You Might Not Recognize The Cast Of Fresh Prince Today

You Might Not Recognize The Cast Of Fresh Prince Today

12/08/2020

It may have been decades since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped, but the show is no less iconic now than it was in the ’90s. The show kept viewers enthralled for six seasons from its premiere in 1990 to its final episode in 1996. Who can forget the timeless rap that served as Fresh Prince‘s theme song, the show’s innovative breaking of the fourth wall, or the Carlton Dance? Fresh Prince has well and truly become a permanent and beloved part of pop culture.

The show’s premise was simple. Take an underprivileged teenage boy from west Philadelphia and send him to live with his affluent relatives in Bel-Air. The cultural clash made for some hilarious comedy, but Fresh Prince also explored deeper topics like racism and income inequality. At its heart, though, the show was all about family.

Fresh Prince‘s cast was incredibly talented, featuring legends like Will Smith (who was just starting his acting career at the time) and the late James Avery, who played the gruff but loveable Uncle Phil in one of his most memorable roles. Here’s a look at what the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is up to today.

Will Smith became one of Hollywood's leading actors after Fresh Prince

You probably know what Will Smith has been up to since he starred as the eponymous Fresh Prince on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Smith got his start in Hollywood on the hit sitcom and went on to become one of the biggest stars in the world. Smith has starred in dozens of films and shows over the decades. Post Fresh Prince roles include Independence Day, Men in Black, Hitch, Hancock, and Suicide Squad. Per Biography, Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Ali and for his role in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Smith is incredibly successful — Celebrity Net Worth estimates his fortune at $350 million. Over the course of his career, he’s starred in a variety of films across several genres, including romantic comedies and action films. “I’m having more life experiences,” he told Holmes Place about taking on more emotional roles as his career has progressed. “They enable me to connect to different, more complex, deeper human emotions.”

Smith is married to actress Jada Pinkett Smith with whom he has two children, Jaden and Willow. He also has a son named Willard Smith III with his ex-wife, Sheree Zampino.

Alfonso Ribeiro put the Carlton Dance to good use after Fresh Prince wrapped

One of the most enduring moments from Fresh Prince is that of Carlton Banks, played by Alfonso Ribeiro, performing what would later become known as the Carlton Dance to the song “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones. The iconic dance was later recreated in 2014 when Ribeiro competed on Dancing With the Stars. Ribeiro went on to win the competition.

Ribeiro has also done some acting since his days on Fresh Prince. His acting credits include Extreme Ghostbusters, Are We There Yet?, and Things We Do For Love. Ribeiro has also branched out into directing, beginning with a 1995 episode of Fresh Prince. Other directing credits include episodes of One on One, All of Us, Meet the Browns, and Shake It Up. Ribeiro is perhaps better known, though, as the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, a role he took over in 2015.

Ribeiro is a man of many talents and has been in show business for most of his life. For him, performing is all about enjoying himself. “My belief is that if it’s not fun, why do it?” he told The Manual.

Tatyana Ali became a Hallmark star after her time on Fresh Prince

Tatyana Ali was just a kid when she starred as Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She’s all grown up now, and has continued her acting career with great success. The actress has a number of film and television credits under her belt, including Jawbreaker, Hotel California, Buppies, Love That Girl!, and The Young and the Restless. Ali also became a Hallmark star with the 2018 film Christmas Everlasting.

Ali is quite busy outside of acting as well. As noted in her Hallmark biography, Ali is the co-founder of HazraH Entertainment. She is also an accomplished singer and Grammy winner who has toured with the likes of *NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys and has a gold record for Kiss the Sky, her debut album. Ali is also politically active and campaigned for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Ali is married to Vaughn Raspberry, a doctor (via People). The couple has two children together, Alejandro and Edward.

While she’s quite busy, Ali wouldn’t mind returning to Fresh Prince one day. “So many shows are back, and I’d love if we came back,” she said in an interview with Media Village

After Fresh Prince, Karyn Parsons became an author

The character of Hilary Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was played brilliantly by actress Karyn Parsons. The oldest child of the Banks family, Hilary was beautiful but entitled and not exactly the most likeable of characters. Parson later told Today that she “couldn’t believe [audiences] hated her [character] so much.” Hilary’s personality may have been grating, but it did add to the hilarity of the show.

After Fresh Prince wrapped, Parsons kept acting for a few years in shows and films like Melrose Place and The Job. Parsons has no acting credits between 2002 and 2018, when she appeared in the short film On Monday of Last Week. While Parsons took a long hiatus from performing, she still kept busy, launching a career as a writer. In 2019, her debut middle grade novel, How High the Moon, was published. “I’ve always loved writing,” Parsons told BookPage, revealing that she began studying the craft after Fresh Prince wrapped.

Outside of the arts, Parsons has also been focused on raising a family. CBS News noted that she is married to director Alexandre Rockwell and has two children.

Joseph Marcell made his Broadway debut after Fresh Prince wrapped

After he ended his time as Geoffrey, the butler of the Banks family on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Joseph Marcell continued to enjoy a prolific acting career. His acting credits include roles in the films and television shows The Bold and the Beautiful, EastEnders, That Samba Thing, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and The Man in the Hat.

Marcell didn’t restrict his acting talents to the screen, though. The Fresh Prince actor has been featured in a number of stage productions. As noted by the The Yorkshire Post, he’s been in several productions of Shakespeare’s plays including the lead roles in Coriolanus and King Lear. Other stage credits include The Tempest and Lady Windermere’s Fan.

Marcell made his Broadway debut in 2010, starring in A Free Man of Color. While he’s portrayed dozens of different characters since Geoffrey, it’s still arguably his most recognizable role. “Every day somebody reminds me of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” he told The Stage.

Daphne Reid continued to crush her career after Fresh Prince

Daphne Reid may not have been on Fresh Prince when the show first aired, but she became an indispensable part of the show when she replaced Janet Hubert as Aunt Vivian in its fourth season. Taking over the role was a pleasure for Reid, who told Black Girl Nerds that the first episode she appeared in was her favorite, as her introduction as Aunt Vivian was so well written and she “enjoyed jumping into that already running train and hanging on.”

After Fresh Prince wrapped, Reid continued her successful acting career in shows and films like Linc’s, Alley Cats Strike, Eve, Let’s Stay Together, Out of Gas, and Jacqueline and Jilly.

Reid’s career has gone far beyond acting. As she notes on her website, she’s also a photographer, author, and designer who has published several books including a cookbook memoir called Grace, Soul & Motherwit. Reid is married to actor and director Tim Reid.

Janet Hubert's career was rocky after she left Fresh Prince

Things may have gone well for the second actress to play Aunt Vivian, but Janet Hubert, the original actress to portray the role, didn’t have as much luck. While she did have some roles after leaving Fresh Prince, including parts in The Job, One Life to Live, and General Hospital, her career floundered.

Hubert spoke to Will Smith as part of the 2020 Fresh Prince reunion special, blaming him for damaging her career as his claims that she was difficult to work with tarnished her professional reputation. Hubert explained that she’d been going through a hard time at home, which led to “friction” on set. Hubert was eventually offered a “really bad deal” which she chose not to accept, leaving the show. Hubert said she “lost everything” after that. “Family disowned me, Hollywood disowned me, my family said you’ve ruined our name and I wasn’t unprofessional on the set,” she told Smith, as reported by Hollywood Life.

Smith apologized for everything that happened all those years ago on the set of Fresh Prince, saying he can “see now the level of pain and the level of struggle” Hubert must have been going through.

Ross Bagley didn't do much acting after Fresh Prince

Ross Bagley joined the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air halfway through the show’s run as Nicky Banks, the new baby of the family. Bagley was adorable and precocious, upping the cute factor on set. The role of Nicky isn’t the only one Bagley is remembered for — he also played Buckwheat in The Little Rascals. Bagley may have been a talented child star, but he only had a few film and television credits after Fresh Prince, including Independence Day, Profiler, Providence, and Gnome Alone.

Bagley seems to have found another career after leaving acting. A Facebook page for Bagley says that he was a real estate agent for Keller Williams as of 2017, although the page has not been updated since then. Bagley keeps a relatively low profile these days, although he does occasionally post snippets of his life on Instagram, including footage and photos of the 2020 Fresh Prince reunion where he seemed to be thrilled to reunite with his on-screen family.

Fresh Prince is DJ Jazzy Jeff's only acting role

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘s Jazz was played by Will Smith’s real-life music partner DJ Jazzy Jeff. While DJ Jazzy Jeff starred in several music videos with Smith before the debut of Fresh Prince, his role on the show was his first real acting gig. While he seemed like a natural actor, he told I Am Hip Hop that he never “even wanted to consider” acting and that Smith “convinced” him to give it a go. 

Fans remember well how Jazz got on Uncle Phil’s nerves and was constantly being thrown out of the house. After Jazz got thrown out of the house for the last time, DJ Jazzy Jeff could have continued his acting career, but Fresh Prince remains his only acting role. As he explained to I Am Hip Hop, he received a lot of offers but “turned them all down” in order to focus on his music career.

His music career has kept him occupied. DJ Jazzy Jeff noted on his website that he is “busy traveling the globe” and “playing good music all over the world.”

Fresh Prince's Nia Long is taking a stand against racism in Hollywood

Nia Long is best remembered as Will Smith’s girlfriend Lisa Wilkes on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Long portrayed the role from 1994 to 1995, taking part in some of the best and worst episodes of Fresh Prince, but what many don’t remember is that she appeared in a 1991 Fresh Prince episode of the show as Claudia Prescott.

Long has enjoyed a lengthy career since leaving Fresh Prince. Her film and television credits since starring on the show include The Best Man, The Secret Laughter of Women, Big Momma’s House, Judging Amy, Third Watch, Big Shots, House of Lies, Hand of God, Dear White People, Empire, and The Banker. Long has also turned towards production, beginning with the 2020 film Fatal Affair.

Long is using her platform to speak out against racism in the acting industry. “I am not interested in the old Hollywood ways that perpetuate stereotypes and segregation,” she told Insider, adding that she “can’t even do it anymore.”

Vernee Watson has kept busy since Fresh Prince

Vernee Watson may not have been in many episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but who could forget the woman who played Will Smith’s mom, Viola? Watson played the woman who sent Will to stay with his aunt and uncle in 15 episodes of Fresh Prince over the years. While her part was memorable, it was just one role in more than a hundred for Watson. The acting veteran has been racking up credits since 1970, when she had a role in the film Cotton Goes to Harlem.

Since Fresh Prince, Watson has been seen in a number of notable shows and films including Sister, Sister, The Young and the Restless, Antwone Fisher, Days of Our Lives, Suit Up, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, General Hospital, and Bob Hearts Abishola.

Watson chalks up her long career to her sense of professionalism. “On set, I would always try to know my lines, pay attention to direction, hit the right marks and just not waste time, get my check and then, ‘See you later,'” she told Soap Opera Digest.

Fresh Prince was Tyra Banks' first TV show but not her last

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had some memorable guest stars over the years. One of the most notable was Tyra Banks, who actually made her acting debut on the show. Before her arc as Jackie Ames, Banks had only been in a handful of music videos. Her role on Fresh Prince was the start of what would be a successful acting career for the supermodel. Banks now has many acting roles under her belt, including Higher Learning, New York Undercover, Love Stinks, Love & Basketball, Life-Size, Coyote Ugly, Felicity, Gossip Girl, Glee, and Black-ish

Banks is also known for judging America’s Next Top Model and hosting The Tyra Banks Show as well as America’s Got Talent and Dancing With the Stars. In fact, Banks has become so well known as a television personality that many know her for her presence on the screen rather than on the runway, and Banks couldn’t be more thrilled about it. “Thank God they know me as more than just being a mannequin,” she told The Guardian.

Jenifer Lewis has been a TV mainstay since Fresh Prince

Jenifer Lewis is one of the most famous guest stars to appear on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her career spans decades, dating back to an uncredited role in the 1988 film Red Heat. Lewis has over 100 credits on her acting resume, and appeared in eight episodes of Fresh Prince as Aunt Helen.

Lewis’ post-Fresh Prince acting roles are impressive and include appearances in Blast From the Past, That’s So Raven, Strong Medicine, Girlfriends, Meet the Browns, The Playboy Club, Think Like a Man, Secrets of the Magic City, Christmas on the Square, and Black-ish

Lewis is also an author and wrote a memoir called The Mother of Black Hollywood. The title of her book, as she explained to the Los Angeles Times, is a reference to having played the mother of some of Hollywood’s biggest Black stars in various productions. Some of her famous “children” include Tupac, Whitney Houston, Gabrielle Union, and Kevin Hart. “I’ve played [the mothers of] them all and had a good time doing it,” she said.

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