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Characters: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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    Main Cast 

Will Smith (Will Smith)

The title character. Once a street-wise youth in Philadelphia, a skirmish with a bully causes Will to be sent to live with his wealthy relatives in Bel-Air, California. The show focuses on Will living and interacting with the upper-class society and residential celebrities. Later on, there's more focus on Will's college life.

Philip Banks (James Avery)

A successful attorney (later appointed a court judge) who doesn't try to hide his reluctance to Will settling in with the Banks. Spends a good portion of the show dealing with Will's antics and help fix any mess made.
  • Angry Black Man
  • Berserk Button: If you value your health, do not insult Phil's mother. And threatening his children or wife? Yeah, prepare for a beatdown of the verbal or physical variety.
  • Big Eater: It ends up giving him a heart attack in an episode.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Not a leader, per se, but more than a few plots show that he's in charge of the family.
  • Bald of Awesome
  • Best Served Cold: Normally, Philip would yell or threaten Will the instant he does something insanely wrong. But in one case Will did something so bad, that it took three years for Phil to think up the ultimate punishment for Will. Will really had it coming, too — he wanted to sleep with a girl who wouldn't give it up before marriage, so he staged a fake wedding with Jazz playing the preacher, just to get her into bed. He came to his senses at the last second, but damn.
  • Bumbling Dad: Averted. He has his moments of stupidity, but he's portrayed as competent and knowledgeable way more often than other sitcom dads.
  • Doom It Yourself: Phil is an excellent lawyer and an even better judge, but his skills as a handyman are less than impressive. His attempt at fixing the stove burns Geoffrey's eyebrows off, his attempt at fixing the toaster causes a piece of toast to fly into Geoffrey's eye, his attempt at fixing the static on the phone completely kills the line, and his attempt at fixing the sink causes a leak. At one point, Vivian has to use a Lysistrata Gambit to stop him from doing any more damage to the house.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Zeke," by his parents.
  • Fat Comic Relief
  • Good Parents: Despite his many flaws, Phil is an excellent and loving father to all five of his children, Will very much included. He's there for them physically, emotionally, and financially whenever they're upset or even just a little stumped by their homework. This is best shown when Will's father returns and Phil's constant presence is contrasted with Lou's perpetual absence.
    Phil: (yelling at Lou) Oh bull, bull! Will is not a coat that you hang in the closet, then pick it up when you're ready to wear it. His life goes on. He's not supposed to be here for you, you're supposed to be here for him!
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: "Uncle Phil is a very big man, with a very short fuse. Bad combination. Very bad combination."
  • Happily Married: To Vivian.
  • Hidden Depths: He may not seem it, but he was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement and was a star football player at Princeton. He's also one HELL of a pool player.
    "Geoffrey, break out Lucille."
  • Ha Ha Ha No: He does this quite often, especially to Will and Carlton. If it sounds stupid or outrageous, expect him to laugh along with the kids before giving a loud "NO!"
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold
  • Large and in Charge
  • Like a Son to Me: To Will.
  • Mean Boss: Phil is a loving parent, but he can be a real Jerkass to his employees. Geoffrey is so frustrated with the low salary Phil pays him that at one point he quits as butler and refuses to come back until Phil offers him a raise. His law clerk Edward Haskell becomes so fed up with Phil's abuse that he breaks into the Banks' home and robs them blind.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: The cause of many of his Exiled to the Couch moments.
    Will: Wow, Uncle Phil, I knew you had a king-size appetite, but both feet?
  • Overprotective Dad: Especially when it comes to Ashley. If somebody says he wants to ground his 14-year-old daughter for ten years, he really is something.
  • Papa Wolf: Perhaps most evident when Will's father returns and tries to briefly reconcile with his son after abandoning him over fourteen years ago. Phil's hackles are instantly raised (right along with Vivian's) and it's made very clear that if he could punch or throw Lou out of the house and keep him far away from Will, he would gladly do so without a second thought.
    Phil: What is he doing here, Vivian?
  • Parental Substitute: Eventually proved to be more of a father to Will than his real father ever was.
    • The last episode effectively spells this out and makes it clear that the two consider their relationship that of father and son rather than uncle and nephew.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech
  • Scary Black Man: When he gets angry.
  • Self-Made Man: Was born a country boy and works himself up in his career to achieve his current wealth.
  • Stern Teacher: This is his general parenting style in dealing with Will and Carlton. He loves his boys very much, although he doesn't hesitate to put the fear of God into them with his Scary Black Man routine to keep them on the straight and narrow.
  • Tough Love
  • Tranquil Fury: Occasionally, when he's really angry, he speaks softly, smiles, and even laughs...then he really explodes.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Ugly Guy to Vivian's Hot Wife. Will lampshades this with disbelief when they announce Vivian is pregnant with another child.
  • You Are Fat: Basically, all the jokes about him, usually by Will, Geoffrey, and Jazz.

Vivian Banks (Janet Hubert-Whitten, 1990-1993; Daphne Maxwell Reid, 1993-1996)

Will's aunt who's more open and patient with Will when he moves with the Banks.
  • Annoying Patient: During the last month of her pregnancy.
  • The Earrings Come Off: Whenever she's about to unleash her inner Mama Bear.
  • Good Parents
  • Happily Married: To Philip.
  • Hot Teacher: First Vivian (played by Janet Hubert-Whitten).
  • Housewife: Second Vivian.
  • Lethal Chef
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Employs this a LOT. Often overlaps with Exiled to the Couch.
  • Mama Bear: Just like Phil, this is most evident when Will's father returns. She's instantly on guard, phones her sister (Will's mother), and watches Lou with open distrust. She's been protective of her children and nephew at other parts in the series, but this episode shows just how vindictive Vivian can be if she feels any of her kids are threatened with harm, be it physical or emotional.
    Vivian: Are you gonna punch him? Because I don't want to miss that.
  • Not so Above It All: She's usually more reserved and reasonable than Philip, but she can lose it when a matter specifically bothers her.
    • If she starts taking her earrings off, be warned.
  • Out of Focus: After the actress switch she rarely played a major role in an episode and was entirely absent from several.
  • Sassy Black Woman: She can slip into this when she gets upset. Especially first Vivian.
  • Tsundere: Type B.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hot Wife to Philip's Ugly Guy.

Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro)

The middle child of the Banks family who strives to get into Princeton and be a successful lawyer like his dad. More confident in the law and order in general, Carlton's at odds with Will more than frequently, though by the later half of the series he becomes The Lancer.

Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons)

The spoiled elder child of the Banks family, Hilary's socialite bent on looked highly upon her peers in the upper class. She's also leeches off her parents' fortune and ignorant of how life outside hers really works.

Ashley Banks (Tatyana M. Ali)

The youngest child of the Banks (until Baby Nicky arrived), she very much looked up to Will. Gradually, she became bent on being less of daddy's little girl and more open and a bit rebellious, even out of Will's control. She is the only one of the Banks children to have, more or less, normal adolescence; having common teenager issues.

Geoffrey Butler (Joseph Marcell)

The Banks family butler, an older English man who outside of the witty barbs has a great relationship with the family.

Nicky Banks (Ross Bagley)

The youngest of the Banks children, born during the run of the show. But don't let that make you think he didn't have any Character Development, he grew as much as the others did.
  • Children Are Innocent: And Santa tells Will to keep Nicky that way for as long as possible.
  • Cousin Oliver
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Nicky: *after coming upon Hilary and Ashley in the family room, pretending to be driving* What are you doing?
    Hilary: Driving lessons!
    Nicky: Lesson number one: use a car.
  • Dead Pet Sketch: Poor Harry.
  • Overly Long Name: He starts out as Nicholas Andrew Banks, and the first names of the members of Boyz II Men were added on the day of his christening.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Lampshaded immediately, with Jazz replying that he's going back to the streets where everything makes more sense.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
    Philip: Nicky, do you remember in The Lion King, when Mufasa—
    Nicky: Dad, did you sit on Harry?

    Other Characters 

Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff/Jeffrey A. Townes)

Viola "Vi" Smith (Vernee Watson-Johnson)

  • Romantic False Lead: She had one during the second half of Season 2. She ultimately broke up with him because he wanted more out of the relationship than she did.
  • Sassy Black Woman
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Goes from volleying insults with Fred in one scene to sleeping with him in the next.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Will and Lisa sure took their single parents marrying each other quite well.

Hattie "Granny" Banks (Virginia Capers)


Kellogg "Cornflake" Lieberbaum (Michael Weiner)

Edward "Ned" Fellows III

Kurt Smiley

  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Doesn't appear after season two.
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Wears one to try to disguise himself when he goes to a rival school's basketball game to size up the competition.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Punishes students by forcing them to run laps, even for infractions in the classroom.
  • Double Standard: Doesn't hold Will to the same standards as the rest of the basketball team because he's the team's star.
  • Dumb Jock: "All I know is that I went to college on a football scholarship and graduated with honors. So I know a thing or two about cheating!" He also teaches history at Bel-Air Academy, and straight up admits to not knowing a lick of history outside what is covered in the textbook.
  • Insistent Terminology: He's to be called "Professor Smiley" whenever they're in the classroom.

Tyriq "Ty" Johnson (Perry Moore)

  • Book Dumb: Has been held back in school multiple times. It's also implied that he can't spell "Ohio."
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Disappears after season two.
  • The Generic Guy: He isn't the clever one, or the dumb one, or the quirky one, he is just this guy who feeds lines.

Trey "Ice Tray" (Don Cheadle)

  • Cool Big Bro: Comes off this way.
  • Hidden Depths: At first he seems like sort of a hood with no real interest in school. Will later reveals that without Trey, he never would've made it back in Phillidelphia, as he protected Will from bullies trying to jump him for his books.
  • One-Shot Character

Trevor Collins/Newsworthy (Brian Stokes Mitchell)

News anchorman, whom Hilary falls for.

Helen Smith (Jennifer Lewis)

Janice Smith Schaeffer (Charlayne Woodard)

Lester Lewis

Bobby Lewis

  • Kids Are Cruel: To the point that Hilary puts him on a leash when she takes him out.
  • Put on a Bus: Presumably Lester gets custody of him.

Frank Schaeffer (Dietrich Bader, Robert Torti)

Judge Carl Robertson (Sherman Hemsley)

  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: At the judge's funeral, Will admitted his part of Robertson's death; everyone in the room gave him a standing ovation.
  • Asshole Victim
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing
  • Broken Pedestal
  • Cloudcuckoolander
  • Dirty Old Man
  • Hanging Judge: If a campaign ad is to be believed, he has sentenced over six thousand people to prison. In at least one case, the man he sentenced was innocent, and in at least one other case, he decided to convict because the prosecutor was a babe.
  • Jerkass: Judge Robertson was apparently idealistic in his younger days, but as of the show's timeline he's become extremely selfish, misogynistic, deceitful, and a classic example of a corrupt politician. He was such an awful human being that at his funeral, everyone was there to celebrate his death, and they even applaud Will when they learn that he caused it.
  • Killed Off for Real
  • You Look Familiar: Hemsley also made two separate appearances as George Jefferson, alongside Isabel Sanford as Wheezy.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Ames (Tyra Banks)

An old friend of his who ends up attending the same college

  • Aborted Arc: And a sad one because she was shaping up to be an interesting character.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Will.
  • Deadpan Snarker
  • Distaff Counterpart: To Will.
  • Put on a Bus: Goes away for an unspecified reason halfway through season four. After that, Carlton takes over the Peacock Stop and she doesn't return.
  • Sassy Black Woman
  • Tomboy
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: It's implied that Jackie had a lingering crush on Will before he left and that he hadn't quite realized his feelings until he was gone, thus explaining why he never called because he missed her too much and didn't want to come to terms with his feelings. When she comes out to Bel-Air, Will starts to fall for her again, though the situation suffers from Aborted Arc and is never resolved.

Jewel Robertson (Karen Malina White)

  • Action Girl: Fought off several officers when they tried to arrest her.
  • Bare Your Midriff
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jazz claims that she turned into this once they got married and the honeymoon period wore off. The "sheep" part is arguable, though, since she was on parole for grand theft auto.
  • Brutal Honesty: The prison therapist told her to speak out more often, believing that keeping her feelings bottled up is what led her to the crime she was arrested for.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Hortence.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Though, she and Jazz have a reason for it beyond wanting to have sex. Results in plenty of Right Through the Wall when they're staying in the pool house while their apartment is being repainted.
  • Out of Focus: Never directly appears in season five.
  • Put on a Bus: Divorces Jazz in the season five finale.
  • Really Gets Around: According to Jazz, she slept with every man in their building.
  • Runaway Bride: Almost. She tried to make advances on Will to get Jazz to call off the wedding rather than actually run away.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Though she's arguably more scary than sassy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, what happened to her pregnancy?

Lisa Wilkes (Nia Long)

Fred Wilkes (John Amos)

  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite marrying Vi in the season five finale, he's nowhere to be seen when Vi shows up in season six.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He has his moments.
    Fred: Have you ever done an honest day's work?
    Philip: I happen to be a judge!
    Fred: I'll take that as a no.
  • Overprotective Dad: Prior to Will, Lisa has never had a relationship survive meeting her dad. Will got along with him too well, however.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Goes from volleying insults with Vi in one scene to sleeping with her in the next.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?

Werner (Jim Meskimen)

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