Bel-Air takes the story of the beloved 1990s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and reimagines it as a coming-of-age drama. 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 arrives in the wealthy LA suburb, he attempts to find his footing and find his place in a very different environment and community.
Season 2 explores the aftermath of the first season. Will discovered some hard truths about his father and felt betrayed to learn that his uncle was hiding information about his father from him. Morgan Cooper developed the original idea for this dramatic reimagining and serves as an executive producer on the series.
Screen Rant spoke with Cooper about Bel-Air season 2. Cooper discussed the original Ashley Banks actress Tatyana Ali’s appearance as Mrs. Hughes and how her character impacts Ashley Banks in Bel-Air. Cooper also broke down how Will backslides into old patterns after the season finale and Carlton’s struggle with anxiety.
Morgan Cooper on Bel-Air Season 2
Screen Rant: You guys do an incredible job of capturing the spirit of the Fresh Prince, but really making it your own with Bel-Air. And that carries over right into season two excellent writing, and probably the best music out of any television show there is. Can you talk about exploring another side of Will this season outside of Bel Air?
Morgan Cooper: At the end of season one Will is confronted by a very, very disappointing truth after he reconnects with his father, Lou, and that secret was the fact that there was information about his father that was hidden from him. And so we carry that into season two, and all of a sudden, we’re seeing Will, as a guy who starts to revert to old ways.
He’s trying to rediscover his truth, because he feels surrounded by a false reality, and it taps into his core trauma of abandonment and feeling that his father wasn’t there. And so that putting that pressure point on him all of a sudden, he’s at this really crucial impasse where he’s 17, now, he’s about to be a grown man. And all of a sudden he’s rethinking his whole future and how to get to the things that he wants. And so, Will’s journey and season two is an absolute roller coaster, and we can’t wait for people to follow along.
Olly blew me away with his performance this season as Carlton, and anxiety is a really big part of his story going forward. Can you talk to me about why that’s important to show on screen, especially for a high school kid?
Morgan Cooper: I think it’s really important to address mental health specifically as it pertains to the Black community. And to see Carlton’s journey and put that on screen is letting people know that it’s good to talk about these things, it’s important to talk about these things, and we have to remove the stigma if we’re going to see really meaningful change in terms of the surrounding conversations around mental health, particularly in the black community.
And so we’re very proud to tell that story. We wanted to make sure to tell it with respect towards the subject, in a way that’s nuanced and again to your point, Olly is just such a special actor turns in a remarkable performance in season two. I can’t wait till people see what this Ollie is limitless. He’s just one of one talent. Our whole cast is, but Olly really had a phenomenal performance all season.
There was a bit of a passing of the torch moment when Tatyana Ali came back, and then she plays Mrs. Hughes, who impacts Ashley. Can you talk about Ashley this season and how she’s affected by Mrs. Hughes?
Morgan Cooper: Ashley is turning 13 and that’s a really pivotal moment for any young child in their coming of age story. And Ashley as a teacher and Ms. Hughes who sees the potential in Ashley and sees that Ashley is going to be somebody who has the ability to change the world and wants to empower that. And that’s what Ashley wants to do is Ashley sees the bigger picture. You know while all the adults are running around in their heads down and not paying attention to the bigger picture Ashley’s like, “why are things messed up? Why does it have to be like this? Why have we accepted these unfair realities?”
And she wants to do something about it. And we see her use her voice, we see her use her activist spirit, to step up and galvanize a movement surrounding a really, really important issue surrounding her teacher Mrs. Hughes portrayed by Tatyana Ali. And seeing those two on screen together, original OG, Ashley from the sitcom and our Ashley Banks was so beautiful. And big shout out to Tatyana for delivering such a phenomenal performance. She really graced our show with her presence
I felt last season that I was a part of the Banks’ family. It tore me apart when Phil and Geoffrey were at odds. Can you talk about how that relationship is explored this season, and can they come back from it?
Morgan Cooper: Mine as well, it broke my heart as well. It’s so tough because those guys have such a deep history that we’ve only started to uncover how deep their history goes. But these guys are brothers. They’ve been through it together. They’ve been through wars together. They’ve battled together in order to achieve their goals and to see them fractured. At the end of the season. Is really, really hard, but I will say both of their journeys will collide.
The last question I have for you is about Jazz and Hillary. They are phenomenal this season, and we really start to get to explore them. They’re both self-made people. Can you talk about how we see that relationship explored?
Morgan Cooper: I love Hillary and Jazz’s relationship season 2. They’re together now they’re a couple. But at the same time, Hillary is also a boss the boss of this influencer house and is somebody more in the public sphere. And, Jazz meanwhile wants to go public and be more open about the relationship.
But Hillary feels like she has to put on this particular image. And so we see how two people with very different backgrounds who have love for each other have to reconcile those differences in order for their relationship to truly grow and flourish. And so it’s a beautiful exploration of Black love.
About Bel-Air Season 2
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 soon for our other Bel-Air season 2 interviews:
- Carla Banks-Waddles
- Jabari Banks
- Jordan L. Jones & Simone Jones
- Cassandra Freeman, Coco Jones & Akira Akbar
- Olly Sholotan, Adrian Holmes & Jimmy Akingbola
Next: Bel-Air’s Lou Change Makes Will’s Backstory Even More Tragic
Bel-Air season 2 is available on Peacock now.