Bel-Air, which received much acclaim and fan love for its dramatic reimagining of the beloved 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, returned for season 2 this week. When the series opens, Will Smith runs into trouble in Wes Philadelphia and his mother sends him to live with his aunt and uncle in the wealthy LA suburb of Bel-Air. When Will moves in with his family and starts at the same school as his cousin, he tries to find his footing and figure out his place in this new world.
Bel-Air’s second season explores the aftermath of Will learning secrets about his father and the feeling of betrayal after discovering Uncle Phil was hiding things from him. Will explores LA outside of Bel-Air, getting back to his passion for basketball and the future it could provide. Will also reconnects with his family, to Ashley’s great joy, while Hilary splits focus between her new managerial role in the influencers space and her relationship with Jazz.
Screen Rant spoke with Cassandra Freeman, Coco Jones, and Akira Akbar about Bel-Air season 2. Jones broke down Hilary’s relationship with Jazz and how her job will impact it. Freeman, who plays Aunt Viv, explained some of the changing dynamics within the family and Phil’s concerns about Will’s new basketball mentor. Akbar teased the importance of Tatyana Ali’s character to Ashley.
Cassandra Freeman, Coco Jones & Akira Akbar On Bel-Air Season 2
Screen Rant: Bel-Air is one of the most amazing shows on television. Cassandra, at the start of the season, Geoffrey and Will have both gone. Viv has found her art fellowship and she’s really concentrating on her art. How does that affect her relationship with Phil? How have Will and the rest of the Banks’ family changed from season 1 to season 2?
Cassandra Freeman: Big questions here, my friend. Thank you for coming in with the energy. The family dynamic shifts dramatically not having Will or Geoffrey in the house. Geoffrey not being there will make it very difficult for me to be an artist. For me, the first goal is get Geoffrey back in this house; to get Will back in this house.
She dives more into her art, and it seems a little bit like her position with Phil has changed as well.
Cassandra Freeman: I think when people know you as being their support system, things can get very uncomfortable when they are too busy in their own world. And you will see Vivian get very myopic into her world. She’s gonna get very diligent about trying to build this thing and, really, no one is pouring into her. She’s always tending to everyone else’s garden.
Now her garden is starting to get quite weathered from the storm of it all, but actually Hilary becomes a blessing in her life. And there’s some other blessings that happen, but also she has to push some other people to the side and have to raise her husband to understand who he needs to be to. She’s got a lot of things to take care of.
Coco, Hilary’s new position at the influencer house comes with some challenges, especially with their friend Ivy. How does she handle more of the managerial role in the influencer space and navigate her partnerships with other influencers?
Coco Jones: I think she’s just trying to balance this and figure everything out. She’s still a young woman who has a lot of goals but maybe doesn’t know exactly the specifics of how to attain all of those things. And that power struggle between her and Ivy is multilayered, because they also are very similar, and they could really be great friends if they didn’t have so much competition blinding them at times. And then other times they get along great. I think she’s just trying to figure out the balance, like any young woman really is.
Akira, there’s a real passing of the torch moment this season, especially with the fist bump between your Ashley and Tatyana Ali, who’s on the show as Mrs. Hughes. Can you talk about the impact that Mrs. Hughes has on Ashley, and how she changes Ashley’s perspective on the world a little bit?
Akira Akbar: I think that Mrs. Hughes really puts a big impact on Ashley, starting off from when she gives her a book to read. It just makes Ashley more open to taking advice and wanting to learn. Really, what Mrs. Hughes helps her do is learn obviously, because she teaches. But Mrs. Hughes gives Ashley a very valuable lesson that she uses basically throughout the whole season.
Cassandra, Will focuses on basketball this season. And he finds a new mentor and Doc Hightower, which makes Uncle Phil really nervous. How does Viv view Doc Hightower, and how does that differ from how Phil views him?
Cassandra Freeman: I feel like I’m actually married to Phil right now. First of all, we’re always in alignment about how we feel about people. But I’m just happy that Will has something that is positive that he’s focused on, especially once certain things are taken away from him, that becomes basically the only place he can turn to to sort of finish off this world of basketball. So, I think it’s fine.
But I really think the story is about how men recognize what other men are doing underneath the surface, and so she doesn’t peep things the way Phil peeps it. And at the same time, it becomes about how young people don’t understand the energy of people, and how that might change their future and the way an adult may understand. I just think there are a lot of generational and sort of gender things that are happening all at once. They’re getting kind of messy.
Coco, I love the relationship with Hilary and Jazz. Can you talk a little bit about the relationship? It seems that Hilary wants to keep the relationship private, even though she’s a public figure, whereas Jazz wants to really be public.
Coco Jones: I think Hilary really evolves this season, because I think she is very known for being this girl boss who has this driven way about her. But when it comes to her relationship, I think there’s a lot of intimidation about being vulnerable, possibly being hurt, or being judged by the internet. She’s a social media influencer, and so that is her world. That is her job.
And that fear of taking that public commitment somewhere public opinions can be seen and read and retweeted. I think there’s a lot that Hillary evolves through with these very common storylines. I feel like that’s a very normal in this day and age to feel like scared to take your relationship public or be scared of possibly being hurt and not being sure of your personal life, but being very sure of your career.
A dramatic adaptation of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Bel-Air follows Will Smith, a street-smart teen from West Philadelphia who gets into trouble. To protect him, Will’s mother sends him to live with relatives in LA’s wealthiest suburbs, which is only the beginning of a complicated journey for the teenager.
Check back for our other Bel-Air season 2 interviews:
Next: Bel-Air Finale Hints At Repeating Fresh Prince Season 4’s Philly Twist
Bel-Air season 2 is available on Peacock now.