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.
- Academic Athlete: Mostly in early seasons. He is the prep school's star basketball player and in season 1 he's stated to be an avid student and a teacher invited to dinner also states he got an A in his class. In season 2 he also manages to score higher than Carlton on a standardized test and it's mentioned his grades were still good. In later seasons, he is more The Slacker when it comes to academics and his basketball skills are rarely mentioned.
- The Ace: Which isn't to say he can't muck up, but he's fast-thinking and fast-talking enough that he usually gets out of trouble eventually. He's also athletic, popular, a Chick Magnet, and gets great grades without even trying (at least in high school). He also shows random skills and talents in different episodes as the plot demands.
- Accidental Pornomancer: Though he's definitely The Casanova, there has been an occasional story about a woman who just wouldn't take no for an answer, or whom sleeping with was just an all-around bad idea. His girlfriend's mother, for example.
- Age-Appropriate Angst: The last 2 seasons had Will often concerning whether or not he'll be able to make something of his life
- Always Someone Better: To Carlton. The episodes that focus on Will and Carlton's rivalry usually end up badly for the latter (with a few exceptions, like Soul Train) who will inevitably become jealous of Will's success.
- 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.
- Aside Glance: Frequently. Heck, his featured picture even shows him engaged in one!
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: He has several of these moments with both Uncle Phil and Carlton, despite being at odds with them most of the time.
- 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: Do not compare him to his dad. Ever.
- Big Brother Instinct: He's very protective of Ashley, although he's more like "Big Cousin Instinct". When Ashley is a teenager in later seasons, she doesn't always appreciate this. He also has some shades of this with the more naive Carlton.
- Big Brother Mentor: To his youngest cousin Ashley, who looks up to him.
- 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".
- Black and Nerdy: Downplayed. He's a bit of a Closet Geek and collects Transformers figures and reads comic books.
- Born Lucky: It's a recurring theme throughout the show that Will stumbles into opportunities that Carlton would all but kill for. At one point his charisma and talent have a Princeton recruiter literally begging Will to accept a position at the university, leaving Carlton horrified.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Will does this at least once every three episodes, if not more.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Even though he acts like a slacker, he is shown to be this on several occasions, showing many Hidden Depths. In one episode, he scores higher than Carlton, someone who usually gets very good grades, on a standardized test. Will scores in the 91st percentile whereas Carlton scores in the 90th. The thing is, Will didn't even study for the test whereas Carlton studied his ass off. Naturally, Carlton is upset. At the end of the episode, Will calms him down by pointing out that they each have their own strengths — Will did better on some parts of the test whereas Carlton did better on other parts — and their total scores are only one point apart. Also, he says, it's an aptitude test, not something studying ought to help with.
- Butt-Monkey: At times. Notably, he's been knocked and humiliated a few times by more intimidating guys. He also gets hurt for physical comedy in quite a few episodes.
- 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.
- Catchphrase: "You know what I mean?" / "You know what I'm sayin'?"
- 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.
- Characterization Marches On: In the first season, while still being goofy and fun-loving, he was also stated to be a hard-working good student and was apparently bullied at school in Philly for actually studying. In early season 2 he is Brilliant, but Lazy and manages to score higher than Carlton on a standardized test, without even studying. In season 3 ("The Alma Matter"), he's stated to be a mediocre student. In college, he's still portrayed as a slacker, introducing his professor to Hilary to improve his failing class or cheating to get a good grade.
- 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.
- Closet Geek: He definitely has his nerdy side. If he applies himself even a little he will achieve grades that rival Carlton in school, and don't even get him started on Beast Wars.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Not as much as other characters but he is eccentric, with all his Large Ham moments and corny pickup lines.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: To Carlton, quite a few of the episodes revolve around Will trying to break him out of his Manchild behavior. Ironically Carlton thinks he's this to Will. In reality, it's actually the opposite.
- Cool Big Bro: To Ashley since the first episode, although this is toned down in later seasons. In the first episode she tells him "You're like the big brother l never had".
- Cowardly Lion: He will usually try to weasel his way out of a fight, but he will fight back if he absolutely has to.
- 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: Only second to Geoffrey. He makes sassy remarks especially around Carlton and Uncle Phil.
- Delinquents: Will's mother sent him to live with the Banks hoping they could set him on the straight and narrow after one too many run-ins with the law. The opening credits also have him being admonished by a police man for vandalism.
- 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?
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" needs better guests, he gets a dismissed juror from a high profile case Uncle Phil was the judge for to come on the show. While the guest's rant is hilarious, Uncle Phil is not happy about what the man said about him.
- Disapproving Look: He liked to give this a lot, especially to Carlton when he acted particularly childish.
- Family of Choice: Over the course of the show Will comes to see Uncle Phil as his father, especially after his fateful encounter with his biological father, who he ends up disowning after being abandoned a second time. He also comes to see his cousins as his siblings and Aunt Vivian as a second mother despite still having a wonderful relationship with his biological mother.
- Fish out of Water: The premise of the show, with Will being an easygoing streetwise kid from West Philadelphia moving to rich, snooty Bel-Air. It's especially noticeable in the early seasons when he a student at Bel-Air Prep. The season 2 premiere also shows him being scared out of his mind by an earthquake while everyone else is able to shake it off since they are more used to them.
- Fun Personified: Very fun-loving and always joking around. Most of the time anyway.
- Genius Ditz: A little bit. Tray mentioned how he would hide his textbooks and study times from people back in Philly, lest he be targeted for fights and mocked. It helps said friend was there to protect him. It was based on the real Will Smith being a surprisingly excellent student.
- 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 hes Will Smith.
- Happily Adopted: By the end of the series, he freely admits that he's elated in having his Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian as his father and a second mother to go along with his actual mother, not to mention being able to have siblings in Carlton, Hilary, Ashley, and Nicky. All six of them are more than happy to reciprocate that feeling.
- 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 not being in his life.
- High School Hustler: Although most of his schemes were done at home with Uncle Phil being the Dean Bitterman.
- 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.
- In "Stop Will! In The Name Of Will", Will starts getting overprotective towards Ashley when he starts seeing some similarities between himself and Ashley's date. Will's own date Samantha calls Will out on his Double Standard for acting hostile towards a boy who does the same things as him just because said boy is putting the moves on his little cousin.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming:
- He's made a few questionable moves with women. But he will not watch anyone do the same thing to Ashley.
- He picks on Carlton all the time and has made quite a few jokes about him being too "white". But he is quick to defend him against anyone who puts him down, especially the fraternity president.
- 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.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Quite a few times Will shows himself to be the more mature and reasonable person in the room. Examples are "Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy" were he castigates Vivian for her disrespectful attitude towards his friend Trey, "Mistaken Identity" where he is much more aware of racial biases with American police departments than Carlton and "Home is Where the Heart Attack Is" where he chews out Carlton for not seeing Phil in the hospital.
- 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: Even if he's The Casanova, he falls in love with Lisa in season 5.
- Large Ham: Let's face it, a good chunk of the show hinged on Will being this.
- Like a Son to Me: For Uncle Phil. The genius of the show is that Phil is Will's uncle by marriage; Aunt Viv is his blood relative.
- 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!"
- Manchild: Especially in the later seasons and particularly when it came to his way with the ladies. Carlton even called him out on this in an episode and called the behavior acceptable in high school, but an embarrassment now that they're in college.
- 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.
- Mr. Vice Guy: Even through all of his faults and idiosyncrasies, Will is a genuinely decent guy.
- My God, What Have I Done?:
- After Judge Robertson dies of a heart attack right after Will tells him to drop dead. Will, however, is the only one who is miserable since almost everyone hated the guy.
- His reaction from the middle to the end of "Just Say Yo...", especially after a tearful and utterly remorseful Will admits to the family that the drugs that nearly killed Carlton was his, but that he had been given them by someone else due to the stresses he had with his job, school and sports wiping him out and just put them in his locker.
- Not So Different:
- He and Uncle Phil are both quick-minded, overprotective, have underprivileged backgrounds, huge fans of Malcolm X, Phil was The Casanova and The Ace 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 goofy and free-spirited.
- While he and Carlton are Clashing Cousins for being opposite, both can be arrogant, blind to their own faults and always ready to point out the flaws of the other. And they both like Beverly Hills, 90210.
- As Carlton points out, to his father. Like his father, he's The Social Expert, and tends to try to get by on just his charm. Unlike his father, however, he cares about his family and has a sense of responsibility, however slight.
- 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.
- One Head Taller: Not including the women, he's this to Carlton, Geoffrey and Jazz. The only recurring character that's taller than him is the 6'5" Uncle Phil.
- Paper Tiger: Despite putting up an image of a tough guy, Will gets his ass handed to him quite often throughout the show. He even got knocked out by Carlton once while the latter had his hands glued to his head and on two occasions Geoffrey was able to physically overpower him.
- Parent Never Came Back from the Store: Will's dad ran off this way when he was five. He didn't come back until years later.
- Phrase Catcher: Any varitation of "This is all your fault."
- Rags to Riches: The premise of the show.
- Really Gets Around: Before settling with Lisa, Will pretty much had a different girlfriend per episode.
- Real Men Hate Affection: Anytime Carlton wants to hug Will or even spend time talking to one another, Will is openly annoyed or uncomfortable. Lampshaded in the flashback episode "For Sale by Owner".
- Sad Clown: When his father walks out on him, his veneer of indifference completely cracks.Will: How come he don't want me, man?
- The Scapegoat: In later seasons, this doesn't go unlampshaded.Will: What is that, the theme of this family? 'When in doubt blame Will.'
- Self-Deprecation: Believe it or not, yes. As highly as he thinks of himself, whenever Will has an Imagine Spot of himself in the future, he envisions himself as a sleazy, unkempt and usually overweight (namely with an oversized butt) old man.
- 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.
- Stepford Smiler: In a dramatic sense, probably most evident in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse." Behind all his fun-loving, womanizing, crazy antic ways, he is a scared little boy lonesome for a father figure in his life, and is deeply crushed and upset when the man that fathered him is no father at all. He grieves this realitization and becomes a real man ... and realizes that Phil is the real father figure in his life.
- 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.
- Vague Age: Just how old he's supposed to be seems to lack consistency, especially in the first season. While it's commonly suggested that the infamous title song fight and subsequent move-in to Bel-Air happened when he was 15, the ages of the women that he dates in Season 1 are clearly adult aged. While this can be chalked up to 'Vaules Dissonance,' and 'Rule of Funny,' it does make it feel jarring to see this supposed high-school aged kid being treated like a full-on adult. This gets rectified in the later seasons when he's seen more in school.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Carlton. The 'vitriolic' part gets downplayed over time.
- What the Hell, Hero?: While his schemes and girl chasing was mostly harmless, there were two incidents in particular that really crossed the line and earned him serious wrath from uncle Phil.
- He and Carlton pawned one of Vivian's necklaces to get extra funds for trading stock and lost it all because the tip they got turned out to be bad, which would be bad enough on its own, but Carlton got the tip through insider trading, which is a federal crime.
- By far the worst thing Will did in the whole series was trying to trick a girl into sleeping with him by staging a fake wedding (Jazz played the preacher) because she didn't want to have sex before marriage. He came to his senses at the last minute and didn't go through with it, but had he done so, it could very likely have been considered rape-by-deception. Tellingly, when Phil finds out, he responds with Tranquil Fury instead of his usual rage and it takes him three years to think of a punishment fitting the action.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Which leads to a humiliating defeat at the hands of an attractive female boxing trainer. He eventually stands up to her, which only unleashes her kinky side and she sleeps with him.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Is often told this by Uncle Phil in his Tough Love ways. One good example is when Uncle Phil chews him out for running away from anything that challenges him when his first semester of college is filled with fluff classes except Western Philosophy, which he dropped almost immediately.
- 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)
A successful attorney (later appointed Superior 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.
- Affectionate Nickname: Affectionately called "Big guy" by Carlton.
- Anger Born of Worry: He demonstrates this whenever his kids (Will included) go beyond their usual shenanigans and put themselves in danger. A particularly strong example is Ashley lying about going to a fraternity party in "It's A Wonderful Lie." He's furious but makes it clear that he's especially concerned about the danger she put herself in.
- 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 too far by some injustice.
- 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.
- Berserk Button: Don't take away his Thanksgiving dinner or he'll give you a legal beatdown.
- Best Served Cold: Done a couple of times:
- 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, apparently involving medieval torture. 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.
- When a cop with a grudge against Phil arrests him and Will when they're Wrongly Accused of solicitation, Phil threatens to release the wrath of God on him. Finally the cop lets Will and Phil out and assures them there'll be no publicity and no records. He then asks if there are no hard feelings, and Phil replies "no chance". The cop has an Oh, Crap! look on his face and realizes that Phil is going to make him regret this.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In most problematic situations Phil is initially courteous and civil, but heaven help you if you antagonize him or make things difficult. A shining example of this is when Phil confronts the racist cops who have placed Will and Carlton in jail during "Mistaken Identity." When the cops are dismissive and haughty about Phil's initial civility, he unleashes such a spectacular verbal beatdown on them that the audience roars with applause.
- 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.
- 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.
- Category Traitor: Several episodes reveal that he secretly fears that he's a sellout for becoming a high powered corporate attorney and leaving his old neighborhood. At first, Will thinks this of him, but he grows out of it as they spend more time together.
- Cool Uncle: Zig-Zagged. He and Will get on each other's nerves occasionally and he is not the typical easygoing uncle, but at the end of the day, he's awesome and Will learned to respect him as a true father figure. Ironically, in the early episodes Vivian was much more of a Cool Aunt, but by the end of the show Will is closer to Uncle Phil.
- Country Mouse: As revealed in an early episode, Phil secretly grew up in a very rural part of North Carolina, was nicknamed Zeke, had a pet pig, was the first black president of the Young Farmers, and engaged in a civil rights protest when he drank too much lemonade in town and had to use a whites-only bathroom. While Phil considers these stories embarrassing at first and is furious at Will for leaking them, he eventually learns to embrace both his past and parents.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not quite to the extent of Geoffrey but he has his moments throughout the series.
- Denied Food as Punishment: He threatens to do this to Will and Carlton. He never visibly follows through on it though.Phil: No dates, no charge cards, no movies, no television, no phone calls, NO FOOD!
- 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.
- Dope Slap: It's rare to find an episode where he doesn't do this, usually to Carlton but Will also gets it.
- Education Papa: Unsurprisingly given how education opened up doors for him in his own life. Phil takes the education of his own children very seriously, which causes friction when Hilary drops out of college or when Will starts trying to coast by taking easy classes. He's also initially adamant that Ashley not transfer to a public school but relents when she proves that she'll still receive a good education.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Zeke," by his parents.
- Family Man: Uncle Phil's definition of a real man - there for his family no matter what (which he certainly his).
- 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.
- For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: In one episode, it's stated that he always goes to Halloween parties as a judge. In the end, he simply wears street clothes and says he's "someone who doesn't want to be here."Hilary: (at her costume party) Daddy, you need a costume.
Uncle Phil: (in casual clothes, unamused) I'm in my costume- I'm Comfortable Man.
Ashley: Is he a super-hero?
Uncle Phil: Sort of. He has super-human bill-paying powers, so he gets to dress however he wants.
- Formerly Fit: An episode that flashed back to over a decade previous showed that he was slimmer and more conventionally attractive before he got into the wealthy world of high-powered law. It's also mentioned several times that he played football in both high school and college and was quite good at it.
- Genius Bruiser: Phil is a very big and very strong man who played football in his youth. He's also a highly skilled lawyer and eventual judge who won scholarships to Yale, Princeton, Wharton and Talladega Tech.
- 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!
- HA HA HANo: 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.
- 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: Will initially dismisses him as an uptight wealthy person who lost touch with the black community. Turns out that he was in the Civil Rights movement (and, it is implied, more Malcolm X than Martin Luther King) and has never stopped fighting that fight (though he does it in different ways) He also retains enough of the brawling and pool-playing skills he picked up during his street days to take on people half his age.
- Hypocritical Heartwarming: His treatment of Will raises serious questions about if he actually likes his nephew at all. If anyone else mistreats Will, however, nothing can protect you from his wrath.
- I Call It "Vera": One episode features his custom pool cue, named Lucille. He is hustling a pool hustler, and in the first game asks Geoffrey to hand him "one of those stick thingies." Then, in the second game, where the stakes are far higher, he tells Geoffrey to "break out Lucille."
- I Was Quite a Looker: In an episode flashback taking place from before he became a corporate lawyer and still lived in the old neighborhood, is shown to have been svelte, good-looking and carrying a full head of hair.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As stern and short tempered as he is, he is also a very loving father and uncle.
- Large and in Charge: Hes a very big man, and the patriarch of the family.
- 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.
- Minored In Ass Kicking: He's a very intelligent and erudite man who accomplishes his biggest moments of badassery with his knowledge and prefers it that way. That said, he's also a 6'5 former college football star; when sufficiently angered, he will not hesitate to remind people that there's still some muscle under his flab. Best shown when he punched out an obnoxious father of one of Ashley's classmates, or when he was trapped on an elevator with a Jerkass who kept smoking cigarettes and refusing to let him use his cell phone even as Vivian was going through labor.Phil: Relax Will, I was trained as a lawyer for many years, I was trained in the art of negotiation. Observe. [walks up to the man] Sir?
[the man turns around; Phil suddenly grabs him by the collar]
Phil: Give me that damn phone or I'll rip your liver out and eat it RAW.
- Not So Above It All: He's one of the most serious characters, especially compared to Will and Carlton, but still has his silly, irrational moments for the sake of a quick gag.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: In one episode, Will loses some money to a pool hustler, and then Uncle Phil loses some more trying to get it back. Then, as soon as the hustler agrees to another round at higher stakes:Uncle Phil: Geoffrey? Break out Lucille.
- Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: In the present day, he is a business lawyer mostly doing corporate mergers. However, in his youth he was a very skilled civil rights and anti-poverty lawyer. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of the rights of criminal defendants, which he's displayed on multiple occasions.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- If he starts laughing after a really bad prank or screwup of Will's, that's usually a good sign to run for your life.
- Any time he loses his appetite; one notable instance of this was, unsurprisingly when Will's deadbeat father shows up unannounced at his house. Phil is quick to excuse himself before he does something regrettable.
- 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: Mess with his family in any way and may God help you. And yes that includes Will.
- In the episode "Mistaken Identity," when a racist police officer arrests his son Carlton and nephew Will, he 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.
- When the parents of Ashley's school bully advise that they seek psychiatric help for her. Long story short, shit gets real.
- A few occasions where he threw Jazz out of the house was after the latter made unflattering advances at Hilary. One of which occurs when he begrudgingly allows Jazz to substitute for a sick Geoffrey. When he and Vivian confront Jazz about destroying his briefcase, Hilary, whos crying over an unrequited love, runs to Vivians arms. Jazz then takes it upon himself to ask Phil to take Hilary off their hands, which pushes Phil over the edge. Cue Jazz being jettisoned from the house with a cardboard cutout of Bill Cosby.
- When Will's father Lou shows up. As Lou is preparing to leave... without Will and asks Uncle Phil to let him know... Phil unleashes a verbal beatdown on Lou not seen since the Mistaken Identity. And it's glorious.
- He also out-hustles a pool hustler who tried to cheat Will out of thousands of dollars!
- Paranoia Gambit: He does this in response to Will's antics once.Phil: ...I'm not going to punish you, Will.
Will: [Beat] ...That's radical, Uncle Phil, but it just might work.
Phil: I'm not going to punish you today. Maybe not even tomorrow. You see, I need to think a long, long time about what I'm going to do with you. I don't know, it might come to me... pfft, in the middle of the night. Or maybe next week, or, a few years from now. In the meantime, why don't you worry about it? Be afraid, Will... (pulls him in close) Be very afraid.
- 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.
- Stout Strength: Phil might have a spare tire, but he's really strong underneath it.
- Threatening Mediator: In "Grumpy Young Men", Will and Carlton were bickering because the girl Will likes kisses Carlton in front of him. Philip tells the two that they either settle their differences or he will do it himself.
- Tough Love: A perfect example occurs in the Season 3 episode "Just Say Yo." Carlton mistakes amphetamines (a recreational drug known as "Speed"), that he finds in Will's locker, for vitamins, and ends up in the hospital. When Will admits to Uncle Phil that the drugs came from his own locker, he has an emotional breakdown out of guilt. Despite the fact that the normally jovial Will is beginning to cry, Phil forces Will to come clean in front of the whole family. After the fact, with Will sobbing over the possibility that he could have seriously hurt Carlton, Uncle Phil embraces him as the episode ends.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Uncle Phil loves his turkey, with "pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes...butter drenched dressing...tiny onions in an ocean of cream sauce..."
- Tranquil Fury: Occasionally, when he's really angry, he speaks softly, smiles, and even laughs...then he really explodes.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: He isn't ugly, but he's definitely overweight. But in true Dom Com style, in Vivian, he has a gorgeous, svelte wife. In fact, given the recasting of Janet Hubert-Whitten with Daphne Maxwell Reid, he technically gets two. Unlike most cases, the difference is acknowledged (thanks to Will's constant teasing and Vivian's occasional gentle ribbing), and Vivian makes a point of telling Will that Phil's weight does not bother her "one bit".
- You Are Fat: Basically, all the jokes about him, usually by Will, Geoffrey, and Jazz.
- You Are Grounded: He hands grounding punishments out like candy in the first three seasons when Will and Carlton are in high school. Ashley gets it from time to time as she gets older.
Vivian Banks (Janet Hubert-Whitten, 1990-1993; Daphne Maxwell Reid, 1993-1996)
The second-oldest of the Smith sisters, and 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.
- Advertised Extra: She rarely contributes to the plot in later seasons, despite still being credited as one of the main characters.
- Almighty Mom: While Uncle Phil is generally the disciplinarian of the Banks household, Janet Hubert-Whitten had moments that demonstrated you should not cross Aunt Viv. When Vivian tells Will, Carlton, and Will's friends that none of them are going to a dangerous gangster neighborhood, one of them - a full head taller than Vivian - starts to protest. When Vivian warns him to not test her he immediately and quietly sits back down!
- 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 less active and independent housewife who appears much less.
- Cool Aunt: Compared to her husband, she is more understanding and tolerant of her nephew.
- Education Mama: She feels strongly about education, to the point where she came down hard on Will and Carlton over them taking black history for granted and more seriously when she talked a smart girl Will was seeing into breaking up with him so that her grades wouldn't be affected (this last one also comes under Well-Intentioned Extremist).
- Flat Character: One of the main complaints about Daphne Reid's "bland" portrayal of the character.
- 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: She was active in the Civil Rights Movement along with Uncle Phil, and participated in the same (occasionally violent) protests. 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.
- Hot Teacher: In early seasons she was a professor played by the very attractive Janet Hubert-Whitten. Later on, her job is almost never mentioned.
- 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.
- Ignored Expert: When Ashley secretly transferred out of Bel-Air Prep and enrolled in public school, Phil was outraged when he found out. He intended to make her transfer back and didn't care at all about the merits of the public school. Vivian takes issue with this—saying he didn't bother to consult her despite her history in education.
- 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.
- Let's Get Dangerous!: If she starts to take off her earrings it's time to run.
- Lysistrata Gambit: Employs this a LOT. Often overlaps with Exiled to the Couch.
- Mama Bear: She was usually a calm, collected voice of reason when compared to the quick-tempered Uncle Phil. But if anyone ever dared to put her children or nephew in any sort of danger, all Hell would break loose.
- In one episode, Will and Carlton are racially profiled for driving Uncle Phil's law partner's Mercedes in an affluent neighborhood; the two are put in jail and forced to confess on live TV to alert Phil and Viv to what had happened. Phil ended up having to hold Vivian back when she stormed into the prison, started openly insulting the officers, and, when dismissed with a "We're busy,", took off her earrings with "Oh, honey, we about to get VERY busy up in here."
- One episode saw Carlton befriending some tough black men in Compton using his business skills. The group was planning to go to MacArthur Park—an extremely dangerous area—when Vivian showed up to get her son and Will. Upon hearing their plans, she told all of the young men outright that none of them would be going to MacArthur Park. The biggest of the group—two heads taller that Aunt Viv and with biceps about the size of her head—stood up to protest, and she instantly shut him down: "Boy, do NOT test me." The huge guy proceeded to sheepishly sit back down.
- When Will's Disappeared Dad Lou came to Bel-Air to reconnect with his son briefly, Vivian was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, unlike Phil. But when she learned that Lou was planning to abandon Will again to go on a business venture, she made it clear that she considered her nephew one of her own children and wasn't going to allow Lou to hurt him: "If you walk out of here, don't you ever come back."
- 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.
- Parental Substitute: Not that Vi wasn't a good mother to Will (in fact, far from it), but she is, in every sense of the word, Will's second mom, especially given that Vi is thousands of miles away in Philadelphia.
- 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.
- Stern Teacher: During her tenure teaching black history at Bel-Air Prep, she made Will and Carlton miserable with a hefty workload note . On the other hand, the other students loved her.
- Tsundere: Especially in later seasons, she's often snapping at Phil and getting mad for something he said or did. That said, they still have their loving moments.
- 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.
- Women Are Wiser: While Phil is far from a Bumbling Dad and is actually a serious, competent father, his wife Vivian is still portrayed as more levelheaded and usually wins all the arguments with him.
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.
- 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 on 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.
- 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 Wills 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 proximity:Carlton: It's my property, I'm gonna inherit it after the big guy takes his bungee jump!
- Cool Loser: He's fit, hardworking, very smart, excels in both extracurricular activities and academics, comes from a rich family, and gets tons of dates over the course of the show. He's still a Butt-Monkey who no one respects, not even his own family.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: While the Carlton Dance is very goofy, Carlton has been shown to be a very able dancer in the Season 5 episode "Sooooul Train". Counts as an actor allusion since Alfonso Ribeiro used to be one of Michael Jackson's backup dancers. Now, if anyone can pick Will's jaw up from the floor. There's also his strip-tease in Season 2's finale, "Strip-Tease For Two", to what sounds very much like the music from "Billie Jean". He even throws in a Michael Jackson yell.
- 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?"
- Dumbass Teenage Son: One of the rare cases when a teenage son is this trope without being lazy or Book Dumb. But he's still childish and has no common sense, usually acting as a foil for Will and even his father Phil at times, who tells him to "Shut up" every now and then.
- 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. Notably, he manages to completely drive William Shatner up and down the wall with his Star Trek-related humor against all of Will's advice not to keep it up.
- 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. Later evolves into Vitriolic Best Buds, and then later into Heterosexual Life-Partners.
- 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.
- Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Actual quote: "Heck, you guys! Heck!"
- Height Angst: Zig-zagged. He usually doesnt seem to care about his short height, but in a few episodes he acts annoyed with Wills endless short jokes about him, or admits hes jealous because Will is taller and more popular.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Becomes this with Will later on, especially in college where they both rarely spend time with anyone else.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Sorry, Carlton, but you can't blame Will for your failure to get into Princeton near the end of season 3 by pretending to be him rather than being yourself for the recruiter.
- Hollywood Dateless: In contrast to Will, hes 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.
- Hopeless Suitor: A bit of a running gag in season 4 (and, to a lesser extent, season 5). Whenever he is interested in some girl, he is always rejected.
- 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.
- Hypocritical Humor: He accused Will of being too immature more than once, despite being a Manchild himself.
- Identical Grandson: He looks just like the younger version of Philip.
- In Touch with His Feminine Side: Lampshaded and played for laugh in one episode.Carlton: You can't understand and respect women because you're not in touch with your feminine side.
Will: And you know what your problem is? You're not in touch with anybody's feminine side.
- Insufferable Genius: Especially towards Will. In one episode, Carlton and Will go on a game show and Carlton's habit of answering questions in a smug, long-winded manner nearly costs them a victory.
- It's All About Me: Usually selfish and opportunistic, just as much as his sister Hilary. Especially when money is involved.
- 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 and sycophantic Jerkass in the first season, but gradually 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".
- Kick the Dog: While he's right to have called Will out for being a slacker, did he really have to compare Will to his father after what he did to Will?
- The Lancer: To Will.
- Large Ham: In later seasons. In fact, both Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro comment on each other's tendency to overact in the episode "I, Whoops, There It Is."
- Manchild: When he and Nicky go to see Dougie, they're equally excited. Not to mention dressing up as Macaulay Culkin for Halloween.
- Nerds Love Tough Schoolwork: Averted in "The Ethnic Tip" where the extra homework Vivian gives him and Will was too much even for him. Played straight in later episodes, such as "Sleepless in Bel-Air", where he's excited to spend the night with his schoolwork (which was optional), or "Not, I Barbecue" when he turns down a date from a girl on Saturday night because he prefers to study.
- No Social Skills: Downplayed; Carlton isn't completely devoid of social skills, but he oftentimes seems incapable of interacting with people outside of a country club or private school. He gets better over time, but he's always pretty awkward.
- Not So Different: From Will. While they are Clashing Cousins for being opposite, both can be immature, arrogant, blind to their own faults and always ready to point out the flaws of the other.
- Oblivious to Love: At times. For example, in the episode where he loses his virginity, he is describing his ideal woman to Will. A woman who fits all of the characteristics walks into the store and says she needs to find something, and he says, "Listen, lady, we're talking."
- OOC Is Serious Business: When Will is shot and nearly killed by a mugger, Carlton drops all his usual comical self and is withdrawn and angry most of the time. What really shows how much Carlton is shaken by the incident is that he, the "Well Done, Son!" Guy of his father, coldly tells Phil that he doesn't believe in his father's take on justice, which equally shocks Phil. And by the end, Will is horrified that Carlton bought a gun.
- Overshadowed by Awesome:
- How often he feels about Will.
- In the last season, he finally gets accepted to Princeton. However, he starts getting cold feet when he sees how much Phil accomplished during his time there.
- 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: And proud of it. 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.
- Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: When Carlton's ex-girlfriend comes back with a baby she claims is his, Will explains to Phil and Vivian that the baby belongs to "a young man who has seen The Little Mermaid (1989) eight times."
- 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 hes 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 wasnt supposed to be a loser early in the series but hes gradually flanderized into an immature dork who just cant 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. Of course, we didn't actually see much of Carlton's (or Will's) life at school in the early seasons, so we only have Carlton's word to go on regarding how popular he was at that time. Once we *do* start seeing more of school-life, it's apparent that he really isn't very popular; this would lead one to deduce that Carlton's claims to popularity were more a case of Unreliable Narrator.
- Teacher's Pet: He combines this with Professional Butt-Kisser. A college professor describes him as "One of the most conscientious freshmen business students. Very meticulous. Bakes me fresh muffins every day."
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Sometimes. In Grumpy Young Men he steals Will's girlfriend without even trying and later knocks out Will in a physical fight. At the end of Sooooooooul Train he upstages Will in a dance contest. There are also other rare episodes where he doesn't end up as the loser.
- 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 Manchild in the last few seasons.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Was a snobby dick in the first season, but became far nicer in subsequent seasons.
- Upper-Class Twit: Especially in the first couple seasons.Carlton: I don't wanna die! I still need go to college and poke fun at all the kids on financial aid!
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Will.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He always wants to please his father and usually sides with him in arguments.
- The Whitest Black Guy:
- He's a stereotypical preppy, aspires to attend an Ivy League university, enjoys dancing to the music of Tom Jones, and idolizes Macaulay Culkin and William Shatner. Will used to give him endless grief about it.Carlton: Wait 'till we come downstairs in these tuxes. People may not think we're twins, but I'll bet they'll think we're brothers.
Will: You know, I don't think you'll have to worry about anybody mistaking you for a brother.
- Used a bit more seriously in the episode "Blood is Thicker Than Mud", where Will and Carlton try to join an all-black fraternity. Although they're both hazed, Carlton's hazing is more severe than Will's. Even after he endures everything they put him through, the pledge master, Top Dog, still refuses to let Carlton join because he believes that Carlton is a "sellout". Will quits in disgust when he finds out, and one of the other frat members tells Top Dog the others are sick of his crap and they're going to have him thrown out. After they return home and tell Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian what happened, Phil laments: "You know, this really upsets me. I've worked really hard to give my family a good life and suddenly somebody tells me there's a penalty for success? I'm sorry you had to go through that, Carlton. When are we going to stop doing this to each other?"
- He's a stereotypical preppy, aspires to attend an Ivy League university, enjoys dancing to the music of Tom Jones, and idolizes Macaulay Culkin and William Shatner. Will used to give him endless grief about it.
- You Bastard!: Shouts this at Juggles the clown after he has Carlton throw Safety Guy out the car window, causing him to get run over by a semi.
Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons)
The spoiled elder child of the Banks family, Hilary's a socialite bent on being looked highly upon by her peers in the upper class. She also leeches off her parents' fortune and is ignorant of how life outside of hers really works.
- Attractiveness Isolation: Invoked in "Soul Train" when she complains about being the only one without a date ("I'm a beautiful celebrity and men are intimidated by me").
- The Beautiful Elite: The straightest example of this trope in the Banks family. She's a beautiful, sophisticated young woman from a wealthy family who spends thousands of dollars in a single shopping trip on clothes and her social life consists of glamorous, high society activities.
- Born Lucky: The only explanation one can come up with for her being able to land progressively more lucrative and glamorous jobs despite being a college dropout with zero practical skills. By the end of the series she has her own successful TV show. This is lampshaded in Season 4.Carlton: Hilary's success is contrary to the laws of nature, totally inexplicable.
- Brainless Beauty: Shes 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.
- She also becomes gradually more independent over the course of the series. She starts off living in the Banks' residence, to living in the pool house without rent, to the pool house with $500 rent, to back into the Banks house for about a year to recover from Trevor's death, to moving into her own house, and finally making it on her own (with Ashley living with her) in New York.
- Characterization Marches On: In the first season, she was portrayed as a shallow, spoiled, socialite and environmental activist. Since Season 2, she became just shallow and spoiled, though she's still shown knowing many high profile figures just with less frequency.
- 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 dont see her as one. But there are a few moments where shes 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.
- Daddy's Girl: She's very spoiled and calls her father "Daddy" when she wants money, even in her Establishing Character Moment.
- Delayed Reaction: When she witnesses Trevor's death on live television while he's proposing to her doing a bungee jump, it takes her way too long to understand what she just saw, even after Will points out the obvious. It isn't until after Trevor's funeral in the following scene that we see her finally tearing up at the incident.
- 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.
- Establishing Character Moment: Her first scene has her telling her dad she needs $300 for a hat, all the while ignoring the newly-arrived Will.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Hilary had reddish brown curly hair in the first season, then her hair went dark in later seasons before sporting straight hair in the final season. After the show's end, Karyn Parsons has reverted back to her natural hairstyle.
- The Fashionista: She's always stylish, her trendy outfits and Unlimited Wardrobe are iconic.
- Flanderization: When the series began, her ditziness was based more on being clueless about the real world. As the series progressed, she became dumber.
- 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!"
- Her Heart Will Go On: She's shattered after Trevor's death, but eventually resolves to move on and keep living her life.
- Innocently Insensitive: She's never malicious, just completely tactless.Hilary: (to Geoffrey's son) I think it's so great you're not embarrassed that your father has to do this stuff in people's lives that's too disgusting for them to do themselves. No offense, Geoffrey.
Geoffrey: None taken, Miss Hilary. I always consider the source.
- 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 it 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).
- Ms. Fanservice: Aside from her good looks, she wears a lot of form-fitting outfits that really showcase her figure.Hilary: I mean, people stare at me all the time, but I'm pretty.
Will: I guess that spandex don't got nothing to do with it, huh?
- Noodle Incident: In regards to entertaining men in the jacuzzi."That's between me, that man and his video camera!"
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: All the time given what a ditz she is. Several times during "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse" it doubles as Brutal Honesty as she's not wrong.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, shes 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!" Strangely, one flashback shows that she was like this even as a child, when the Banks were still lower-middle class and Phil didn't earn much yet, implying that she was born spoiled rather than becoming this way due to the family's later wealth.
- 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.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Her character gradually became much more down-to-Earth and empathetic over time as a hint to her increasing maturity and vulnerability (especially in the aftermath of Trevor's death).
- The Unfavorite: Fortunately, she's too dim to notice.Philip: Right now, it's hard to love any one of you, but I do. Ashley, I love your sensitivity, your warmth. Carlton, I love your ambition and your persistence. Hilary...Hilary.
Hilary: Yes, Daddy?
Philip: ...nice earrings.
Hilary: Oh, Daddy!
- Upper-Class Twit: Worst one in the family. Particularly early on when she frequently championed environmental conservation while invariably demonstrating in the process that she is neither knowledgeable in nor especially devoted to the subject (fittingly, this character trait is dropped altogether by the end of the first season).
- 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".
- Womanchild: Hilary is hopelessly immature and can't be self-sufficient, so her parents tolerate her freeloading.
Ashley Banks (Tatyana M. Ali)
The youngest Banks daughter, she instantly took a liking to Will once he arrived and very much looked up to him. Gradually, she became bent on being less of daddy's 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 something like a normal adolescence with 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. She becomes a rebellious boy-crazy teenager who often sneaks out of the house and thinks that her parents treat her like a kid. One episode even reveals that she secretly dropped out of her private school and enrolled in secret at a public high school.
- Closer to Earth: Than Carlton and Hilary.
- The Cutie: In early seasons, where her innocence, sweetness, and fondness for Will are emphasized.
- Daddy's Girl: She fights this trope for much of the show before eventually accepting and appreciating her father's concern.
- Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Especially in contrast to the 100% girly Hilary. At first she is a sweet child who dresses in a feminine manner but shows a tomboyish streak because of Will's influence, as she often tries to imitate him (like the rapping and drumming in the first episodes). This streak even increases when she gets older, as she starts wearing more casual and tomboyish clothes, though she is also fond of skirts, dating boys, singing, and modeling.
- Infant Sibling Jealousy: Her subplot in the episode where the family thinks about how the new baby will impact their lives. She has a fantasy about the entire family ignoring her and even forgetting her name, as she will no longer be The Baby of the Bunch.
- It's All About Me: Apparently it runs in the family. Ashley became much more selfish and self-centered as a teenager. Arguably the biggest example is when her reaction to Will telling her that Carlton is gone is of indifference and even happiness, instead being more concerned about her party and her appearence instead of her missing brother.Will: Ashley, Carlton ran way.
Will: Hey, hey, hey! Come on, I'm being serious. Now I've been calling around. I don't know where he is. We gotta get in the car. We gotta go find him.
Ashley: No, Will. I'm having a party. I'm carefree, understand? Free of cares? Quick! How's my hair and lips? Do I look okay?
- Jerkass Has a Point: Despite becoming much brattier and more prone to getting in trouble during her teen years she does raise valid points in Father Knows Best when she secretly transfers to a public school. She reasonably points out that the Banks live a sheltered, privileged lifestyle and that it would benefit her to interact more with people from diverse, different walks of life. Phil even signs off on it once he is convinced that Ashley will still receive a good education.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: The light to Hilary's dark.
- Like Brother and Sister: With Will, since the first episode, where she tells him "You're like the big brother l never had".
- Morality Pet:
- To Will, who has a soft spot for Ashley and almost never makes fun of her.
- To Geoffrey, who is also nicer to her than to the rest of the family and even says she's the only Banks family member he tolerates.
- Nice Girl: Especially when she was a little girl. Downplayed to Jerk with a Heart of Gold as a teenager.
- Nice to the Waiter: She's the nicest member of the family to Geoffrey. For his part, he also reciprocates this kindness, acting like a Parental Substitute for her when Phil and Viv aren't around.
- Only Sane Woman: Much more sane and level-headed than most of the family (especially compared to her siblings). Ironically because shes 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 wasn't born until after the Banks family moved to Bel-Air. Nevertheless, introduced as a down-to-earth and sweet girl who immediately forms a close bond with her cousin Will. She also has a very close friendship with the family's butler Geoffrey. In a later episode, he says she's the only Banks family member he tolerates.
- 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, and Grandma Hattie doesn't put up with it at all.
- Token Good Teammate: Before Nicky's birth, she was the token good of the Banks siblings. This is inverted in later seasons as Hilary and Carlton's Character Development had them Took a Level in Kindness and becoming much closer to Will while Ashley going through puberty had her Took a Level in Jerkass and started getting in much more arguments with Will and the family.
- Tomboyness Upgrade: She starts off very girly and wearing very feminine dresses. As her character becomes more rebellious as a teenager, she starts wearing more casual, tomboyish clothes, in an attempt to be a typical but cool young woman.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Once she became a teenager, Ashley is more brash, scheming, and rude.
Geoffrey Barbara Butler (Joseph Marcell)
The Banks family butler, an older English man who outside of the witty barbs has a great relationship with the family.
- Actually, That's My Assistant: Will mistakes him for Uncle Phil when they meet in the first episode.
- 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.
- 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 complains about 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.
- Covert Pervert: Despite being a stereotypical stuffy English butler, he has his moments. For instance, he describes a dream about being tied up by amazon women and tormented with fruit, and in another episode, Uncle Phil wakes up the family when he thinks Vivian is in labour, and when Will complains about being woken up by a naked man running around the house, Geoffrey says, "I'm sorry, I thought you'd all gone to sleep".
- Deadpan Snarker: Much emphasis on the deadpan part.
- The Dog Bites Back: He quits in one episode because he's sick of the low salary Phil pays him and only agrees to come back after Phil offers him a raise.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Barbara. "It's a family name!"
- Europeans Are Kinky: Implied with him; "The Baby Comes Out" reveals that he apparently runs around the house in the nude at night when everyone's asleep, "Clubba Hubba" has a Waking Non Sequitur for him as "Get your own Geisha!" and when he's arrested by a female FBI Agent in "Hex and The Single Guy" for being in the country illegally, he initially thought that when she slapped the cuffs on him she was the woman of his dreams.
- Expansion Pack Past: He claims to have been butler to both Chuck Norris and Led Zeppelin before his tenure with the Bankses. It also turned out he was a hilariously failed Olympic runner, the "Shame of a Nation", as the documentary on him was titled. The taxi story actually happened, to Rosie Ruiz at the 1980 Boston Marathon, and led to much more race security since.
- Friend to All Children: He's far nicer to Ashley and Nicky than anyone else in the house, save for Viv.
- 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.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Geoffrey generally runs every aspect of the house, such as food shopping, meals, and cleaning. While he's been known to slack off at times, "Did the Earth Move for You?" and "Winner Takes Off" show how the family really can't hack his different responsibilities even if they divide the workload.
- 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 Nickys godfather. He does show that, despite how he acts, he does value his place in the Banks family.
- Long-Lost Uncle Aesop: One episode had a previously unknown son showing up. He runs off after stealing money from Will. He comes back and Geoffrey forgives him because that's what family does.
- Luke, You Are My Father: In Season 6, he discovers he has a son he never knew about, named Frederick.
- Meaningful Name: Of the patronym variety, for his last name.
- Only Sane Man: How he sees himself, but this is hardly true in later seasons.
- Sarcastic Devotee: How much hes actually loyal and devoted to the Banks family varies Depending on the Writer. In one episode, he believes he has won a multimillion dollar lottery (it was actually a prank of Will and Carlton) and immediately quits his job after insulting the whole family, although he comes back eventually. It also gets played with a bit in that, when he thought he was rich, he was quite willing to share the wealth with those that treated him kindly (such as promising to buy Ashley a car). One Clip Show dedicates a series of clips to his wisecracks, much to his shock."Sarcasm? Whatever do you mean?"
- Servile Snarker: Used to be the Trope Namer.Uncle Phil: Geoffrey, go fetch my tools.
Geoffrey: You mean your knife and fork?
- 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.
- The Whitest Black Guy: He's a black British man and has more in common with the Servile Snarker butler archetype than the typical American black man. This fact doesn't go unnoticed.
Nicky Banks (Ross Bagley)
- Advertised Extra: Credited as a regular in the last two seasons but is mostly kept Out of Focus and is entirely absent from 19 episodes.
- 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: Child Nicky first appeared in an episode set a few years into the future with a flashback showing how he was born in the modern day. The next episode just has him as a child living in the modern day with Jazz lampshading that he's going back to the streets where things make sense.
- Wise Beyond Their Years:Philip: Nicky, do you remember in The Lion King, when Mufasa—
Nicky: Daddy, did you sit on Harry?
Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff/Jeffrey A. Townes)
Will's best friend in L.A. (played by Will Smith's actual rap partner) who met him while performing at a nightclub. Jazz functions as a Drop-In Character, often showing up unannounced (and unwanted) at the Banks house to eat the family's food, scheme with Will, unsuccessfully flirt with Hilary, and generally insult Uncle Phil. Phil's dislike of Jazz quickly evolved into a Running Gag featuring Stock Footage of him being thrown from the house while grunting. Despite being dimwitted and occasionally manipulative, Jazz does care for Will (and the rest of the Banks family as well), and goes the extra mile for them on more than one occasion.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Toward Hilary. Though she did genuinely acknowledge the times he stood up for her, she generally disliked him, and to be fair, aside from those few moments he didn't really do anything other than make it clear he wanted to sleep with her. However, it might have gone both ways at some point, as Jazz briefly got married and Hilary subconsciously vented her jealousy of his bride with comments like how she "wouldn't want to see a sweet guy like him get hurt" & threatening his fiancée to treat Jazz right.
- Brutal Honesty: He just doesn't know when to shut up, especially around Uncle Phil.
- Butt-Monkey: Mostly due to the Running Gag of getting kicked out of the house every time he appears.
- The Casanova: Like Will, he flirts with a lot of women.
- 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 also very brazen in his attraction to Hilary, 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"...
- The Friend Nobody Likes: Of the family, only Will and Ashley actually enjoy having him around. Philip downright loathes him, Hilary doesn't care for his flirting, and Carlton thinks he's an idiot. Vivian is civil towards him, but otherwise shares her husband's views. Even Will occasionally gets fed up with his Jerkass tendencies and stupid behavior, which usually lands Will in real trouble.
- 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. Or when he set Will up with his sister knowing full well what a bossy control freak she was, just to get her off his back.
- 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.
- Lower-Class Lout: In contrast to Hilary and Carlton being Upper Class Twits, he's an uneducated delinquent from the Wrong Side of the Tracks.
- One Steve Limit: As Geoffrey the butler is a regular character, DJ Jazzy Jeff's character goes by Jazz at all times.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Though it's implied that it might even be his given name. Also played straight with his actor, DJ Jazzy Jeff, for much of the run; later averted when the show began crediting him under his given name, Jeffrey Townes, after DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince split.
- Only One Name: He's only known as Jazz and has no known last name.
- Out of Focus: His appearances are less frequent in later seasons due to the fact that DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince disbanded by the fourth season. Season 6 (the final one) is the only season where he never has A Day in the Limelight, only a few cameo appearances.
- 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.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Never too far from a bucket of chicken wings.
Viola "Vi" Smith (Vernee Watson-Johnson)Will's sharp-tongued mother, and the oldest of the Smith sisters. Had a hand in raising her younger siblings; as a result, she often feels as though they don't respect her if they decide to go against her wishes. Despite this, she has nothing but love for her family, especially her son.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: She sported long hair in the first four seasons before sporting short hair in the last two seasons.
- Hypocrite: Related to the "Me" post. In her first episode, when she visits Will for Thanksgiving, she blasts Vivian for the privileged upbringing that she's giving her children when (a) It's none of her business how Vivian and Phil choose to raise their children and (b) The very reason she sent Will out there was so he could benefit from this.
- In the Blood: When Vi 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".
- It's All About Me: Mild example and she quickly grows out of it, but early in the show, she cannot handle family members going against her wishes at all, to the point that when Janice gets engaged to Frank (who's white), she's initially very disapproving of it, and when Janice understandably refuses to break up with him just because her sister told her to, she refuses to attend the wedding and tries to forbid Will from going as well. She even says that her family not immediately obeying her means they no longer respect her and thus also no longer love her. Will calls her out on how ridiculous she's acting.
- Mama Bear: She acts as this to her son, her nieces and nephew, and her younger sisters, particularly Janice.
- Parents as People: She's a loving mother to Will, but being a single parent and sole breadwinner meant that she couldn't be involved in Will's life as much as Phil and Vivian can. She can also be smothering of Will at times without considering his feelings, such as when she expects him to move back to Philadelphia without realizing that he wants to stay in Bel-Air. Thankfully she gets over it after a heart to heart.
- 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: It's in the Smith family blood.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Goes from volleying insults with Fred in one scene to sleeping with him in the next.
- Small Role, Big Impact: She's the reason the entire show happens. To wit: "I got in one little fight and my mom got scared, saying 'you're living with your auntie and your uncle in Bel Air!"
- Why Waste a Wedding?: Will and Lisa sure took their single parents marrying each other quite well.
Lou Smith (Ben Vereen)Will's deadbeat father, who ran out on him and Vi when he was only four years old. He comes back into Will's life nearly 15 years later, with Will finally getting to experience some of the father-son times he'd previously never had... only to leave him again after promising to take on a cross-country trip.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He can be charming and claims to want to genuinely reconnect with his son, but quickly shows his selfish true colors.
- Blatant Lies: All he ever does is tell lies or make excuses for why he abandoned Will, and he hasn't changed at all.
- Broken Pedestal: After abandoning him a second time, Lou all but confirms to Will that yes, Phil and Vivian were right and he is nothing but a cowardly, selfish, lying jerkass. Will never has a nice thing to say about him again, and it's hard to blame him.
- Daddy Didn't Show: Well, he did, but only to let Phil & Vivian know that he wasn't taking Will with him after all.
- Dirty Coward: While he never really explains why he abandoned Will and his mother, it's heavily implied he never expected to be a father and when Will turned 4 years old, he realized that he didn't want to be one, so he left without saying goodbye to avoid feeling guilty about it. When he returns to Will's life 14 years later, he is seen to try to reconnect with his son but the same fears of fatherhood return, leading him to make the same choice again. However, this time he's confronted by Phil, and Will realizes that his father was the coward they always said he was.
- Disappeared Dad: Abandoned his family when Will was only four years old.
- Evil Counterpart: To Uncle Phil. A horrible father figure who is absent in Will's life instead of a good father figure who actually supports and cares for Will.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When he tried to explain why he walked out, Phil shoots him down, telling him he's been there. The difference being Phil was there for his family because it's what a man does. Lou concedes that Phil is a better man than him and asks if he's happy. Phil is incredulous that he thinks this was about being better then him.
- Hate Sink: If his first abandonment of Will didn't seal the deal, the second time he does this firmly cements him as this.
- Ignored Epiphany: He briefly seems to realize the consequences of his actions when Will uses his first name only to immediately walk out on him.
- Jerkass: He's a deadbeat father played straight who continuously makes excuses whenever Will tries to spend time with him.
- 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 tries to 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.
- Knight of Cerebus: Unlike other characters on the show, his actions aren't Played for Laughs and the episode he appears in is one of, if not the darkest moment in the series. The lone episode he appears in begins lighthearted, but ends with Lou walking out on a heartbroken Will again and Will promising to make it without his father while breaking down crying. A sad and sympathetic Uncle Phil gives Will a Cool Down Hug. The studio audience is completely silent during this final scene, with the only outside sound audible being a sobbing Karyn Parsons (Hilary) from off-stage.
- One-Shot Character: While he's mentioned in quite a few episodes, he only appears in "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse".
- One Steve Limit: Averted. Lou shares his surname with his ex-wife. According to "Ain't No Business Like Show Business", Will has an uncle who is also named Lou.
- Parental Abandonment: He left when he was younger without a word of goodbye to Will. He shows up later during Will's college years and even offers to let him travel with him... only to leave him once again to Will's dismay.
- That Man Is Dead: Will has nothing but contempt for him any time he is brought back up in later seasons. The rest of the family held this attitude before and after his second abandonment of Will. It's also not a wise idea to compare Will to him, as Carlton learns when he makes this accusation during a rather bitter argument.
- You're Not My Father: The last thing Will says to his father before he abandons him for the second and final time, referring to him as Lou instead of "Dad".
Hattie "Granny" Banks (Virginia Capers)Uncle Phil's dynamic mother, whom Will is particularly fond of. She often tells Will and the Bankses tales of Phil's upbringing on their farm in Yamacraw, North Carolina, often to Phil's embarrassment.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: To Philip. She loves to tell stories about his childhood, particularly involving pig-raising.
- Cool Old Lady: To the point where Will loves hanging out with her.
- Doting Grandparent: Ironically to Will.
- Embarrassing Nickname: She still calls Philip "Zeke", much to his chagrin.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: In Season 6 she showed signs of this such as not listening to Hilary's problems and getting mad at Will for saying her food was great in its own way rather than the best in every way.
Joe "Grandpa" Banks (Gilbert Lewis)Uncle Phil's father.
- Killed Offscreen: He didn't return again after his only appearance in "Not With My Pig, You Don't" and was confirmed to have died in season two.
Helen Smith (Jenifer Lewis)The second-youngest Smith sister, and Will's aunt. A bit of a loudmouth with snark for everyone she meets.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Shows signs of this towards Geoffrey in the Thanksgiving special in season 6 when she repeatedly tries to get Geoffrey to admit she's attractive, to which he responds with a boatload of snarkHelen: That delivery boy was looking at me like a bucket of KFC, isn't that right Geoffrey?
Geoffrey: If you mean something fast and cheap, then yes.
- Deadpan Snarker: The snarkiest of Vivian's sisters.
- Lovable Sex Maniac: In season six, as by that point she had been divorced for three years.
- No Indoor Voice: Being a brash Sassy Black Woman, she's generally very loud.
- Sassy Black Woman: Even by the standards of her very sassy gaggle of sisters. It comes with being played by Jenifer Lewis.Aunt Janice: [about her white fiancé] I guess I was hoping... no-one would notice?
Aunt Helen: Honey, who'd you think you was bringin' him home to, Stevie Wonder?
Janice Smith Schaeffer (Charlayne Woodard)The youngest Smith sister, and Will's aunt. She marries Frank Schaeffer, a white man, in season two.
- Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Is the cause of this among her family when she marries a white man.
- Put on a Bus: It's mentioned that she's on vacation in a season four episode, but then never appears again.
Lester LewisWill's uncle, and Aunt Helen's husband. Implied to have a bit of a "wandering eye". Helen ends up divorcing him.
- Alliterative Name: Lester Lewis
- 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.
Bobby LewisWill's cousin, the son of his Aunt Helen and Uncle Lester. A bit of a handful.
- 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 (Diedrich Bader, Robert Torti)The Token White husband of Will's Aunt Janice.
- 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. Rightfully, nobody's willing to help him out when he gets himself into one of these jams.
- Put on a Bus: Went on vacation with Janice and never came back.
- Token White: In the black family of his wife.
ToniHilary's airheaded best friend during season one.
Kellogg "Cornflake" Lieberbaum (Michael Weiner)Will's rather dorky Token White best friend at Bel-Air Academy during seasons one and two. Tends to copy Will's urban lingo.
- 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 IIIA professor at Bel-Air Academy during the first season. Also employs the same street vernacular as Will, to a painful extent.
- 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.
Kurt SmileyThe basketball coach at Bel-Air Academy during Will and Carlton's sophomore and junior years there.
- 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)Will's best friend in season two.
- 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)One of Will's best friends from Philadelphia, who visits Will and the Banks family in season one. While there, he and Hilary begin a short-lived relationship.
- 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 Philadelphia, as he protected Will from bullies trying to jump him for his books.
- Hidden Heart of Gold: Aunt Vivian dislikes the youth for his thuggish demeanor and lack of intelligence, but Will ends up revealing that when they were children, Tray would beat up the bullies that used to hassle Will because of his love of reading.
- One-Shot Character: He never appeared again after his only appearance. Not even in the episode where Will returns to Philadelphia.
Trevor Collins-Newsworthy (Brian Stokes Mitchell)
Self-obsessed news anchorman, whom Hilary falls for. Ends up dying by way of a poorly-executed bungee jump, done as part of a marriage proposal to Hilary on live television, in part two of the season four premiere.
- Brainless Beauty: Lampshaded.Philip: He's a superficial, self-centered, Teleprompter-reading airhead.
Will: Sounds like a match to me.
- Character Death: And caught on live television, while proposing to Hilary.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: In this case he was killed off after he dropped off a bridge. He decides to propose to Hilary while bungee jumping on live television. Unfortunately, his bungee cord was a little too long.
- 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.
- Too Dumb to Live: A bungee expert, he was not.
Judge Carl Robertson (Sherman Hemsley)Uncle Phil's former mentor, whom Phil ends up running against for Superior Court Judge in season three. Shortly after Robertson wins the election, however, an angry outburst from Will causes him to suffer a fatal heart attack, and Phil takes his place.
- 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.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Is he senile? Yes. Is he still a brutally shrewd politician? Hell yes!Robertson: Oh wake up, knucklehead. You're in the big leagues now. I may be old, I may be senile, and I haven't been able to find my car for the past half hour, but I can beat you in a political campaign any day. You're dead meat, Tiny.
- Big Bad: Essentially this of the "Phil runs for Superior Court" arc; he's the primary obstacle of Phil's campaign, due to being both a competitor and an all around scumbag actively working against him.
- 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, causing Phil to lose all respect for the man.
- Character Death: From a very poorly timed heart-attack.
- 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.
- Evil Counterpart: To Uncle Phil. Both ambitious judges from the same Law School, but Philip is honest while Judge Robertson is deceitful, dishonest, and resorts to slander to defeat Philip in the election. Phillip also has a loving family that he supports wholeheartedly, while Robertson is a sleazy philanderer who has to pay actors to pose as his family and even proudly left his real wife with the kids when he divorced her while he kept all the material possessions.
- Fallen Hero: He was Phillip's mentor, and Phillip held great respect for him, suggesting he was at one time a genuinely great and principled lawyer (no mean feat given that, based on his age, he would've started his career a decade before even the Civil Rights Movement). In the present, he's a Jerkass to the extreme. Phillip is shocked by how far his friend has fallen.
- Handicapped Badass: Robertson's senility didn't stop him finding out Will had numerous unpaid parking tickets and leaking out this information to discredit Phil.
- 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.
- Hate Sink: As this entire entry shows, he has virtually no redeeming qualities to speak of, and went out of his way to defame his own pupil for his own ends.
- 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. It is also stated that it was his own careless lifestyle that caused his death.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Spends his time at the celebration of his reelection mocking and insulting Uncle Phil, during which Will finally has had enough and chews him out for the louse he is right in front of everybody, causing him to drop dead just seconds later from a heart attack. With nobody else to take his seat, Uncle Phil is promoted to the bench.
- Last Disrespects: His funeral is filled with people who had some sort of grudge against him with one man openly admitting he's just there to make sure Robertson is actually dead.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: You'd think a senile, perverted eccentric wouldn't be much of an adversary. And you'd be dead wrong.
- One Steve Limit: Robertson's forename is a diminutive of the name Carlton. Given he was Phil's mentor and friend, it's likely he named his first son after him. He also shares his surname with Jazz's ex-wife Jewel Robertson though the two don't appear to be related.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: While he was apparently honest and idealistic in his younger days, by the time of the show, he's self-centered, bigoted, perverted and dishonest. He still pretends to be honest and idealistic, though.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Successfully dupes everybody into voting for him after an outrageous smear campaign against Uncle Phil. It is not until his funeral that we see how truly despised he was by those who knew him best.
Jacqueline "Jackie" Ames (Tyra Banks)An old friend of Will's who ends up attending ULA with him for a short handful of episodes in season four.
- Aborted Arc: And a sad one because she was shaping up to be an interesting character.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: With Will.
- Childhood Friend Romance: She and Will grew up together and it's implied that they were romantically involved once back in Philly. However she disappears before we can see an actual relationship.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Goes away for an unspecified reason halfway through season four. After that, Carlton takes over the Peacock Stop and she doesn't return.
- Deadpan Snarker: She can outsnark Will in all of their interactions.
- Distaff Counterpart: To Will.
- Sassy Black Woman: She definitely has an outspoken attitude to match Will.
- Tomboy: Just like Will, she's athletic and plays basketball.
- 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)Jazz's wife throughout seasons four and five. A hardened criminal who isn't afraid to speak her mind, no matter how brutal her honesty.
- Action Girl: Fought off several officers when they tried to arrest her.
- 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.
- The Ghost: In season five.
- 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.
- One Steve Limit: She shares her last name with Judge Robertson though the two don't appear to be related in anyway.
- Out of Focus: Only made two appearances to begin with, both in season four. She 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.
Lisa Wilkes (Nia Long)Will's longest-serving girlfriend, and the closest to Earth of the two. Their relationship and engagement makes up the majority of season five.
- Boyish Short Hair: Has very short hair, although she's still feminine and attractive.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Most of season 5 is about her and Will's Relationship Upgrade and eventual engagement, until the season finale when they decide not to marry. She is never seen or mentioned again.
- 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.
- Love Interest: Will's only serious love interest, it lasts almost an entire season.
- Ms. Fanservice: Nia Long in her prime, with a penchant for tight dresses? Oh yes.
- Nice Girl: Very friendly and likable, although she's still strong-willed and not a pushover.
- One Steve Limit: Before he met Lisa in season five, Will had another love interest named Lisa from season four.
- Women Are Wiser: She's more levelheaded than Will and in one episode she lampshades how goofy her boyfriend can be.
- Yandere: She fakes this during their first date as a prank set up by Carlton. Will gets even though.
Fred Wilkes (John Amos)Lisa's blue-collar father. Though he develops a (too) close friendship with Will, he initially sees the Banks family as upper-class snobs before bonding with Uncle Phil. In the season five finale, he ends up marrying Will's mother Vi.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In a similar situation to that of his daughter, he's nowhere to be seen when Vy shows up in season six despite marrying Vy in the season five finale. Even worse, Vy had shown interest in 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 Vy 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 Vy.