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Bel-Air's Jimmy Akingbola Explains How Geoffrey Is Different In The New Show - Exclusive

The original "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" sitcom was full of memorable characters, but perhaps one of the most unique was Geoffrey (played by Joseph Marcell), the Banks family's butler. Although he comes across as a proper English gentleman, Geoffrey's sarcastic quips and cynical observations turned him into one of the most subtly funny characters on the show. However, Geoffrey was an unexpected and singular creation, so instead of trying to translate him for the new "Bel-Air," the dramatic reboot of the sitcom that's now streaming on Peacock, the character was re-conceived as an advisor and fixer for Philip Banks (played by Adrian Holmes).

Actor Jimmy Akingbola brings an effortless cool to this new version of Geoffrey, who is at once at home in the tony mansions of Bel-Air but also can rely on his well-worn street smarts when needed. Akingbola, whose résumé includes turns in everything from the thriller "The Most Dangerous Game" to the comedy "Ted Lasso," balances the many sides of the new Geoffrey effortlessly while hinting at the character's sure-to-be-fascinating backstory.

Akingbola spoke exclusively to Looper about bringing Geoffrey into the 21st century, including how the new personification exemplifies Black excellence and why both he and his character are sympathetic to the character of Will (Jabari Banks).

Playing the character of a Black Brit in 'Bel-Air'

While Jimmy Akingbola was very familiar with the original Geoffrey character from "The Fresh Prince," he forges a new identity for him in "Bel-Air." As he told Looper, "Geoffrey was amazing in the original and his one-liners, but me and [co-writer/executive producer] Morgan [Cooper] talked about, 'What does that look like in 2022?' Let's not have him be a butler. Let's make him an equal. Let's make [him and Uncle Phil] best friends. He's his advisor, and there's beautiful moments where they're chilling, drinking together, and sharing memories from back in the day in their 20s, as well as talking about Will. They're beautiful moments to have Black men, that camaraderie, that Black love, and sharing also that Black excellence. These two men are at the top of their game."

Akingbola also ensured his version of Geoffrey was authentic by grounding his perspective in his background as an East London transplant. "I've used a lot of my experience of growing up in East [London] and knowing some people that have moved around but never forgotten who they are," Akingbola explained. "As a Black Brit moving to L.A., me and Geoffrey understand Will's journey. We get what it's like, that he's come from Philly and now he's in this new atmosphere and this new environment. Because of this, Geoffrey's definitely got experience of the street life, but he's also lived a certain life where he's been in the mansions and he's been in the corporate world. When you put that into one person, he's so multilayered, and there's so many places he can go, and he's a shape-shifter."

Akingbola further revealed that, given the many sides of the new Geoffrey on "Bel-Air," fans can look forward to learning more about who he is and where he came from as the series continues to unfold. "We're going to continue the mystery of Geoffrey because we've got two seasons," Akingbola teased, "But there's so much beautiful backstory that we're going to get into and share with you all."

New episodes of "Bel-Air" are available on Thursdays on Peacock.