Bel-Air reimagines the beloved 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a coming-of-age drama. Street smart teen Will Smith is sent to live with his relatives in Bel-Air by his mother after getting into serious trouble at home in West Philadelphia. When he arrived in the wealthy LA suburb, Will tried to adjust to his new environment, community, and family as he found his place.

The first season ended with Will discovering some hard truths about his father while also grappling with the feeling of betrayal after learning his Uncle Phil was hiding those truths from him. The second season will explore the aftermath of Will’s discoveries as he tries to go back to his roots, exploring LA outside of Bel-Air and recommitting himself to basketball.

Related: Bel-Air Finale Hints At Repeating Fresh Prince Season 4’s Philly Twist

Screen Rant spoke with executive producer Carla Banks-Waddles about the second season of Bel-Air. Banks-Waddles discussed Tatyana Ali, the original Ashley Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, making an appearance in season 2 as an important figure to the Banks family. Banks-Waddles also broke down Will exploring LA outside Bel-Air and his new basketball mentor, Doc.

Carla Banks-Waddles on Bel-Air Season 2

Jabari Banks as Will Smith and Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks

Screen Rant: First of all, I absolutely love this show. I love that you guys really took the heart of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but really made Bel-Air your own. You do a great job of capturing that spirit. Can you talk to me about exploring other sides of Will this season as he explores LA outside of Bel-Air?

Carla Banks-Waddles: Knowing where we ended Will last season, which was sort of in a fractured place with the family, he may be realizing that he jumped into the Bel-Air world a little too fast. We really wanted to come back this season and have him take a beat. And think about, “okay, I’m here. But how can I hold on to a little bit of that West Philly version of myself and not completely just give over it to the world of Bel-Air?” And part of that is spending a little more time in South LA and gravitating to some of the people that he’s meeting over there because that feels more like home. So that seemed like a good way to sort of tell that story.

Will finds new focus with basketball and his future. And he kind of meets a new mentor this season, Doc, who makes Uncle Phil a little nervous. Can you talk about Will’s mentorship with Doc this season?

Carla Banks-Waddles: Doc, played fabulously by Brooklyn McLinn, is a new character for us this season. And knowing again where Will ended in that place, particularly with Uncle Phil, last season. He had sort of leaned into that relationship with Uncle Phil and just sort of said, “You’re my dude. I don’t need Lou, because I’ve got you.” And then finding out at the end of the season, like, “I don’t even know if you were the right dude.” And so really wanting him to come back season two, and like, “who’s my guy?” And I don’t think he realizes that he is still searching for that father figure.

But when he meets Doc, he sort of feels like home to him. He feels like some of the West Philly guys that he knows; he feels like an older version of himself. And Doc sees a younger version of himself. And well, so there’s a connection there. And he’s very different than Uncle Phil. And I think that’s what concerns Phil, because he knows Will is in a different headspace. And now this guy’s in his life. And I need to have that influence over Will right now. Not somebody like Doc. And so I think that’s where the push-pull with will caught in between these two very different father figures is a big storyline in season two.

Olly does a tremendous job as Carlton this season. And I’m really happy that we dive into his anxiety a little bit. Can you talk to me about why that’s important to show him having anxiety this season?

Carla Banks-Waddles: Olly really wanted to take some time with this story, too. We touched on it last season with Carlton having talked a little bit about his panic attacks and his anxiety, but he was obviously self-soothing with some of the drugs and things like that, and really wanting to come back this season and not just wash our hands of that story. Really wanting to take time to talk about mental health and youth mental health with our Black boys. And it’s an important narrative that we don’t see on television a lot, and being able to take that time and with that Carlton character and have an honest journey with him this season. That feels like we’re really giving that storyline justice.

Absolutely. I have to ask Tatyana Ali is in this season as well. I love the fact that her character is impactful. It makes sense to the storyline, which is brilliant. Can you talk to me about her playing Mrs. Hughes and how that character impacts season 2?

Carla Banks-Waddles: We were talking about that storyline in the writers room and knowing that there was this teacher that was important to Ashley. And so when it came up that Tatyana Ali from the original series could play that character, it just felt perfect, knowing that there is history with this teacher with the entire Banks family. That Hillary would have had her as a teacher, Carlton had her as a teacher and now Ashley.

And that this is a very important teacher, one of the few Black teachers at Bel-Air Academy. So it really felt like Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil, everybody in the family could rally around Mrs. Hughes, she’s important to us. And if she’s having a problem, then we all got a problem. And if anybody’s done to fix it, the Banks family is gonna fix it. So it just felt like the perfect storyline for Tatyana and seeing OG Ashley with Ashley fist bumping in that scene. It just felt perfectly right.

Yeah, it was a beautiful passing of the torch. One of my favorite characters Geoffrey. Jimmy’s phenomenal this season, and we get a little bit of a glimpse into Geoffrey’s backstory a little bit. Can you talk to me about how that’s explored in season 2 and his relationship with Phil this season?

Carla Banks-Waddles: Talk about fractured; he also left. Geoffrey left the Banks household also in a fracture plays with that brotherhood with him and Uncle Phil. And so we definitely want to take some time at the beginning of the season to sort of [ask], how do they heal that? Because they are brothers, but there was a betrayal there. And to understand a little bit about why Geoffrey did what he did. Everybody wants to know more about Geoffrey because he is our man of mystery. And so we will connect those storylines, and you’ll kind of understand Geoffrey a little bit more as we discover a little bit about who he is.

About Bel-Air Season 2

Bel-Air-Season-2 Trailer

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 out our other Bel-Air season 2 interviews:

  • Morgan Cooper
  • Jabari Banks
  • Jordan L. Jones & Simone Jones
  • Cassandra Freeman, Coco Jones & Akira Akbar
  • Olly Sholotan, Adrian Holmes & Jimmy Akingbola

Next: Bel-Air Repeats Uncle Phil’s Infamous Fresh Prince Feud

Bel-Air season 2 is available on Peacock now.

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