Jabari Banks is about to be the person everyone is talking about. The 23-year-old newcomer is playing Will in the Peacock series Bel-Air, which is a dramatic retelling of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Like his predecessor Will Smith, Jabari has endless talent and swag.
Bel-Air premieres on February 13 with the first three episodes. Jabari is emerging as one of Hollywood’s premier actors of the next generation, and he’s here to stay. HollywoodLife has 5 key facts you need to know about Jabari.
1. ‘Bel-Air’ is Jabari’s TV debut.
Bel-Air will mark Jabari’s first onscreen role. His role as “Will Smith” is a dramatic take on the character’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air in modern-day America. “I feel like Will is so close to me and my personal experiences,” Jabari told The Hollywood Reporter. “There are so many parallels between my life and his life. It feels as if it’s not such a stretch as an actor. I’m really learning the ropes, what it means to act on camera, the language, the logistics. This is such a blessing to be able to play on this level and to be proof that dreams really do come true.”
2. Will Smith told Jabari he booked the ‘Bel-Air’ role.
In August 2021, Peacock released a video of the moment Jabari learned that he would be playing Will in Bel-Air — from Will Smith himself. “From the deepest parts of my heart, I want to say congratulations to you. You have the role of Will on Bel-Air,” Will told Jabari. The young actor responded, “I’m so ready… This is a dream come true.”
3. Jabari is from Philadelphia.
West Philadelphia born and raised! Jabari grew up in West Philadelphia, where the character originates from, as well as the real Will Smith. Jabari returned to Philadelphia to film the pilot of Bel-Air.
4. Jabari studied musical theater.
The actor is a 2020 graduate of the University of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater.
5. Chadwick Boseman is an inspiration to him.
Prior to getting cast on Bel-Air, Jabari was working a factory job in Temecula, California. He learned Chadwick Boseman had died on August 28, 2020. “I remember when that happened, I said I really want to honor him and his legacy with what he did portraying these characters — these amazing roles and these iconic figures,” he told THR. Exactly one year later, he booked the role of Will on Bel-Air. “I didn’t take that lightly. I don’t believe anything happens without reason, so I was just like, this is my time, my chance,” he admitted.
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