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Interview: Adrian Holmes, Cassandra Freeman, and Olly Sholotan on Being Part of the New ‘Bel-Air’

One of the most popular sitcoms of the 1990s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, got a fresh new dramatic spin in the form of Peacock’s Bel-Air. Based on a viral trailer by Morgan Cooper, this show brings West Philly’s Will Smith into the twenty-first century, where his family’s mansion is even bigger and his adjustment into high society isn’t a laughing matter.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with the entire cast ahead of the show’s debut, and now we go deeper with several of the cast members to understand their takes on the characters: Adrian Holmes (Uncle Phil), Cassandra Freeman (Aunt Viv), and Olly Sholotan (Carlton).

On his approach to Uncle Phil, Holmes expressed:

“I would never in a million years come in and think of doing a James Avery impression because, well, for one, that’s not authentic. That’s exactly what the showrunners and Morgan Cooper wanted us to all be aware of when doing our homework for our characters, to tap into ourselves and be as truthful as we could be and as authentic, because that’s exactly what the original cast members did back in the 90s and that’s why the show was such a quintessential show and just iconic. It really resonated with so many people on such a high level. Our mission is to recreate that – I call it the remix. It’s not a reboot. We’re not going to be able to reboot that.”

On how the new show diverges from the original, Sholotan, who wasn’t even alive during the original’s run, assessed:

“What I think I’ve realized is how much care the writers have put in. I’d always known when reading the scripts, okay, this seems like a reference to the original, but truly, there’s so much care that they’ve put in in referencing the original and touching on it without fully going, hey, you know that thing that happened years ago, we’re doing it again. All these little, little details that if you’re paying attention, you see it.”

On whether it’s crucial to see the original series, Freeman shared:

“You don’t have to, but it is a delicious treat if you do. You could write a whole book on the politics of the 90s versus the politics of 2022. I think what you see if you compare the two is just the deepening of humanity for a whole class of people. I think what the show really does a great job on how the spectrum of what it means to be Black is so big and everyone is welcomed in. In the old show, Carlton was like, oh he’s so white, and this character is so Black, and this is the right way, and this is the wrong way. And by the end of the series, you see the Will character saying, ooh, Carlton’s cool, nope, that’s just Carlton. That’s Carlton’s way of being a human being.”

Watch the full conversations below.

Season one of Bel-Air is available to stream on Peacock.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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