Introducing The Cover Stars Of Teen Vogue's February Issue - Jabari Banks, Akira Akbar, Olly Sholotan, and Coco Jones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran from 1990 to 1996 and starred Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself, is a tentpole of American popular culture and a landmark of Black representation on television. Within the comedic framework of a fish-out-of-water story, the beloved series simultaneously celebrated the bond of a Black family while also navigating the complexities of being Black in 1990s America. It’s a story of kinship steeped in flair and overpowering joy that helped push the boundaries of television — a story that has now been reimagined for a new generation. On February 13, Peacock will debut its new drama Bel-Air, with Cooper at the helm of the contemporary, inspired, and magnified approach to the iconic series.
Jabari Banks was fresh out of theater school when he was cast as Bel-Air’s Will, and received the news on a surprise call with Smith. The 23-year-old is a newcomer to the industry, just like Smith was when he transitioned from burgeoning rapper-to-actor back in 1990.
Olly Sholotan. In Fresh Prince, Carlton is one of the comedic backbones of the show, frequently used as a punchline. Bel-Air’s Carlton wields more power, but heavy is the head that wears the crown — especially when a Fresh Prince begins to encroach on his territory. In an early episode, we see Carlton fighting to cope with the pressures and consequences of Will’s arrival, a change that only amplifies the struggles he tries to hide. Carlton’s storyline positions the character to engage with heavier, edgier issues throughout the season, like mental health struggles and substance dependency.
The character of Hilary Banks is turned on her head. The ditsy, spoiled fashion icon who became one of the most notable contributions to pop culture’s bougie Black girl archetype is now a go-getter girl boss and content creator in 2022. The modern version of Hilary is a bonafide multi-hyphenate with big dreams of becoming a chef. Yet, her vision of how to achieve these dreams drastically diverges from her parents’ traditional plans, which starts to create cracks in their relationship. Even so, Hilary’s broadened unrelenting confidence is an update to the character that Coco Jones relates to on a personal level.
For 15-year-old Akira Akbar, who made waves in 2019 as young Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel and plays a socially-conscious Ashley Banks in Bel-Air, taking on the role meant trying to find a steady balance between honoring the original portrayal and bringing something new to the character — especially since the original series was before her time.
According to the actors, refining this balance was one of the most challenging, crucial — and at times, exciting — aspects of the project.
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