By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The second season of the updated version of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” began last Friday on Peacock. The new versio, simply called “Bel-Air” offers more dramatic components than its predecessor, and not everyone has been thrilled with it, although the ratings were strong enough to merit another season.
One thing that its creator Morgan Cooper has never been afraid of is controversy. He’s sure to ignite some with the comments he made prior to the debut episode in which he defended the original show’s man star Will Smith, wo is still under fire in some circles for last year’s Oscar night slap of Chris Rock. “Will has been and continues to be a tremendous partner throughout this process,” Cooper said during an interview with Yahoo Entertainment. “He’s been incredibly supportive on the heels of Season 1 and into Season 2.”
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Will,” Cooper says, calling the actor’s Oscar night actions “a very human moment” that hasn’t changed his opinion of his collaborator. “Will is a great guy, and he’s demonstrated that with his actions throughout the whole Bel-Air development process, back when this was just my short film.”
“There’s so much happening in the world right now,” Cooper continues. “Again, that was a very human moment that took place [at the Oscars], but human moments happen — nobody’s perfect, and it’s important not to be judgmental. I’ve seen the content of his character on a day-to-day basis with this crew, this cast, my producing partners, the network and the studio. Day in and day out, I’ve seen a guy who is committed to excellence and committed to putting people in the position to do their best work. That’s been Will since Day 1, and I’m very proud to be in partnership with him.”
As in the first season, “Bel-Air’s” second year is filled with stories that speak to the current tenor of the times. One hot-button thread that runs through the first three episodes concerns a new teacher at Bel-Air Academy, where West Philly transplant Will (Jabari Banks) studies alongside his Banks family cousins, Carlton (Olly Sholotan) and Ashley (Akira Akbar). The educator in question is Mrs. Hughes, played by Tatyana Ali — who played Ashley Banks on the original “Fresh Prince” series.
Cooper is even more pointed in his feelings about how art happened to imitate life this season. “There are people in this country who want to suppress our voices and our history,” the Bel-Air creator says. “It’s up to us to bring these issues to the forefront. I’m very proud of how we told that particular story this season, and hope that it can inspire more conversation to bring about change.”