Bel-Air’s first season is about to wrap with the upcoming season finale, and outside of it being a hit, one thing is obvious, the decision to cast Jabari Banks as Will was a perfect one.
We focused on Cassius Life’s young icon, Jabari Banks, in the second part of our amazing conversation with Bel-Air’s Jimmy Akingbola and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Joseph Marcell. We asked the two gentlemen who both played Geoffrey on their respective shows about Banks taking on the task of reimagining this character in a different light and how he made it his own.
“When I met Jabari, we met in a car park, and we just connected straight away. I just noticed the essence and that energy. He was this young kid, we’re in the Universal Studios, and he’s just wide-eyed,” Akingobla begins. “But there was a sense of readiness. And then when I saw him on set, I think when you get into acting, I think your younger years when you get these opportunities, they’re very exciting because there’s a freeness that actors have. Because Jabari’s trained as well, but he’s so free with it. He’s not in his head at 20. When you see him in the flow, it reminds me of, especially that first season, Joseph, where Will was mouthing the words.”
“But he was so free. He was doing all sorts of things where it’s almost, oh no, we don’t do that on sitcoms, but he’s not even thinking about that because it’s his first job. And I think Jabari has that as well. And yet, in terms of a number one and leading man, he has a maturity about him as well that is fascinating. And when you’re on set, he brings it. So everybody’s bringing their A-game, but he does set the bar. And so I just think he’s done amazingly well, and I think… Even the way he got passed, guys. He’s from Philadelphia, he makes music, he can sing, he can rap. Do you know what I mean? He plays basketball. It’s just amazing. And so, for me, that’s not easy to have that role and to do it as well as he’s been doing it. And I can’t wait for people to see how far his career goes,” Akingbola further added.
And watching that young man, Jabari, in that first episode, it was almost, and I mean that in a very, very respectful way, a clone. Because what he had, he had this enthusiasm, this excitement, this irrepressible bounciness. And yet, there was a kind of dramatic tension in him that you could not but notice, and that’s what brought you in.
After seeing him in character, Mr. Marcell likened Banks to being Will Smith’s clone. “The extraordinary thing about it was that when you’re rehearsing, you don’t seek perfection on the first day, you kind of work to it. So you try things in different ways. And the most striking thing about Will at that time was he was able to do that,” Marcell began. “Now, as fellow actors watching that, you begin to see things. You begin to see a range. You see a versatility, a possibility. And watching that young man, Jabari, in that first episode, it was almost, and I mean that in a very, very respectful way, a clone. Because what he had, he had this enthusiasm, this excitement, this irrepressible bounciness. And yet, there was a kind of dramatic tension in him that you could not but notice, and that’s what brought you in.”
“Now, when you watch Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it is the opposite because his is charm and versatility, but you can’t take your eyes off him. And one’s modern, and one’s of the past. And I don’t know what the story is of his casting, but I think it really is perfect because I am sure he has what Will has with us, is that he was the leader of the gang. And yeah, superb. And I think it’s actually a coup for the show to have that young man leading it,” Marcell concluded.
Now that’s a dope way of saying Jabari Banks definitely understood the assignment.
Bel-Air’s season one finale arrives on Thursday, and checkout part one of our interview with Jimmy Akingbola and Joseph Marcell, where they talk about a Geoffrey spinoff show and the character becoming popular with the ladies.
*This interview was condensed for time.*
Photos: Peacock/ Getty Images