Tatyana Ali Talks Joining 'Bel-Air' Season 2, Says Cast Has Made 'Fresh Prince' Legacy Their Own (Exclusive)

ET chatted with the 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' star about her new role on the dramatic reboot streaming on Peacock.

Tatyana Ali is headed back to a town called Bel-Air in a very different role than when she left it! The actress, who played Ashley Banks in the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, joined the cast of Peacock's Bel-Air for its upcoming second season, and she sat down with ET's Kevin Frazier to share her experience with the reboot's cast.

Season 2 of Bel-Air  -- which reimagines the Will Smith-starring '90s sitcom as a flashy, modern drama -- picks up with Will at a crossroads as a new figure comes into his life who challenges what he’s learned in Bel-Air and competes for control of his influence. He juggles this while navigating his home life with the Banks family and trying to rebuild the trust that was broken at the end of last season.

Ali joined the cast in a recurring guest star appearance as Mrs. Hughes, an English Literature teacher at Bel-Air Middle School. Her character sees promise in Ashley (Akira Akbar) and lends her books from her personal collection -- a full-circle moment for Ali, who admits it was initially weird to watch another actress portray the character she originated.

"I didn't expect it to be weird. I treated it like an opportunity -- [it's] this great job, the writing is amazing and Mrs. Hughes as a character is amazing," Ali shares. "She's a real mentor [and] she's feeding this young Black girl from her own library of books by Black women, Black radicals. This is what's happening right now, this is an amazing role. But then, when I got to set and found myself at Bel-Air Academy with children in the same uniform that I was in for all of my teenage life on Fresh Prince​​​​​​, that's when I realized like, this is really meta."

"I think after one of my final scenes with Akira, I asked the director, 'Are we finished? Is there another setup?' And he was like, 'No, we got it, that was good, we got it.' And I said thank you and I walked back behind one of the walls and [tears] just came down like a flood," Ali recalls. "It's just a full-circle moment and what my character was saying to her, it felt very much like I was looking at myself in a way. You always connect to your character like that anyway and the other actors in that way, it's always personal on some level, but this was just another thing."

The Fresh Prince star reveals that director Matthew Cherry -- who helmed several episodes of the streaming series -- connected her with Akbar before filming began, introducing the actors via FaceTime. 

"She's just so beautiful and so genuine... and I just told her, 'We're a very small sorority, it's just me and you. We're the only two Ashley Banks that have ever been,'" Ali shares. "'Do your thing, you know, let your light shine.' And I think she has, very much so."  

Ali calls it "awesome" to share the portrayal of Ashley Banks with another star, adding that she "didn't know that it would feel" that way when she first heard of the reboot.

"Reboots happen and this one happened in such a different way -- it's a complete reimagining, its own show, so I didn't know," she says. "But Akira Akbar is the reason why it's awesome. She's incredible. And I got to act with her, [which] was a part of my attraction to taking this part. And so the blessing that Ashley Banks has been to my life and what I've been able to share with the world doing it, I hope the same for her and more."

Kwaku Alston/Peacock/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

She shares a similar sentiment for series star Jabari Banks, who takes over Smith's reign as the "prince" of Bel-Air. Calling his casting "perfect," Ali says that the young actor shares the "It" factor that his predecessor has turned into an award-winning career.

"He's got this sort of soulfulness but also this real umph, like whatever the 'it' is, he has that," she tells ET of Banks. "We were just doing the press junket and he kind of breezed by and you just kind of feel it. Will's like that too. You just kind of feel it when they walk by, like 'Who's that?' He's got that."

Speaking of the original, Ali reveals that although she didn't speak with Smith -- who also serves as an executive producer on the series -- she shared some behind-the-scenes photos with the actor while on set. "I texted him some of those pictures and I said, 'I'm having the time of my life,'" she remembers, which Smith said "made him very happy."

While there's been no mention of other Fresh Prince stars making future appearances on the series, Ali says that she thinks her former co-stars would "have a blast" if they decided to join the cast. Daphne Maxwell Reid and Vernee Watson-Johnson -- who respectively starred as Aunt Viv and Viola "Vy" Smith in the original comedy -- guest-starred in season 1 of the series. 

Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

"I think we all feel very much like they've taken the initial concept of the show and made it their own and run with it," Ali says of her former Fresh Prince castmates. "That it is its own show and I think now that it's in its second season, the proof of concept is there. Now that they've got wings, they're going to fly with them... Somebody called it like a legacy -- I don't know if that's what it is -- but to have that on top of the emotional full circle-ness of it, is just... who gets to do that? Like when do you get to do that in your life or your career? It's cool."

Bel-Air season 2 premieres Feb. 23 on Peacock with three episodes, followed by a new episode every Thursday.