See The Cast of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Then and Now
How the ‘The Fresh Prince’ came to be a pop culture phenomenon is actually a pretty interesting story. Prior to the show, Will Smith had already tasted much success as one half of the hip-hop duo of 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 owed the IRS $2.8 million. In debt and with no choice, Smith accepted the 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 – 1996). Because of this sitcom, Smith went on to enjoy more success as an actor than he ever would have 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 becoming arguably the biggest movie star in the world.
Now: Smith recently appeared in ‘After Earth‘ with his son, Jayden Smith. He also had a role in ‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues‘ as an ESPN reporter. He’s currently slated to reprise his role as the titular character in ‘Hancock 2′ and has been rumored to star in the upcoming ‘Bad Boys 3.’
Alfonso Ribeiro, Carlton Banks
Then: Who could forget the Tom Jones-loving, dancing machine that was Carlton Banks, played by Alfonso Ribeiro? The actor/dancer already had a good deal of experience portraying a wealthy character due to his first TV role as series regular Alfonso Spears on ‘Silver Spoons.’ Perhaps this helped him bring some nerdy, energetic life into the Carlton Banks we all know and love. 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.’ Ribeiro also appeared on the Nickelodeon series, ‘Big Time Rush,’ as Block Captain McCallister and Disney Channel’s ‘Shake It Up!’ as Mr. Zigfield. 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 also performed the voice of the villain 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 highest profile role of the 21st century was most likely the recurring character of Dr. Crippin on ‘The Closer.’ More recently he appeared in episodes of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Harry’s Law.’ He passed away on Dec. 31, 2013 at the age of 68 after surgery for an undisclosed illness.
Karyn Parsons, Hilary Banks
Then: Parsons played 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 one season in 1996.
Now: Parsons hasn’t had any screen credits since a 2002 run on the Denis Leary sitcom, ‘The Job.’ She has since turned to producing, and 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 a 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 prime time with a starring role in the sitcom ‘Second Generation Wayans.’ She will also be in the upcoming films ‘The Impossible Dream,’ ‘The Divorce’ and ‘Locker 13.’
Joseph Marcell, Geoffrey
Then: Every fabulously rich TV family needs a butler. In ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ that role fell to Joseph Marcell, who played manservant Geoffrey. The famous, sarcastic drawl was the St. Lucia-born, British-raised actor’s real accent. We’re sure many of us would love to pal around with a butler as snarky as Geoffrey. Before ‘Fresh Prince,’ Marcell’s biggest 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. In 2013, he played the part of Fast Eddie in a thriller called ‘Fedz.’ He’s set to star in a movie called ‘Thrice’ in 2014, in which Shakespeare’s epitaph curse comes to life.
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 starred in many 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. Most recently, she voiced Aunt Denise in Grand Theft Auto 5.
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’ was 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. She played Principal Brown in 2013’s ‘Troop 491: Adventures of the Muddy Lions’ and will star as Mrs. Goodman in ‘Mr. Doula’ in 2014.
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 persona 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 made Uncle Phil’s blood boil.
Now: Townes continues to work in hip hop, most recently working on an album with Pittsburgh-based rapper Mac Miller.