See The Cast of ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’ Then and Now
But how the ‘The Fresh Prince’ came to be is actually a pretty interesting story too. Prior to the show, Will Smith had already tasted much success as half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. But Smith also had a tax paying problem and by the time NBC approached him about doing a sitcom, he was $2.8 million in the hole to the IRS and had no choice but to accept their offer.
This ended up being quite the fortuitous turn of events for Smith, as ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ aired to solid ratings for six seasons (1990 to 1996) and Smith went on to be a much more successful actor than he ever would’ve been as a rapper.
We all know what Smith is up to these days. But what about the rest of the cast of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’? Find out below.
Will Smith, Will Smith
Then: Will Smith was already a music industry superstar when he signed up for 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' which was his first foray into acting. In 1993 he displayed his dramatic acting chops in the film 'Six Degrees of Separation.' His next movie effort, 'Bad Boys,' began Smith's ascent into arguably the biggest movie star in the world.
Now: Smith's movie output has slowed considerably over the last decade. In fact, 'Men in Black 2' was his first role in almost five years. (He's been letting his kids share some of the spotlight.) This summer he's slated to star alongside his son Jayden in the sci-fi film 'After Earth.' He's also reportedly been in the studio cutting tracks for fifth album. It's safe to say we haven't heard the last of "Big Willie Style."
Alfonso Ribeiro, Carlton Banks
Then: Who could forget the Tom Jones-loving dancing machine that was Carlton Banks, who was played by Alfonso Ribeiro? The actor/dancer already had a good deal of experience portraying a wealthy character, as his first TV role was as series regular Alfonso Spears on 'Silver Spoons.' He also made a memorable appearance in a Pepsi commercial opposite Michael Jackson.
Now: These days Ribeiro is primarily a director, having most recently been behind the camera for 19 episodes of 'Are We There Yet.' He also still has fun with his famous 'Carlton Dance,' most recently during an attempt to set the world record for the biggest ever flash mob.
James Avery, Philip Banks
Then: On 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,' Avery played dad of the house the Honorable (and miserly) Judge Philip Banks. During that time period he was also performing the voice of Shredder on the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' animated series. Avery followed 'The Fresh Prince' up by starring with Terrence Howard in the legal sitcom 'Sparks.'
Now: Avery's most high profile role of the 21st century has probably been as recurring character Dr. Crippin on 'The Closer.' More recently he has popped on on episodes of 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Harry's Law.'
Karyn Parsons, Hilary Banks
Then: Parsons was Hilary, the fashion obsessed and aggressively dim-witted eldest Banks child. After 'The Fresh Prince' ended Parsons proved she wasn't such a dolt in real life by writing, producing and starring in the sitcom 'Lush Life,' which ran for a season in 1996.
Now: Parsons hasn't had any screen credits since a 2002 run on the Denis Leary sitcom 'The Job.' She's since turned to producing, and has worked on a series called 'Sweet Blackberry' which adapted stories of black historical figures to animation. She also keeps an active Twitter presence and likes to post photos of herself posing with her former 'Fresh Prince' co-stars.
Tatyana Ali, Ashley Banks
Then: Ashley, the youngest Banks' daughter, was played by Tatyana Ali. The role was the big break for Ali, who had made her screen debut on 'Sesame Street' as a six-year old. Also a singer, her 1998 debut record 'Kiss The Sky' went gold.
Now: Ali played Roxanne on 'The Young And The Restless' between 2007 and 2012. In 2013 she made the move back to primetime with a starring role in the sitcom 'Second Generation Wayans.' She will also be in the upcoming film 'The Impossible Dream.'
Joseph Marcell, Geoffrey
Then: Every fabulously rich TV family needs a butler and that role fell to Joseph Marcell, who played manservant Geoffrey. That really was the St. Lucia-born, British-raised actor's accent, and Marcell's biggest previous role had been on the late-70s BBC series 'Empire Road.'
Now: Marcell did an arc on 'The Bold and The Beautiful' in 2004. Since then he has been working predominantly in England on several BBC series.
Janet Hubert, Vivian Banks
Then: Hubert played Vivian Banks for the first three seasons of 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.' According to both Hubert and Will Smith, the two butted heads on the set, and that, along with Hubert's contract violating pregnancy, resulted in her from being fired from the show.
Now: Hubert did a bunch of episodes of 'One Life To Live' in 2010, and then guest-starred on 'House of Payne' in 2011. She also made waves recently by declaring there will never be a 'Fresh Prince' reunion because of her ongoing feud with Smith, who she called an egomaniac among other unprintable things.
Daphne Reid, Vivian Banks
Then: Instead of finding a new "Aunt Viv" who resembled the old one, Daphne Reid -- who looked nothing like Janet Hubert -- was given the part. (The character also changed personalities, becoming far less fiery.) The former model's biggest role before 'Fresh Prince' has been as one of the stars of the acclaimed '80s sitcom 'Frank's Place.'
Now: Reid had a run on the sitcom 'Eve' in the mid '00s and was last seen on an episode of the sitcom 'Lets Stay Together.' Along with her husband, actor Tim Reid, she runs a production studio in Petersburg, Virginia.
Jeffrey Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff), Jazz
Then: After a chance meeting with Will Smith in 1985, Jeffrey Townes famously became The DJ to Will Smith's rapper in the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince. On 'The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air' Townes played Jazz, Smith's buddy who consistently makes Uncle Phil's blood boil.
Now: Townes continues to work in hip hop, most recently doing an album with Pittsburgh-based rapper Mac Miller.