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Bel-Air's Coco Jones Initially Asked To Audition For The Role Of Ashley Banks

It's in the DNA of "Bel-Air" to take chances. Before the series broke viewer records on Peacock (via Deadline), "Bel-Air" was a fan film hoping to draw in viewers with its bold reinterpretation of NBC's classic sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The short film trailer boasts over 7 million views on YouTube to date, becoming a viral sensation in 2019. "Fresh Prince" creator and star Will Smith openly embraced the fan film, highlighting its daring, modernized reinvention. Soon after, Hollywood came calling, hoping to bank in on the nostalgia of the original "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

Both "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and the slick "Bel-Air" follow the same basic premise. Philadelphia native Will Smith is sent to the upper-class neighborhood of Bel Air, Los Angeles, to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle after he gets into an altercation. Smith faces culture shock in Bel Air, struggling to maintain his street-smart attitude while navigating the high society of LA.

While the original series painted itself as a light-hearted, fish-out-of-water sitcom with occasional emotional punches, "Bel-Air" is an engaging drama interested in expanding on Smith's psyche, childhood trauma, and the class system. It's a daring choice, but one that paid off, as Peacock renewed the series for a second season. Just like Smith took a chance to move to LA, so did creator Morgan Cooper, but the idea of taking chances also extends to Coco Jones, who initially didn't want to audition for the role of the eldest Banks child, Hilary.

Coco Jones had limiting beliefs about playing Hilary Banks

"Bel-Air" features a variety of characters from "Fresh Prince," including members of the Banks family, who take Will Smith (Jabari Banks) in after his stint in Philadelphia. One of Smith's closest family members is his cousin, Hilary (Jones). Prior to starring in "Bel-Air," Jones was in Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie."

When the call to audition for "Bel-Air" came in, Jones revealed to Elle she was hesitant to audition for the ambitious Hilary, believing she didn't fit the mold of the socialite. "It was [one of many] projects sent from my team that they [really] thought I should audition for," Jones said. "I didn't think I should. I thought they didn't want me for [Hilary]. I was assuming that I wasn't what they were gonna be looking for. Just limiting beliefs."

Instead, the actor wanted to try out for Ashley, the youngest member of the Banks family. "I actually asked my acting manager [if I] could audition for Ashley. And he was like, 'Ashley's 12.' So I [auditioned for Hilary], and then talked to Morgan [Cooper]," Jones said. The actor went on to discuss how Cooper encouraged her to shape Hilary the way she saw fit and make her more like her. Jones then went on to audition as Hilary with a more personal touch. "I found out I got the role maybe a week and a half after that." Jones ended up taking a chance that paid off with huge dividends. Meanwhile, the role of Ashley Banks eventually went to Akira Akbar