The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air turns 25 today (10 September). A 1990s TV comedy staple and the springboard that launched Will Smith’s film career, the show’s still beloved today – but what happened to the cast after the series came to a close?
Back in the day: Here they all are. How young Will looks. Remember when he spent the pilot wearing that same neon outfit from those unforgettable opening credits? Those were the days.
James Avery - Uncle Phil:
As well as live action, Avery was a prolific voice actor – he voiced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Shredder for years, alongside other major parts. He passed away in December 2013 at the age of 68, due to complications following heart surgery. Alfonso Ribeiro tweeted: “He was a second father to me. I will miss him greatly.”
Tatyana Ali - Ashley Banks: Initially playing the youngest of Banks family, Ali got a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 2002, and alongside her acting she also started a singing career – her 1998 R&B album 'Kiss The Sky' went gold, and single ‘Daydreamin’’ hit Number Six in the US and UK. After a 16-year break, she released an EP, ‘Hello’, in 2014.
Tyra Banks - Jackie Ames: Tyra Banks’ first TV appearance was on The Fresh Prince… in October 1993, at the age of 19, just a few years into her modelling career. After playing Will Smith's first major love interest, she went on to star in 2000’s Coyote Ugly, but since 2003 she’s fronted America’s Next Top Model and is now mega rich. So. Enough about her.
Joseph Marcell - Geoffrey Butler: Marcell, who played the softly spoken British butler Geoffrey, has gone on to do a lot of acting, not just on screen but also in the theatre. He appeared in seven episodes of EastEnders in 2006, had a bit part in Death In Paradise, and well received roles in Peer Gynt, and The Globe’s King Lear in 2013. Not too shabby.
Janet Hubert - Vivian Banks 1: Janet Hubert supposedly broke her contract with The Fresh Prince… showrunners by getting pregnant while playing the Banks matriarch. They had to work in a new son, Nicky, and Hubert was then fired. She’s since spoken about acrimony on set, but expressed a desire for a reunion. Beyond that, you may have heard her play Aunt Denise in GTA V.
Daphne Maxwell Reid - Vivian Banks 2: Ah, other Vivian. Carefree, kitchen-bound, job-free Vivian. Vivian that didn’t really fit in at all, because her character had completely changed. She’s has spent time on various other shows including Eve, Linc’s and Let’s Stay Together, but is also a photographer with a site called Fresh Prints. Ha.
Nia Long - Lisa Wilkes: Where is Nia Long now? Where isn’t she, more like: she's barely been out of work since playing Will's girlfriend, with roles in movies like Big Momma’s House and, er, Big Momma’s House 2. Seriously though, you might have seen her in House of Lies? Maybe The Divide? Trust us, she’s been busy.
Karyn Parsons - Hilary Banks: God, Will's cousin Hilary was annoying. So, so annoying. Maybe so annoying that Parsons decided to retire from acting in 2002. And now she’s doing great work as the founder and president of the Sweet Blackberry foundation, whose mission is "to bring little known stories of African American achievement to children everywhere".
Ross Bagley - Nicky Banks: The baby of the family, Ross Bayley joined the cast in 1994 and is now just 26. After The Fresh Prince… he enrolled at college in 2005 for a degree in cinema and television arts, and recently has been involved in three different horror films: Gnome Alone, Gilded Cage and Dead Ringer. He’s probably fine.
Vernee Watson-Johnson - Viola Smith: Watson-Johnson seems to have made guest appearances in virtually every American sitcom and drama since playing Will’s mother: ER, House, Desperate Housewives, Melissa & Joey – you name it, she’s done it. She’s a pro.
Jeff Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff) - Jazz: Jazz was a random, lovable goon, but Townes is nothing like. His 2007 album ‘The Return Of The Magnificent’ went Gold, he joined Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro on The Graham Norton Show, and he’s a prolific DJ, playing 100 plus shows last year. This year, he did scratch overdubs for the NWA film [i]Straight Outta Compton[/i], too. Not bad.
Will Smith - William Smith: Smith faded into obscurity after The Fresh Prince, leaving behind only the memory of his teenage self. Wait, that was Carlton. Will has not only had an illustrious movie career, he’s also formed a creative dynasty alongside his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Most of what they do turns to gold – we can all pretend After Earth didn’t happen, right?
Alfonso Ribeiro - Carlton Banks: All right, we said Will's cousin Carlton isn’t up to much, but that’s not true. Ribeiro's done loads of stuff. Like reality TV – I’m A Celebrity…, Dancing With The Stars and even The Graham Norton Show, where he did the Carlton dance. Yes, 19 years on he remains famous for the dance, but hey, that’s totally cool and undepressing!