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Will Smith (Will Smith)
"My fault, man! I must have got the wrong crib. I didn't know there were so many brothers living in this neighborhood! We're doing all right, huh?"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.
- The Ace: Which isn't to say he can't muck up, but he's fast-thinking and fast-talking enough to get out of trouble eventually.
- Always Someone Better: To Carlton.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: When Will poses as Ashley's father for an interview he acts like thisWill: Ashley's mom walked out on us. I had to be both mom and dad. We went from training wheels to training bras. Both came off too soon.
- Bad Liar: A surprisingly realistic example. He's a Consummate Liar when he can think up a lie in advance, but a Bad Liar when he has to think up a lie on the spot.
- Berserk Button: God help you if you insult his mother, or if you are the following: racist, harmful to his siblings or insulting his uncle's reputation.
- Big Brother Mentor: To Ashley.
- Big Man on Campus: In one episode Carlton admits he's jealous of Will because Will is "tall, good at basketball, and gets all the babes".
- Blithe Spirit: In early episodes Will's slang, urban background and carefree behavior provides much contrast with the uptight upper-class family of his uncle.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Will does this at least once every three episodes, if not more.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: When Will honestly puts effort into it, he can actually be just as smart as Carlton.
- Butt Monkey: At times. Notably, he's been knocked and humiliated a few times by more intimidating guys.
- The Casanova: A true womanizer known for his numerous and infamous pickup lines.
- Casanova Wannabe: Just as often, though, his attempts at seduction fall flat on their faces.
- Character Development: Primarily regarding his relationship with Carlton. Early on, Will gives Carlton grief about not being black enough, but eases off once he sees Carlton face discrimination from other blacks for exactly this and realizes how asinine and unfair it is. Will was pretty much sought to retain his free-will "Homeboy" lifestyle when first settling in Bel-Air, but has become more accustomed to it and more open about his knowledge of numerous references. Also towards the final 2 seasons he starts to mature and try to take more responsibility with stuff like trying to make a living for him and Lisa, trying to keep Uncle Phil from seeing the destroyed kitchen to help Uncle Phil not himself, and taking initiative at his job.
- The Charmer: When he and Carlton are doing interviews for Princeton Admissions, what separates the two is that Will is excellent at making great first impressions.
- Cloudcuckoolander: He has his moments.
- Cool Big Bro: To Ashley since the first episode, although this is toned down in later seasons.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While normally on the receiving end of fights. He does have his moments where he is victorious, such as beating up Dougie and a guy that was moving in on a female celeb he was dating.
- Deadpan Snarker: Especially around Carlton and Uncle Phil.
- Definitely Just a Cold: Will tries this to get out of a tonsillectomy. It does not work.Will: (singing and dancing weakly) I got no more fever, I got no more fever ... Aunt Viv?Vivian: Yes?Will: Catch me. (faints)
- Didn't Think This Through: While Will often has a lot of ideas that would be good on paper, he often forgets one important detail that screws things up. Examples include:
- Getting Uncle Phil to invest in Chalet Towers without knowing why it was up for sale (turns out the manager was trying to avoid a slumlord conviction)
- When "The Hilary Show" need better guests, he got a dismissed juror from a high profile case Uncle was the judge for to come on the show. While the guest's rant was hilarious, Uncle Phil was not happy about what the man said about him.
- Disappeared Dad: Will's father Lou took off on the family when he was a baby and left his mother to raise him. When Lou comes back, he briefly tries to reconcile with Will but proves he's still the same selfish bastard he always was when he effectively abandons Will once again. This led to one of the series' biggest Tear Jerkers when he tearfully asked Uncle Phil:Will: How come he don't want me, man?
- Fun Personified: Very fun-loving and always joking around. Most of the time anyway.
- Handsome Lech: He is shamelessly flirty and obsessed with ladies. His pickup lines are very corny (“Hey baby, you look so good I wish I could plant you and grow a whole field of y'all!”) but he gets away with it because he’s Will Smith.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jazz (more so in the earlier seasons) and Carlton (more so in the later seasons).
- Hidden Depths:
- His first appearance has Will showing off some skilled piano playing.
- In one episode, he scores higher than Carlton, someone who usually gets very good grades, on a standardized test.
- Will has also shown an adeptness for poetry.
- He won over a Princeton recruiter by solving a Rubik's cube in only a few seconds.
- In the first season, while still being goofy and fun-loving, he was also implied to be secretly serious and studious (and was apparently bullied at school in Philly for actually studying). This trait was removed though and from season 2 onwards he's portrayed as a Brilliant, but Lazy slacker.
- He has shown on a few occasions to be very insecure about his father
- High School Hustler: Although most of his schemes were done at home with Uncle Phil being the Dean Bitterman.
- Hypocrite: Will often ridicules Carlton for having different interests, all while insisting he should be allowed to be himself. Vivian even calls him out on this in an early episode.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: He's made a few questionable moves with women. But he will not watch anyone do the same thing to Ashley.
- Insistent Terminology: His collection of dolls — er, action figures.
- I Was Beaten by a Girl: In one episode everyone mocks Will after he loses a fight against a female boxing trainer. When he decides to arrange a rematch, Hilary is shocked that he Would Hit a Girl.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: An immature slacker and troublemaker, and he frequently makes fun of the Banks (especially Carlton and Philip) but he genuinely cares for everyone in the family. In serious situations he always stands up for his uncle or his cousins.
- Ladykiller in Love: With Lisa in season 5.
- Large Ham: Let's face it, a good chunk of the show hinged on Will being this.
- Loophole Abuse: Will wears his Bel Air Prep blazer inside out.
- Lovable Jock: He played basketball in high school.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Quite obsessed with scoring women. One episode shows his list of "college activities" only have sororities on it. As Will puts it: "From Alpha to Gamma to Bad Mamma Jamma!"
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Played straight in a number of episodes, including him nearly admitting to guest star Milton Berle that he lost his virginity at fifteen and him admitting that he's not a virgin in a chapel.
- Motive Decay: The series starts out with him in Bel-Air so he can get a quality education. He might not be the best student ever, but he eventually graduates from high school and convinces his mother to let him stay so he can go to college. After that transition, though, there's much less emphasis on his education, as Will focuses on work, relationship, and general hijinks. This becomes a plot point in the Grand Finale, as Will realizes he got off track and needs to finish what he came out there to do.
- Not So Different: He and Uncle Phil are both quick-minded, overprotective, have underprivileged backgrounds, huge fans of Malcolm X, Phil was The Casanova at Will's age, and have a knack for great put downs. The biggest difference between them is that Uncle Phil is serious and focused on the matter at hand while Will is a free goofy and free-spirited.
- The Nicknamer: Has a habit of calling people by shorter versions of their names (Uncle Phil, Aunt Viv, Hil, Ash, "C" for Carlton, "G" for Geoffrey). He also gives Carlton many insulting nicknames related to his short stature.
- Rags to Riches: The premise of the show.
- Really Gets Around: Before settling with Lisa, Will pretty much had a different girlfriend per episode.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Manly Man to Carlton's Sensitive Guy.
- The Slacker: Usually more interested in his own personal pleasures than his academic studies. Lampshaded by Carlton in season 6.Carlton: You're a slacker. You say you want things but you're never willing to work for it. You never make the sacrifice. You think you're just gonna charm your way through.
- Smarter Than You Look: He may act like a total goof-off and slacker, but he's actually quite bright. Princeton University was thinking about accepting him, much to Carlton's absolute shock.
- Street Smart: He's the experienced, streetwise (but not necessarily Book Dumb) teenager from West Philadelphia, in contrast to Carlton who is book smart but sheltered.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Like any loyal son of Philly, Will loves his cheesesteaks. He has also shown a huge fondness of sweet potato pie
- Uncle Tomfoolery
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Carlton. The 'vitriolic' part gets downplayed over time.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Which leads to a humiliating defeat at the hands of a female boxing trainer.
- You Are Not My Father: When Lou comes back into Will's life after having run out on him 14 years ago, Lou then abandons him again for another trucking job. This is the final exchange Will and Lou share:Lou: It was great seeing you, son.Will: You too... Lou.
Philip Banks (James Avery)
"Well speaking as a lawyer, I can only say that your daughter fits the criminal profile to a T, right down to the sloping forehead, and the wide jaws suitable for grains and small rodents!"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.
- Action Dad: Has quite a few moments of Papa Wolf badassery. In the episode, Mistaken Identity, when a racist police officer arrests his son Carlton and nephew Will, and sees right through an obvious Engineered Public Confession. When said cop refuses to let them out of their cell, Uncle Phil unleashes a verbal ass-whoopin' the likes of which the poor bastard had never seen.
- Angry Black Man: Uncle Phil's backstory. In his youth he was a radical civil rights activist before he made good. He can still pull it out when he has to, or is pushed to far by some injustice.
- 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. Also, don't take away his Thanksgiving dinner, or he'll give you a legal beatdown.
- Big Eater: It ends up giving him a heart attack in an episode. This becomes a bit of a Harsher in Hindsight as Avery passed away due to complications from open-heart surgery.
- 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: Uncle Phil is badass. Go look at the Awesome moments page for examples.
- 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.
- Butt Monkey: Constantly on the receiving end of jokes about his weight, baldness, and grumpy temperament, usually by Will.
- The Casanova: In his younger years, Aunt Viv does not like to be reminded.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not quite to the extent of Geoffrey but he has his moments throughout the series.
- 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: One of the many running gags was the jokes about Uncle Phil being overweight. These would usually come from Will, Geoffrey or Jazz, who really make a Karma Houdini out of themselves, as they're often in no position to snark at them, thanks to his HAHAHA No response.
- 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."
- HAHAHA–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 exploding.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As stern and short tempered as he is, he’s also a very loving father and uncle.
- Large and in Charge: He’s a very big man, and the patriarch of the family.
- 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: He's proven this many times in the series.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gave several over the course of the series but the most memorable would be the one he gave Lou when the latter was planning on leaving Will again.Phil: Sit down.
Lou: (starting to leave) Ain't got time for no lecture.
Phil: I said sit down, Lou! (Lou stops and sits down on the couch) You know, Will was doing just fine until you showed up. But now that you're back, you have responsibilities to him.
Lou: Look, we still gonna take the trip--
Phil: OH, BULL! BULL! Will is not some coat that you hang up in the closet and you 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 there for him!
Lou: (standing back up) Hey, you get off my back! You think I want this?! It! Just! Happened! Now, Will was a baby and I was scared—
Phil: Cut the crap, alright?! Cut it! Because I've been there. But I didn't walk out on my family. I was there every single day for them, because that is what a man does!
- Retired Badass: While Phil is by no means not a badass in the current setting of the series, he was also active in Civil Rights crusades in the 1960s, and it's implied that he and Vivian occasionally were involved in protests that turned violent when reminiscing with their old friend Marge. The fact that they are now working from within the system (with Phil as a lawyer and a judge, and Vivian as a professor) to better the lives of black communities as opposed to breaking the law is a point of contention between the Banks parents and Marge.
- Scary Black Man: When he gets angry.
- Self-Made Man: Was born a country boy and worked himself up in his career to achieve his current wealth. Discussed Trope in a episode when Will is too proud to ask for money, and Uncle Phil outright tell there's no such thing as the trope, and he only got where he is because others were willing to lend him a hand along the way.
- 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.
- 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)
"We used slang when we were kids! Do you remember our first date? You took one look at me and said, "That is a bad dress!" You could've just said it was a good dress."Will's maternal aunt, who's a well-educated professor at the local university. Unlike Phil, Vivian's far more open and patient with Will when he first moves in with the Banks, and understands that transitioning from inner-city Philadelphia to the ultra-wealthy Bel Air will be difficult for him.
- Annoying Patient: During the last month of her pregnancy.
- But Not Too Black: Janet Hubert-Whitten, who originally played Vivian, was replaced by the lighter-complexioned Daphne Maxwell Reid in the last few seasons. The change in actress was lampshaded on her first appearance but no mention was made of the half-shade difference in color. Even worse, the change in actress (and, with that, skin tone) also corresponded with a change in personality from an assertive outspoken career woman who was every bit her husband's equal to a docile, permissive housewife who appears much less.
- Good Parents: Although she gets less focus than her husband (especially in later seasons), Vivian is always shown as a good and caring mother.
- Happily Married: To Philip.
- Hidden Depths: As a young woman, she dropped out of high school to run off with a guy, and cleaned hotel rooms to put herself through night school to earn her degree. She also knows enough about black history to teach the subject at a high school level, and was active in the Civil Rights Movement along with Uncle Phil.
- Hot Teacher: In early seasons she was a professor played by the very attractive Janet Hubert-Whitten.
- Housewife: Even before the actress switch, a throwaway line reveals she quit her job as a professor to spend more time with her family, becoming a homemaker in the end.
- Lethal Chef: She has a bad habit of burning stuff. This is one of the main reasons why Vivian's so desperate to keep Geoffrey in their employment.
- 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: (to Phillip) You're not going to hit him, are you? (Beat) 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.
- Retired Badass: As mentioned in Phil's section above, Vivian was very active in the Civil Rights Movement, and it's implied that she and Phil occasionally had to defend themselves from systemic violence in the process.
- Sassy Black Woman: She can slip into this when she gets upset, especially in early seasons.
- Tsundere: Occasionally Type B towards Philip.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hot Wife to Philip's Ugly Guy. Will lampshades this with disbelief when they announce Vivian is pregnant with another child.
Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro)
"For a long time it gave me nightmares, having to witness an injustice like that. It was a constant reminder of how unfair this world can be. I can still hear them taunting him. "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids." ...How come they just couldn't give him some cereal?!"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.
- Adorkable: An annoying yet lovable geeky goofball, often wearing polo shirts and sweater. And he invented the hilariously dorky Carlton Dance.
- Angst Coma: When Carlton fails to get into Princeton.
- Beware the Silly Ones: His short stature and overall behavior aside, Carlton actually managed to knock out Will in more than one occasion, whether it be by one punch, or even a blow from his elbow. He once even let Will take a fall from a treehouse by releasing the ladder after Will had started descending it, this after having taken yet another dig at Carlton's height. And then there's the time that Carlton meets a bunch of Will's old friends, all of them tough guys, and it doesn't take long for Carlton to be acting and talking as tough and badass as them, having earned their respect and a place in their crew, which leaves Will absolutely baffled.
- Black and Nerdy: He serves as a foil to his much cooler cousin Will.
- Break the Haughty: Quite a few times.
- Bowties Are Cool: Not the way Carlton does it.
- Bumbling Sidekick: Becomes this to Will in later seasons.
- But Not Too Black: Subverted but deconstructed throughout the series with the jokes about him being The Whitest Black Guy.
- Butt Monkey: Always on the receiving end of Will’s jokes and insults. In their rivalry, Will usually comes out on top. After the first few seasons he is flanderized into a big loser who is made fun of by nearly everyone.
- Characterization Marches On: Carlton was introduced in Season 1 as an incredibly preppy and pompous Smug Snake playing no more than a rival or Foil to Will. Recurring emotional breakdowns and being a Butt Monkey occurred in the next seasons; and eventually became the complete nerdy goof everyone loves and remembers.
- Clark Kent Outfit: He may be short, but he could still make a fair amount of men feel pretty inferior about their bodies.
- Cloudcuckoolander: At times.
- Comedic Sociopathy: At times, usually when money's involved. One time he said in Uncle Phil's proximityCarlton: It's my property, I'm gonna inherit it after the big guy takes his bungee jump
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While the Carlton Dance is very goofy, he's shown to be a very able dancer in Season 5 episode "Sooooul Train". Counts as an Actor Allusion since Alfonso Ribeiro used to be one of Michael Jackson's backup dancers.
- Ditzy Genius: He's very book smart, but also extremely immature and naive, especially in later seasons. For example, in the episode where he loses his virginity, the woman tells him he can kiss her good-bye in the morning and Carlton replies with, "What time should I come back?"
- Extracurricular Enthusiast: In high school. Captain of the debate team, straight A student, leader of the glee club, editor of the yearbook..
- Extraverted Nerd: Not originally, but more so as the series progresses.
- Fanboy: Of Tom Jones, William Shatner and Macaulay Culkin.
- Flanderization: Carlton started off as being un-hip and unathletic, but socially savvy and popular in his own setting. As time goes on, his social awkwardness and naivete dominate his character.
- Foil: Most of the show is based on the interactions between him and Will, because they are total opposite in every way.
- Friendly Enemy: To Will, mostly in season 1.
- Friendly Rivalry: There's always a bit of competition between him and Will, even though they become best friends in later seasons.
- The Gambling Addict: In a couple of episodes.
- Height Angst: Zig-zagged. He usually doesn’t seem to care about his short height, but in a few episodes he acts annoyed with Will’s endless short jokes about him, or admits he’s jealous because Will is taller and more popular.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Becomes this with Will later on.
- Hollywood Dateless: In contrast to Will, he’s always referred to be as hopeless with girls and as someone who has trouble finding dates. However throughout the show he has more onscreen dates than both his beautiful sisters (justified considering their respective amounts of screen-time), he has been hit on by girls numerous times (although Carlton usually screws up with them anyways), and at least four girls actually picked him over Will.
- Humiliation Conga: Gets a particularly bad one in a short amount of time in season six. First he's fired from his job as assistant talent coordinator for Hilary in favor of Will, then gets rejected from several attempts to pad his résumé, including Bob Dole's campaign headquarters, got passed over for a job he was certain he had in the bag, and ultimately found himself skipping an interview with a Princeton scout to hang out at a local blues bar.
- Ivy League for Everyone: He eventually gains transfer admission to Princeton. However, it's actually not too unrealistic, considering Carlton is a legacy child (Phil attended Princeton), comes from a wealthy and connected family, and has worked himself to the bone for years to maintain near-perfect grades.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He starts out as a snobbish Jerkass in the first season, but gruadually becomes a close friend to Will and learns to genuinely care about him, even referring to him in one episode as "the brother I've always wanted".
- The Lancer: To Will.
- Large Ham: In later seasons.
- Man Child: When he and Nicky go to see Dougie, they're equally excited. Not to mention Dressing up as Macaulay freakin' Culkin for Halloween. Goddamnit.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: This causes him to rush into losing his virginity. Unfortunately, it happens to be with a married woman. It's treated far more seriously than most other shows and it's pretty clear that if Carlton could change the circumstances and take it back, he gladly would.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: How often he feels about Will.
- Pointy-Haired Boss: During his time as manager of the Peacock Stop, he'll gladly screw over the clientele in order to attempt to raise profits or cut costs. And he treats Will like utter crap when he first gets the job.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Especially in early seasons. He acts like this even to his father at times. Though he's nothing compared to Phil's protege in "Cased Up" who kisses up twice as much and twice as well as Carlton does.
- Running Gag: His (in)ability to dance. Except to "Billie Jean". His "Billie Jean" dance could be an Actor Allusion as Alfonso Ribeiro once danced alongside Michael Jackson in the latter's famous Pepsi commercials. His dancing abilities become something of a The Cast Showoff during the family's appearance on Soul Train.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: He manages to outscream both of his sisters, older and younger.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Sensitive Guy to Will's Manly Man.
- Small Name, Big Ego: He thinks very highly of himself because he’s rich and well-educated, and especially overestimates his ability to understand social situations leading to many Break the Haughty moments.
- Smug Snake: Mostly in the beginning.
- Straw Loser: He wasn’t supposed to be a loser early in the series but he’s gradually flanderized into an immature dork who just can’t compete with Will. In season one he was actually implied to be quite popular in his school but in one of the later episodes Carlton himself says he was always a loner and a “dweeb” in high school.
- Took a Level in Badass: When he started out, most of the time he relied on either Will or Phil to back him up. However during an episode where someone accuses him of "Not being black enough" he drops the goofy nerd persona and proceeds to verbally tear the Jerkass a new one.
- Took a Level in Dumbass: He was originally The Comically Serious. Between season 3 and 4 he starts acting goofy and immature more often to the point of becoming a full-blown Man Child in the last few seasons.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Will.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He always wants to please his father and usually sides with him in arguments.
Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons)
"I'm a career woman. I don't have time to dust and push around that... oh, what do you call that big, loud thing that sucks up everything?"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.
- Brainless Beauty: She’s a pretty, rich, spoiled girl who also happens to be an utter airhead and basically incapable of doing anything except shopping and spending her father's money. She casually asks her father for 300 dollars in the pilot episode, gets loads of various jobs with unexplained luck, and eventually gains her own television show as a talk show host.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Although she's in her twenties.
- Break the Cutie: Goes through a period of this after Trevor's death.
- Character Development: Originally shallow and lacking self-confidence for being a jobless college dropout, she is shown to be more and more jovial for each successful job she takes on from Season 2 onwards; she ends up starring in her own hot talk show and moves to New York.
- City Mouse: If an activity does not involve shopping, hanging out with celebrities, swimming, going to parties, or any of the activities typically associated with Southern California high society, Hilary is likely going to be allergic to it.
- Cool Big Sis: Usually averted because Carlton and Ashley don’t see her as one. But there are a few moments where she’s shown to be a loving and supportive older sister, most notably when she gives Ashley advice about sleeping with her boyfriend, a rare serious and heartwarming moment from Hilary.
- The Ditz: Very obviously. In the episode where Vivian is finally having the baby in the hospital:Philip: (to newborn Nicky) Hello, little Nicholas Andrew Banks.Vivian: I thought we agreed to call him Philip.Hilary: Ew, that's a stupid name.
- Friend to All Children: As long as they aren't related to her. Hilary loves babies and toddlers, and hit it off with a troop of Girl Scout expies (though she needed some advice from Geoffrey, first).
- Full Name Ultimatum: "Hilary Violet Banks!"
- It's All About Me: Sports a massive ego. When told to make a Mother's Day gift, she compiles a video montage featuring Vivian's "greatest achievement: Hilary Banks".
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While it doesn't show very much, she does genuinely care for her family. Especially when Will gets shot. Also when Ashley is contemplating sleeping with her boyfriend, without outright telling what she should or shouldn't do, she's very supportive.
- Lethal ChefHilary: I know what I'm doing. Remember, I was a professional caterer.Will: And you still would be if you hadn't poisoned those nuns.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: The dark to Ashley's light.
- Loophole Abuse: How she ended up in the pool house during season three. In her own words, Philip told her she had to be out of the house, not off of the property.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: She's mostly cheerfully oblivious to how badly she treats those beneath her (mainly Geoffrey).
- Noodle Incident: In regards to entertaining men in the jacuzzi."That's between me, that man and his video camera!"
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Several times during "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse"Hilary: Will's dad is a deadbeat who left him and his mother flat
- Proud Beauty: "I'm a beautiful woman trapped in an even more beautiful woman's body."
- Really Gets Around: During the first two seasons, at least. Though only one of her dates is actually shown, it's referred to plenty of times.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Due to her rich lifestyle, she’s very spoiled and largely clueless.Philip: You didn't have the common sense to know that?Hilary: I don't have any common sense!
- Spoiled Brat: Her first line ever was "Dad, I need $300!"
- Took a Level in Dumbass: She was always the least intelligent family member but initially she was more snobby and shallow than a Brainless Beauty.
- The Unfavorite: Fortunately, she's too dim to notice.
- Upper-Class Twit: Worst one in the family.
- Valley Girl: Even though she has all the mannerisms down, she's actually from Bel Air and in one episode describes hell as being "like, the Valley".
- Woman Child: Hilary is hopelessly immature and can't be self-sufficient, so her parents tolerate her freeloading.
Ashley Banks (Tatyana M. Ali)
"Come on, Daddy, 10 years? The Menendez boys will be out before I am."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.
- Acquired Situational Narcissism: When she became a music sensation, she let the fame go to her head. She returned to normal once it became clear she would be a One-Hit Wonder, though.
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sometimes, starting in season four.
- Closer to Earth: Than Carlton and Hilary.
- Daddy's Girl: She fights this trope for much of the show before eventually accepting and appreciating her father's concern.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: The light to Hilary's dark.
- Nice Girl: Especially when she was a little girl. Even as a teenager, despite her occasional Bratty Teenage Daughter moments, she's still sweeter than most of her family.
- Only Sane Woman: Much more sane and level-headed than most of the family (especially compared to her siblings). Ironically because she’s the youngest.
- Rebellious Princess: She becomes this also because of Will's influence.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: The older she gets, the prettier she gets and the more overprotective Uncle Phil gets. As well as Will and Carlton. Ask Jaleel White.
- She's All Grown Up: Naturally through the seasons, though Uncle Phil is reluctant to accept this.
- Spoiled Sweet: In contrast to snobby Hilary and Carlton, Ashley is introduced as a down-to-earth and sweet girl who immediately forms a close bond with her cousin Will.
- Straight Man: Being the most normal character, Ashley rarely gets funny lines or moments, and is mostly a foil to the antics of her quirky family members.
- Straw Feminist: During a Thanksgiving two-parter.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Once she became a teenager.
Geoffrey Butler (Joseph Marcell)
"I would prefer an assassin's bullet to this kind of living hell."The Banks family butler, an older English man who outside of the witty barbs has a great relationship with the family.
- Battle Butler: He once was a sparring partner for Chuck Norris and even took on a guy bigger than him in a bar fight. He also has Phil's Pool Cue at the ready when Phil shows his skills.
- Bowties Are Cool
- Brutal Honesty: He has no problem telling the Banks what he thinks about them, and always in a subtle snarky way.
- Characterization Marches On: Originally very respectful and gentlemanly (in Season 1), but he becomes more and more a cynical Deadpan Snarker who openly hates his job and the Banks family, to the point that literally everything to come out of his mouth is a sarcastic remark or an outright insult (towards everyone except Vivian, Ashley, and Nicky).
- Chronic Villainy: Geoffrey switches back and forward between plotting against and hating the family and feeling genuine affection for them throughout the series.
- Cloudcuckoolander: When drunk.
- Comedic Sociopathy: He has his moments.
- Deadpan Snarker: Much emphasis on the deadpan part.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Barbara. "It's a family name!"
- Gentleman Snarker: Even when making fun of Will and the Banks, he always refers to Will as "Master William” and the Banks children as "Master Carlton", "Miss Hilary", "Miss Ashley", and "Master Nicky", and always speaking in a deadpan, sarcastic tone.
- The Jeeves: A British butler who is also well-dressed, dutiful, and polite…at least in the first season, before becoming a Deadpan Snarker.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Considering how everyone treats him, his cynical and insulting attitude towards the family is somewhat justified.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sometimes you have to wonder why Uncle Phil doesn't fire him. However Geoffrey has his kindly moments and still has a (somewhat) good relationship with the family, as seen in the episode where they ask him to become Nicky’s godfather.
- Luke, You Are My Father: In Season 6, he discovers he has a son he never knew about, named Frederick.
- Meaningful Name: Of the aptronym variety, for his last name.
- Only Sane Man: How he sees himself, but this is hardly true in later seasons.
- Sarcastic Devotee: How much he’s actually loyal and devoted to the Banks family varies Depending on the Writer. In one episode where he believes he has won a multimillion dollar lottery (it was actually a prank of Will and Carlton) Geoffrey immediately quits his job after insulting the whole family, although he comes back eventually.
- Servile Snarker: Used to be the Trope Namer.
- Too Kinky to Torture: "Sleepless In Bel-Air" had him talking about a wonderful dream where Amazonian women had him tied up and were taunting him with tangelos
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: A unique case of being born on screen and then aged up to fill this role.
- 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?
Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff/Jeffrey A. Townes)
- Abhorrent Admirer: Toward Hilary.
- Brutal Honesty: He just doesn't know when to shut up, especially around Uncle Phil.
- The Casanova: Well, sometimes.
- Chivalrous Pervert: He has quite the reputation as a casanova but he treats these women well as shown by how Jewel said Jazz treats her
- He's very brazen in his attraction to Hillary, but when seeing how her abrasive boss treats her, he defends her in very eloquent terms.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Most of the time.
- Cool Shades: He wears sunglasses all the time.
- Drop-In Character: More like "Throw Out Character"...
- Getting the Boot: The famous Running Gag of Jazz getting thrown out of the Banks' house (usually by Phil, but everyone in the family except Carlton and Ashley did it at least once).
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Will.
- Hopeless Suitor: To Hilary. He has a massive crush on her but she always turns him down.
- Jerkass: Sometimes. Such as when he advertised a huge party at Will and Carton's apartment and charged money that he kept for himself, leaving Will and Carlton to get kicked out of their apartment the following day.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite his occasional Jerkass moments, he's a good friend to Will and holds genuine care for all of the members (including Phil).
- Limited Wardrobe: Because of his being thrown out of the house is Stock Footage, he always wears the same outfit when he's about to get thrown out.
- One Steve Limit: As Geoffrey the butler is a regular character, DJ Jazzy Jeff's character goes by Jazz at all times.
- Only One Name: He's only know as Jazz and has no known last name.
- Out of Focus: His appearances are less frequent in later seasons.
- Recurring Character: Surprisingly he never has a Promotion to Opening Titles.
- Running Gag: His tendency to get thrown out of the Bankses' house. Inverted, subverted, and averted a couple of times, such as when he was thrown into the house, when Jazz threw Uncle Phil out the house, and when Jazz did something so horrible that Will doesn't think he's worth kicking out of the house. Also invoked by Jazz himself to show that he can reach the car from the house without walking.
- Show Stopper: Ironically starting around the time he became Out of Focus
- Tempting Fate: In one of his Running Gag moments, he proudly brags about how he's already outside the house so Uncle Phil can't throw him out. Gilligan Cut to Jazz getting thrown into the house instead.
- Wacky Guy: He serves as Will's dumb, ill mannered friend who is always getting thrown out of the house.
Viola "Vi" Smith (Vernee Watson-Johnson)
- In the Blood: When Vy cracks a joke about Uncle Phil's weight in "'Twas The Night Before Christening" and Phil lampshades this by saying "Okay now I see where Will gets it from"
- 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.
Lou Smith (Ben Vereen)
- Blatant Lies: All he ever does is tell lies or make excuses for why he abandoned Will, and he hasn't changed at all.
- Cool Old Guy: Subverted.
- Disappeared Dad: Abandoned his family when Will was only four years old.
- Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: He abandoned his family when Will was only four years old. He then returns to Will fourteen years later to fix their strained relationship. Will openly accepts him and believes that his father has changed. Then, Lou quickly abandons his son again when some "important business" comes up and he can't make time for his son. This leads to the most heart-wrenching scene in the series.
Hattie "Granny" Banks (Virginia Capers)
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: To Philip. She loves to tell stories about his childhood, particularly involving pig-raising.
- Cool Old Lady
- Embarrassing Nickname: She still calls Philip "Zeke", much to his chagrin.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Only appears in season one.
- Dumb Blonde: Dumber even than Hilary.
- Black Best Friend: Inverted. She's the White Best Friend To Hilary.
Kellogg "Cornflake" Lieberbaum (Michael Weiner)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Never appears or is mentioned again after season two.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Undoubtedly the most awed at Will's coolness at Bel-Air prep.
- Token White
Edward "Ned" Fellows III
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: His last appearance is in "Day Damn One."
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Very awkwardly so — he even wrote Hamlet in Black English. He justifies it by living in Harlem for three weeks.
- 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.
- Brainless Beauty
- Dropped a Bridge on Him
- It's All About Me: If someone pays a compliment to somebody in his vicinity, he takes it for himself. Additionally, he was more insulted by Jazz not knowing who he was than by Jazz making advances on Hilary.
- Killed Off for Real: And caught on live television, while proposing to Hilary.
Helen Smith (Jennifer Lewis)
- Deadpan Snarker
- Lovable Sex Maniac: In season six, as by that point she had been divorced for three years.
- No Indoor Voice
- Sassy Black Woman
Janice Smith Schaeffer (Charlayne Woodard)
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Is the cause of this among her family when she marries a white man.
- Genki Girl
- Put on a Bus: It's mentioned that she's on vacation in a season four episode, but then never appears again.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: Though considering Helen divorces him, the "lovable" part is up for debate.
- Mistaken for Cheating: He was actually seeing a psychiatrist due to impotence from depression.
- Put on a Bus: Via divorce.
- Tempting Fate: No, he does not know how to ski.
- 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)
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: He's a white guy marrying into a black family.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: He's not quite used to having a black extended family.
- Put on a Bus: Went on vacation with Janice and never came back.
- Token White
Judge Carl Robertson (Sherman Hemsley)
- And There Was Much Rejoicing: At the judge's funeral, Will admitted his part in Robertson's death; everyone in the room gave him a standing ovation.
- Asshole Victim: Literally no one is sad to see him go. His funeral is filled with people who hate him for one reason or another.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: To the public he's a respectable jurist, complete with a family of paid actors. In reality, he's anything but respectable.
- Broken Pedestal: Uncle Phil is ecstatic to learn that he's running against his former mentor, believing that the campaign will be fair and honest on both sides. Then he ends up on the wrong side of Judge Robertson's smear campaign, forcing Phil to lose all respect for the man.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The implication is that he's senile, but he was odd even when he was younger.
- Dirty Old Man: He's a huge pervert; his campaign headquarters is filled with scantily clad women, and he once even convicted an innocent man because he wanted a date with the prosecutor.
- 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: From a very poorly timed heart-attack.
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
- 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)
- Boyish Short Hair
- Embarrassing First Name: Beulah, her real first name.
- Hidden Depths: An offhand remark in "It's A Wonderful Lie" implies she has a reputation for being a party animal and player not unlike Will himself
- Lethal Chef
- Love Interest: To Will.
- Put on a Bus: After season 5.
- Yandere: She fakes this during their first date as a prank set up by Carlton. Will gets even though.
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.
- Even worse, Vy had shown interest i another guy in Season 6
- 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?: When Will and Lisa call of their wedding mid-ceremony, Fred decides its a good time to get married to Vi.