Anyone who lived through the 90s would probably list The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as one of their all-time favorite television shows. The sitcom starred Will Smith as himself, as his mom sends him away from the troublesome neighborhoods of Philadelphia to beautiful Bel-Air in California. Suddenly, he finds himself inside the home of Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian, as Will hilariously learns to navigate this new environment.
Fast forward to today, fans of the show can live vicariously through Bel-Air on Peacock, the new one-hour, reimagined drama series set in modern-day Los Angeles. And with the success of Season 1, audiences can hardly wait for the premiere of Season 2 today, February 13th.
Season 2 of Bel-Air sees the return of Jabari Banks as Will Smith, Adrian Holmes as Uncle Phil, Cassandra Freeman as Aunt Vivian, Olly Sholotan as Carlton, Coco Jones as Hilary, Akira Akbar as Ashley, and Jimmy Akingbola as the butler.
The Source had the opportunity to sit with the cast at Langham Hotel in Pasadena, for an exclusive roundtable conversation. Split into two groups, the cast discusses what it meant to have Saweetie on set, what hip-hop means to them, and their favorite artists.
I interviewed Saweetie and she told me she was taking acting classes. How was it working with her on set and what can we expect from her character?
Olly Sholotan: Saweetie is the nicest-smelling woman on the planet. She smells great, which I feel that’s really, really important. Working with her was fantastic. She’s very, very kind and very gracious. Having her on set was so exciting. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s this really cool scene at a party and the setting is a lot.
Jabari Banks: It was actually one of the first days shooting.
Olly Sholotan: It was our second day shooting and Saweetie comes by, it was really, really exciting. It was such a great way to kick off the season of filming.
Jabari Banks: And you know what? She was super prepared. She was even more prepared than we expected her to be. More prepared than us, to be honest. She was a joy. Saweetie is amazing. I love her as an artist. I respect her a lot as an artist, it was amazing that she got to grace our show.
Adrian Holmes: She was so sweet.
Cassandra Freeman: She was so sweet, she can actually be an actress! I was like, look here lady, you’re legit.
Adrian Holmes: She was very comfortable. Very, very relaxed. She was a nice addition to the energy. Stay tuned, we’re going to be seeing more of her.
Cassandra Freeman: You just never know what to expect when you see people from different industries coming into your industry. Some people over prepare, under prepare. Some people aren’t personable. They don’t know if they’re supposed to be personable when you hit the set. She was just professional. As soon as she hit, she was so nice and normal. There was no diva energy, it wasn’t like “excuse me! I’m Saweetie!” It was like, “Hey guys, I’m here.” She was super sweet, just like her name.
Adrian Holmes: She lived up to her name, for sure.
Hip-Hop celebrates its 50th year anniversary this year. What does hip-hop mean to you and who is your favorite artist currently?
Adrian Holmes: Hip-hop, for me, is the fabric of my childhood. It really shaped our lives, and my life. It’s very nostalgic. When I think of hip-hop, I go back to Heavy D and the boys. I’m a 90’s hip-hop head, so I go back to Leaders of the New School, A Tribe Called Quest. I love that about Phillip because they introduce that in the show. In my office, I have artwork and post pictures of concerts and hip-hop references.
Cassandra Freeman: I love it! Mine would be J.J. Fad, Salt & Pepa, Lauryn Hill. Queen Latifah. MC Lyte, come on. This is my childhood. Especially J.J. Fad was the first rap I ever learned. “We’re J.J. Fad and we’re here to rock!” That was the first rap I ever learned.
Jimmy Akingbola: Cass is a rapper, she’s got bars. For me, I’m thinking of people like Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A. Growing up, they really had a big influence on me. Fu-Schnickens. Also, some of the new cats now. Is it Coast Contra? They do a lot of great freestyles on Instagram. Obviously, you got people like Kendrick. My favorite. In the UK, because I got to represent, men like Stormzy. For me, he’s the GOAT. He’s the king of UK hip-hop at the moment. As well as Ghetts, Kano, and Blaze, who’s in Top Boy. So it’s a real good time, but hip-hop for me is an identity, the culture, also education. That storytelling back in the 90’s was what was beautiful.
Adrian Holmes: That’s the thing: back in the 90’s, there was more of a story being told through the music. Not to say that doesn’t exist today. Kendrick, J. Cole, they do that too. In the 90’s, it was poetry. Spoken word. Real spoken word, they put a beat to it.
Jimmy Akingbola: Who was that one? Jeru the Damaja.
Adrian Holmes: Oh man! Because hip-hop is so nostalgic. When you think about hip-hop, you think about certain artists and songs, it takes you back to a time and place in your life and it sparks joy. It makes you feel good. You remember where you were when you heard these songs, or that time in your life. That’s why we could talk about it.
Coco Jones: Hip-hop is about being vulnerable in a way that still gets stuck in your head. It’s a really interesting balance because if you’re making an important song, you’re probably talking about something and it’s infectious at the same time. That’s hard to do. Sometimes hip-hop is seen as something easy, but really, it takes a lot of skill to make a song that will stand the test of time.
I know that being a musician and an artist is equally challenging. I’m not in hip-hop, but I’m in R&B. And that’s what I’m always trying to do, especially with my EP What I Didn’t Tell You. Just making music that stands the test of time, in any genre is challenging. Hip-hop is culture. A lot of things get inspired by hip-hop, and they wouldn’t even tell you that. That’s what we do as Black people, we are innovative and we are continuing to evolve and make classics in general.
Olly Sholotan: Hip-hop is about truth and exploration and innovation. One of my biggest inspirations at the moment is Metro Boomin, his album Heroes and Villains is fantastic. What’s so good about it, is hip-hop more than any other genre is so welcoming to other genres. Hip-hop is very descriptive rather than being prescriptive. It’s not trying to be anything else, it just is. It borrows from different genres and it borrows from different cultures and ideas . That’s so well-exemplified in Heroes and Villains. And it uses samples, elements of gospel, of R&B. Metro Boomin!
Olly Sholotan: “Raindrops” or “Superheroes.” “Superheroes” is so hard!
Jabari Banks: “Superheroes” is fire! At the end of the day, I feel that pop is hip-hop. The birth of hip-hop from where it was to where it is now, it is the culture. It is who we are. Sorry to say, all of our favorite white artists are influenced by hip-hop. Ariana Grande. Thank you Taylor Swift. Thank you Justin Bieber. The hip-hop influence is everywhere. At the end of the day, hip-hop is about being authentic. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you been through. That’s where it was birthed, so happy birthday hip-hop!
Akira Akba: They couldn’t have said it better. Hip-hop on TikTok is a big thing, especially with dancing. Dancing plays a huge part in hip-hop. That one dance — what’s that one dance? Literally, we were all doing that constantly. But I have a few favorite artists. I listen to SZA, Summer Walker, PARTYNEXTDOOR. This new SZA album is so good.
Article written by Shirley Ju #TheSource