'Bel-Air' Star Jabari Banks Reveals the Career Advice He Got From Will Smith (Exclusive)

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Jabari Banks is lacing up his sneakers and stepping into the role of Will for the new Peacock original series, Bel-Air, based on the hit '90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Banks chatted with ET's Denny Directo about getting the blessing of the OG lead of the show, Will Smith.  

“He's my hero, man, and he's been such an inspiration for me and the show has been such a defining show for my life,” Banks tells ET. “So, to be in this position is great.” 

Banks is making his acting debut in the Peacock original series and already has Smith’s full support.  

“He’s given me a lot of advice on how to go about this career in general,” Banks says. “The biggest thing I think he would say for this role is just to be myself. Because that’s what he was doing up there as the Fresh Prince in the original series that we all know and love. He was just being himself.”  

'Bel-Air'
Peacock

He continues, “He wasn’t trying to be anybody else. So that was the biggest surprise for me was just to lean into my instincts, lean into my upbringing, remember who I am and be authentically me on camera. I’m so blessed to have this opportunity to do that in front of the world and to take on these shoes.” 

Smith played the lead role in the '90s sitcom from 1990 until the show’s end in 1996. Today, Smith serves as an executive producer on the reimagined series. Making the experience even better, Smith personally delivered the news to Banks that he got the role. 

Banks says that he hopped on a Zoom call expecting to do more rehearsals but quickly found out that it was something bigger.  

“I thought that it was prerecorded video 'cause his camera was so clear,” Banks says. “But he goes, ‘Yo, what’s up, Philly, what’s up, Philly?’ I'm like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?' and he’s like, ‘I want to congratulate you. You got the part of Will in Bel-Air,’ and man my mind exploded. I was over the moon. It was really surreal." 

Jabari Banks Will Smith

Will Smith and Jabari Banks attend 'Bel-Air' premiere party and screening at Barker Hangar on Feb. 9, 2022 in Santa Monica, California.

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Banks, who, like Smith, is from Philly, is prepared for the next level of fame and the audience’s reaction. “I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m really focused on the work,” he says. “So I’m focused on the craft, focused on the situation that is happening and the 16-year-old young man’s life and living in that situation because the stakes are high.” 

For fans of the original, Banks says that Bel-Air honors the original’s storyline and iconic characters. “You will see all of the characters that you know and love. Cassy Freeman, who plays Aunt Viv, she said it so beautifully, that if you went into all of the characters' diaries and you saw their inner workings of how they felt, moment to moment, and what the situations that were going on in their life, that’s what we’re doing with this show,” he says.  

“It’s gonna be super exciting to see and we always drop the Easter eggs and the tidbits from the original," he adds. "There’s a lot of great callbacks, so that’ll be super exciting for OG fans to see and watch.”  

Bel-Air begins streaming on Peacock Feb. 13. 

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