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Exclusive: Bel-Air Actor Thanks Will Smith for 'Trusting the Process'

Jordan L. Jones, who plays Jazz, and Simone Joy Jones, who plays Lisa, dish on the original source material and what’s to come in season 2 of Bel-Air.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a hugely popular sitcom that starred Will Smith in his first acting gig. We all know the premise — especially since most of us can recite the introductory theme song from memory. Will plays a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia, who is sent to live with his wealthy relatives at their Bel-Air mansion in Los Angeles. His relatives include Uncle Phil (the late, great James Avery), Aunt Vivian (Janet Hubert and later Daphne Reid), Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), Hilary (Karyn Parsons), Ashley (Tatyana Ali, who is returning to the show) and Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell), the family’s cynical Butler. Will’s working-class background ends up clashing in various humorous ways with the upper-class world of the Banks and frequently got him or other members of the family into trouble as well.

Then came Morgan Cooper’s 2019 viral trailer that ultimately kickstarted the acclaimed reboot. And now, season 2 of Bel-Air premieres February 23, with new episodes streaming Thursdays on Peacock. Set in modern-day America, the one-hour drama series reimagines the beloved sitcom through a new, dramatic take on Will’s complicated journey from the streets of Philly to the gated mansions of LA.

Oscar-winner Will Smith helped co-creator Morgan Cooper get the new series off the ground and has since let the Bel-Air folks do their thing. We recently caught up with Simone Joy Jones (“Lisa) and her co-star Jordan L. Jones (“Jazz”), who had nothing but nice things to say about the original “Fresh Prince” star. Sure, it’s true that Will Smith continues to be in the news following the infamous Oscars slap — he even poked fun at himself on TikTok recently about it. So it’s refreshing to hear Bel-Air co-star Jordan L. Jones speak highly of Smith’s involvement in the new show.

Working with Will Smith

Jordan L. Jones started off by calling Will Smith’s involvement — and then lack thereof — strategic. “When Morgan Cooper started all of this, I think the best thing that Will Smith did was obviously produce it, back it, support it completely. But he has no creative direction or anything in it,” said Jones. “And I love that, and I love him for that, for letting the dude who created this have his creation… But of course, we met him. Will’s a great guy. We’ve talked to him and everything. But I commend him for trusting the process, instead of being so hands-on. Because it’s not that prevalent, you know, in the Hollywood era, if someone did something before to have no creative say. And he doesn’t. He really lets us rock, and obviously it’s working.”

Simone Joy Jones also spoke about the creation of Bel-Air, and how there were initial doubts because of how iconic the original source material is. “But once we saw the respect it was done with, once we saw everything that went along with it, it was a sure ‘yes,'” said Joy Jones. “I was wondering as an actor, within the research process and development process, how much [I was] going to fuse into the character. For me and my ‘Lisa,’ we meet Lisa much younger, we meet her in a different space. But what we love about Lisa, and what I loved about Lisa, is just the essence. So just fusing the stability, the honesty, the humbleness, and love, I think is where my platform was.”

Related: Marlon Wayans Comedy Special About Will Smith’s Oscar Slap Is Coming to HBO Max

Jordan L. Jones had similar feelings about what it was like, going back to square one. “In reading the script, seeing how different it is… because drama has more substance. So actually the original had no effect really on this. And I’m glad it didn’t,” said Jones. “Even talking to DJ Jazzy Jeff, he was like, ‘Just keep doing your thing, man. Just keep doing your thing’… Of course, subconsciously, I think about my favorite show. But I don’t, like, tap into what he would have done, or what I saw before, to act the way I act on the show.”

And looking ahead to season 2, both actors are super excited for what’s to come. “One thing about me as an audience member, as a watcher, I love watching the love and the villains,” said Joy Jones. “And then I always love them not being set, so it just depends on your perspective. And it’s kudos to the writing of how everything fluctuates because life fluctuates. So I think there’s going to be a different opinion on everybody this season. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, that’s the bad guy. That’s the good guy.’ It’s like, ‘Wait, the good guy was acting a little sideways, and the bad guy’s kind of right today.'”

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