tap Dance Kid” on Broadway, before Savion Glover took over the role. Alfonso left “The Tap Dance Kid” after Michael Jackson and Hollywood discovered him. Michael Jacko took an interest in Alfonso and cast him in that memorable Pepsi commercial that you can see on YouTube. From there he put out his own album (tween-hearthrob-style) and became kind-of the “boy next door” of the break-dancing craze (he had his own “Poppin and Locking” commercial/product). Then from there it was Silver Spoons – then, after a brief “lull” in his career during which he obviously went through puberty, turned up as “Carlton” on “Fresh Prince”.

    So give “Carlton” more credit, will ya? đŸ˜‰


  7. Well, the post was about what they are up to “now and since Fresh Prince”, not what they did before. But thanks for the info, anyways!


  8. Yeah i think,unlike protagonists of Diff’rent Strokes,
    the Frish Prince’s actors are not only very successfull artists,but they also are satisfied and excellent persons in life.


  9. […] other roles. Mostly just TV movies and the odd TV appearance. He did appear on two episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as a role in the Sinbad comedy, First Kid. In 1997 he had a lead role opposite Kirsten […]


  10. nicky was their fourth child


  11. This show is my reason for living. haha!

    No I really love it. It never gets old! Love having it on while I’m studying or whatever…helps to get you through some pretty rough nights like those!


  12. fresh prince of belia they look oh my gosh.


  13. they looked better


  14. they looked better when they were in the show and yonger


  15. I just wanted to hip you to another role Alfonzo Ribeiro played in…He played Alfonzo on Silver Spoons. He was Ricky Schroeder’s best friend on the show.


  16. Another thing not noted about Alphonso Ribeiro is that he’s apparently a director in demand, although the only show I’ve seen him credited for directing is “All of Us,” the UPN/CW show produced by Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith…


  17. Best show ever. Kudos to Will Smith. My kids love him. He was a great role model then and he is still one now!!!!!!!!! (Nicky was their fourth child). God bless all of the cast.


  18. Nicky was the fourth child not the 3rd.
    Hilary-first
    Carlton-second
    Ashley-third
    Nicky-fourth

    This is my favorite show of all time. I watch it twenty four seven and my love for will smith is to much to comprehend..hehe!

    i never miss any of his movies.


  19. I loved the Fresh Prince of BelAir show,and enjoyed the reruns over and over again — for at least five to six times.

    Is Tatyana Ali related to Mohammed Ali?
    What type of family backround does she have, and who are her parents?

    I wish Will Smith and his Fresh Prince of BelAir castmates could do a movie together. It could be similar to the show or something totally different than the show. This would be a great opportunity for all the cast members. I’m sure everyone would love to see them together again. They are all very talented!


  20. Couldn’t they do a special 1 hour show (new) with all the cast? It would be great!


  21. The two comments above me have very good ideas, movies sounds so good!



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