Fresh Prince of Bel Air Cast Updates
Where are they now? What have the actors from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air been up to since the show wrapped? Below is Interviews with the cast of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and details on their latest projects.
Best known as the preppy and affluent Carlton Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Alfonso Ribeiro has much more up his sleeve these days. Matter of fact, this handsome 30-year-old seasoned actor recently married his love of four-and-a-half years, and they are expecting their first child this fall.
"My experience on 'Fresh Prince' was amazingly wonderful. Everyone was great to work with. It's the greatest job I've ever had, " says Ribeiro. "Fresh Prince" ran for six successful years and consistently boasted the highest ratings for a prime-time comedy series. For his role as Carlton, Ribeiro earned a NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1996.
However, the re-runs of the show have been bittersweet for this actor, who often feels typecast from the character he portrayed. "People are still seeing me in that light from six years ago. It's a character, people. I'm not playing myself, that's why they call it 'acting!' The role has made it harder for me to do new work as an actor. For example, Carlton's character can't dance, but I can. I've been dancing since I was a kid. I don't think I'm anything like Carlton Banks. I wish that the re-runs would be over. Yes, I enjoy that it's bringing in money, but I would be bringing in more money if I could break [industry] people's perception that I'm not like the characters I portrayed."
Ribeiro had the dual opportunity to act and direct on the UPN hit sitcom, "In the House," where he played Dr. Maxwell Stanton. The show also starred rap artist LL Cool J. It was on the set of "In the House" that he met his wife, Robin. "She came in to tape an episode and I thought, 'she's hot.' I asked her 'what are you doing tonight?' We went to dinner that night and have been together ever since." Robin has a teenage daughter, Stevie-Jay, from a previous relationship. Robin and Alfonso married in January of this year are expecting their first child in September.
Directing is clearly in Ribeiro's immediate future. "People don't realize I directed on "In the House" and "Fresh Prince." I truly enjoy directing. I attended New York's film school two, three years ago. I enjoy looking at the words on the paper and visualizing how to make them come to life. As a director you have the entire image in mind and bring it to life. The creative process is really amazing."
Born in Harlem, Ribeiro has been in show business for more than two decades. At the tender age of 8, Ribeiro skillfully landed his very first audition for the PBS drama series, "Oye Willie," which launched his professional acting career. He made his first big break into TV when he became a regular cast member of "Silver Spoons" starring opposite another child actor, Ricky Schroeder. "Working on the show was a really cool experience, especially since Rick and I became best friends. We had a great time. But it was also a wake-up call. It was a bit of a shock. The industry is ruthless. All of a sudden your role is lessened because your performance is stealing thunder away from someone else."
Ironically, it's his good friend Rick Schroeder who introduced Ribeiro to racecar driving more than eight years ago. "I race in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and have traveled around the country racing. I also race shifter carts. They are like go-carts but the cart goes from 0-60 and back in 4.2 seconds." Ribeiro is also an avid golfer.
Recently, Ribeiro returned to his roots to perform in the New York musical, "Golden Boy." Ribeiro first gained world prominence in 1984 in the popular Broadway musical, "Tap Dance Kid," in which he played the lead role of Willie. The show won a Tony Award and Ribeiro, without any formal acting or dancing training, was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award for his passionate performance.
If you're looking to catch Ribeiro, you can see him on NBC's new comedy, "The Rerun Show." Or you might catch him watching "American Idol." "I love the show because it's real. It's different than the show I hosted, 'Your Big Break.' On 'American Idol' they are actually searching for a recording star."
Remarking on his years in the entertainment industry, Ribeiro said, "I've been in this business so long and traveled so much, now that I'm older, I realize I'm not your average 30-year-old." It's clear that Ribeiro's experience, success and talents make him anything but average!
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Perhaps best known for her role as Hilary Banks -- the spoiled, air-head, superficial Valley Girl on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC), co-starring Will Smith, Karyn Parsons graced our TV sets from 1990-96. However, Parsons is a remarkable contrast to the Hilary Banks character she portrayed for six seasons. Conversely, Parsons is incredibly down-to-earth, smart, talented and focused. In recent years Parsons, who grew up in Santa Monica, Calif., traded-in her L.A. lifestyle and moved to the Big Apple. "I just prefer living in New York. There's a far more human factor. You encounter so many different people and there's a different dynamic between the people. In L.A. it's hard to know how much of your agenda is really your own, how much are your thoughts and ideas and not what's just best for Hollywood. I feel so much freedom in New York, whoever you are, you are ok here."
Parsons, already a seasoned actor, added writer, creator and co-producer to her credit for her work on the Fox TV sitcom, "Lush Life," in which she also starred. The short-lived sitcom about two lifelong roommates who were drastically opposite in demeanor also co-starred the talented Khalil Kain ("Ali - An American Hero") and was co-produced by Parsons' former high school classmate and acclaimed producer, Yvette Lee Bowser (creator, "Living Single"). Regarding Parsons' behind the camera experience, Parsons remarked, "It was a different experience. There's a lot of head-butting you go up against. There are so many people in one room together that need to agree. Television is more risk-taking now. Before, people weren't willing to take the risk they are now." She cites alcohol references as an example, "In 'Lush Life' there was an episode with two single women drinking. We had to rewrite the script because they [the studio execs] weren't going to open a show with two single women drinking on television. Things are very different now...It was a learning experience. I met a lot of wonderful people."
"Mixing Nia," a 1998 film, was one of Parsons' more personal projects. Shot entirely in New York, the low-budget, award-winning independent film also co-starred Isaiah Washington. Nia (Parsons), a bi-racial professional working in a New York ad agency, becomes incensed and disillusioned with both her job and her lifestyle when she is asked to come up with a beer campaign aimed toward Black youths. Nia, whose mother is Black and father is White, decides that she wants to write the "great African-American" novel, only to realize that she has completely lost touch with that side of her heritage. Art imitating life, Parsons herself is biracial. She reflects on growing up: "I didn't encounter any direct racism, but I often wondered, 'Where do I fit into the equation?' My dad is White and my mom is Black...People should really think about what they say. Racism is racism. They should be careful wagging their fingers at what others are doing (referring to interracial dating). They should look inside and pay attention to what's going on inside of them. Everyone comes against something. But you have to be fair. Figure out a way to attack it. Tackle your own obstacles."
Speaking of overcoming obstacles, our discussion turned to the topic of cutting down the barriers for African-Americans actors. We focused in particular on the Oscars and Halle Berry, Denzel Washington and Parsons' former co-star, Will Smith. "It's so funny seeing Will on television everywhere. I'm so happy for him!" In regards to Halle, "as a fellow actor, I am so proud of her and her work! You can see she's got more to give. This is an historical time. Lou Gossett Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg won for supporting roles. The actors nominated this year are all leads. It's an amazing thing!"
Parsons is currently involved in an interracial relationship. She is very much in love with her White fiance, whom she speaks of affectionately. "I love him dearly. We live together here in New York." Together they worked on a film that will be released this August entitled, "13 Moons." Parsons stars in the feature film, along with Daryl Mitchell and Jennifer Beals. Her fiance, Alexandre Rockwell, co-wrote and directed the feature film.
You can currently see Parsons in her recurring role as Toni on the sitcom, "The Job," co-starring Denis Leary and Bill Nunn ("Mo' Better Blues"). "Denis' character, Mike, is a charmingly, totally dysfunctional cop. I play his girlfriend, but he has a wife. I threaten to tell his wife about us." She says laughingly, "Oh he's totally dysfunctional and extreme but the show is really funny. Bill Nunn, who plays his partner, is so straight-laced and his wife is his high-school sweetheart. They are totally opposite, but they are the funniest team." The critically acclaimed ABC comedy also co-stars Janet Hubert-Whitten, who played Vivian Banks (Parsons' TV mom) on "Fresh Prince" for the first three seasons of the show. "It's so funny. It's so great working with her again," Parsons says.
Parsons still keeps in touch with her "Fresh Prince" co-stars. In January, co-star Alfonso Ribeiro got married in Los Angeles and Parsons and her fiance attended the ceremony. She speaks affectionately about her former cast members. "We try so hard to stay in touch, but it's hard. Good thing they are my family. We can pick right up where we left off even if we haven't talked in awhile. It was great seeing Joe Marcell (Geoffrey) and James Avery (Philip Banks). I had just missed Will but I am so happy for his success. We play a lot of phone tag."
So as you can see, since "Fresh Prince," Parsons has been quite busy. She co-starred in "The Ladies Man" opposite actor/comedian Tim Meadows from "Saturday Night Live." Parsons recently attended the world-renowned New York Film School and you should expect to see her talents soar while directing, writing, editing and creating. Catch her every Wednesday night on "The Job" and look to see her again on the big screen this summer.
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In 1990, 22-year-old Will Smith seemed like old news. He was half of the Grammy-winning, platinum rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. He'd run through a million dollars and was nearly broke. Fresh Prince was a fresh start. "He said that when he got the show, he had a change of attitude," recalls costar Daphne Maxwell Reid. The young singer quickly became the spark plug--and anchor--of the cast. "He made sure the lines of communication were always open, and when he saw you in the morning, he gave you a big hug," says Tatyana Ali, who played his cousin Ashley. In '95, Smith gave his castmates a lavish gift: He paid the bills for them to redecorate their dressing rooms. "Mine was called Daphne's little bordello," says Reid. "It had a gold brocade chair with cupids on it." By '96, the Fresh One was ready to move on. He had proved himself in big-screen ventures like Bad Boys and had completed shooting Independence Day. The following year the actor married Jada Pinkett, now 28, who expects their second child this fall (their son Jaden is almost 2; Smith's son Trey, from a previous marriage, is 7). "All the things the Fresh Prince stood for, all the fun he had, still exist inside me," Smith, 31, who is training for an upcoming Muhammad Ali biopic, said in 1996. "Those just aren't the dominant aspects of my personality anymore. The Fresh Prince can still come over for dinner, but he has to go home after he eats."
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PHILIP BANKS Being the family patriarch was positively moony for James Avery, 51. "On one show before a live audience," remembers the classically trained actor, "I had to look out the door and call for Will Smith to come in. The audience couldn't see him, but there he was with his naked butt staring me in the face. I didn't normally hang out with twentysomething practical jokers, so sometimes he was a little much." Avery, a Vietnam vet who says he's still "an aging hippie, a child of the '60s," found a soulmate in British actor Joseph Marcell, who played the family butler. "We have similar backgrounds as professionals," says Marcell, "so we'd go on trips to Washington or New York together to see Shakespeare. I still stay at his house when I'm in California." But the classics didn't win arguments. Avery--a "big, gentle, supportive teddy bear," according to his wife of 11 years, Barbara, 56--rarely prevailed when there were issues about how Fresh Prince was run. "The name of the show was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not Philip and Viv of Bel-Air," Avery says. "If you didn't want to walk away from the best job in the world over a petty issue, you accepted the way it was." The end of Fresh Prince was particularly painful for the actor, who lives in L.A. near Loyola Marymount University, where Barbara is dean of student life. Says Avery: "For six years we were a family, and we loved going to work together. In fact, we loved it so much that when we had a week on hiatus, everyone would be saying, 'Isn't it time to go back to work yet?'"
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VIVIAN BANKS After three seasons playing Fresh Prince's nurturing Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, now 44, was shocked when NBC offered her a new contract with a pay cut and fewer episodes. She had recently given birth to her first and only child, son Elijah, now 7, with then-husband James Whitten, a TV writer. "I was very saddened," says Hubert, who exited the show. "We were a family." In 1994, Hubert sued Will Smith and NBC for slander, emotional distress and negligence. Neither the network nor the star will comment on the charges. The suit was unsuccessful. "Janet has always been exceptionally articulate and outspoken. I wasn't surprised when she spoke her mind about the disagreements on the show," says Hubert's brother Donald, 52, a Chicago trial lawyer. "Her leaving was painful," says costar James Avery. "Daphne Maxwell Reid [Hubert's replacement] brought her charm to the role, but Janet had her own spin. I missed the friendship." Castmate Tatyana Ali recalls that Hubert "was always doing pirouettes and turning and being alive." Now a single mom in central New Jersey, the Juilliard-trained actress does voice-overs for Doritos, Internet provider Esoterica and the California Lottery. Fresh Prince, though, never goes away. "Kids who weren't even born when the show started ask me when I'm going back," she says. "I say, 'Hello! It's been off the air for years!'"
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Daphne Maxwell Reid
VIVIAN BANKS Daphne Maxwell Reid, 51, was understandably nervous when she stepped in front of a live audience as wise and funny matriarch Vivian Banks in 1993. She followed Janet Hubert, who had played Viv for the show's first three seasons before departing after a rift with the network. Reid needn't have worried about her new gig. Will Smith gave her six dozen red roses and, recalls the actress, the cast "welcomed me with hugs." After that she had no trouble. "I was Aunt Viv down to my bones," she says. That came as no surprise to her actor-producer husband of 17 years, Tim Reid, 55 (WKRP in Cincinnati; Sister Sister). "Daphne is truly a people person," he says. "She becomes radiant and is invigorated by the exchange and excitement." Before shows, Reid boogied in the hallways with costar James Avery. "We were wild dancers," she says. And she excelled at giving Smith heartfelt advice. "He once quoted something I told him," says Reid. "'Never let failures go to your heart or successes go to your head.'" Reid has found success beyond TV. A former model and an accomplished seamstress, she created her own women's line, the Daphne Maxwell Reid Collection, for McCall's Patterns. She also spends time on the road promoting Asunder, starring Blair Underwood, the first feature completed at burgeoning New Millennium Studios, the $8 million, 60-acre business that she and Tim began three years ago in Petersburg, Va., where they live. "It's not like I won't breathe if I don't act," she says. "I want to do behind the scenes."
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GEOFFREY "I thought if Sir John Gielgud could play a butler [in 1981's Arthur], so could I," recalls Joseph Marcell, 52, of his decision to step into the role of Fresh Prince's punctilious Geoffrey. Trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company and a regular on the London stage, Marcell--who was born on the island of St. Lucia and raised in South London--was exotic to Fresh Prince's African-American cast. "I was the foreign brother. The first time we went through the script," says Marcell, "Will Smith stopped and stared at me. He hadn't met anyone like me before." Although castmate Janet Hubert found Marcell, "a really cool person," the actor had trouble with American slang. "People would say to me, 'Hey, baby, whassup?' and I'd say, 'Excuse me?'" Now back in the London suburb of Ealing with his homemaker wife, Joyce, 44, and daughter Jessica,11 (son Ben, 22, is in college), Marcell is on the board of the Globe Theatre and had a featured role in 1987's Cry Freedom, about the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa. And he's still proud of his breakthrough role on Fresh Prince. "At first I thought Geoffrey was a stereotypical English butler, not a stereotypical black butler," he says. "But he couldn't be a stereotype. There had never been a black English anything on American TV before."
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ASHLEY BANKS Sure, she had a tutor, but Tatyana Ali, who played Fresh Prince's adorable Ashley from age 11 to 17, also learned from her castmates. During breaks, the cast joined Ali in spirited debates about ideas and literature. "Tatyana was like everyone's daughter," says Daphne Maxwell Reid, who played Aunt Viv from 1993 to '96. Ali, now 21, was also a model student. In 1998 she enrolled at an Ivy League university, which she declines to name, and is now a sophomore majoring in Afro-American studies and government. "The young-Hollywood showbiz thing can get stifling," she says. Still, the actress, who began her career as a Sesame Street regular at age 5, hasn't forsaken all the action for academe. During the last year of Fresh Prince, series star Will Smith encouraged her to develop her singing gift. She cut an R&B CD, Kiss the Sky, which Smith coproduced in '98. Last summer she took a semester off to tour as an opening act with 'N Sync as well as the Backstreet Boys. Ali has only one regret about her Fresh Prince years. "I wish I wasn't so young," she says. "The others went to parties, and I couldn't. I was the only one in school!"
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CARLTON BANKS It was a good thing Alfonso Ribeiro, 28, started out as a dancer. When he was just 12, the half-African-American, half-Latino New Yorker was knocking 'em dead on Broadway in the Tony-winning Tap Dance Kid. Seven years later, as preppy Carlton, he had to stay on his toes to keep up with the on-set antics at Fresh Prince. "When someone had a plate of food from craft services," he recalls, "we'd smack it out of their hands. We finally had to declare a truce." Adds Tatyana Ali, who played his sister Ashley: "Alfonso was like my older brother. We'd get into fights about stupid things. When I turned 17, I started bringing my friends to the set. Alfonso didn't like that I was getting older, so we would have little tiffs. Karyn Parsons [eldest child Hilary] would have to say, 'Alfonso, Tatyana, you've got to talk and make up.'" Ribeiro, whose passion is racing supercharged go-karts, finished two seasons on UPN's In the House in '98 and stays in touch with his Fresh Prince sibs. "I really feel like he is my brother," says Parsons. "He probably knows more about me than anybody." He's chummy with Will Smith too, who cast him in last year's Wild Wild West music video. "We play very competitive golf," says Ribeiro, who lives alone in L.A. "Most of the time I win. But when he does, he really milks it."
HILARY BANKS "I'm an only child, so you can imagine the impact that Fresh Prince had on me," says Karyn Parsons, 33, who played the oldest Banks child, Hilary. She says that she soon became "incredibly tight" with fellow cast members. Recalls Alfonso Ribeiro (brother Carlton): "We had a real brother-sister relationship. She was my cheerleader." Parsons's biggest challenge was playing a shallow rich girl. "People wanted this black woman to get her head on straight," says Parsons, who grew up in Santa Monica. "But I liked her being flawed. Archie Bunker was flawed. You don't have to be morally upstanding for people to learn." Unlike her character, says costar Janet Hubert, Parsons "is sensitive and giving." Since Fresh Prince, Parsons, who is single and lives in New York City's Greenwich Village, appeared in the 1995 movie Major Payne with Damon Wayans and starred in the 1998 independent film Mixing Nia, about a biracial woman (it's no stretch--her father, Ken, a salesman, is white; mother Louise, a librarian, is black). The opportunity to get such work came directly from Fresh Prince. "It opened doors for me," says Parsons. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."