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Bel Air Co-Writer Morgan Cooper Describes His First Meeting With Will Smith - Exclusive

It's the kind of story that feels like it could only happen in Hollywood. Morgan Cooper's under-four-minute trailer establishing his vision for a dramatic, modern-day retelling of the 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" garnered millions of views after he uploaded it to YouTube three years ago. While the buzz would have been remarkable all on its own, what made it even more incredible was that, soon after Cooper posted the short film, he was meeting with global superstar — and the original series' leading man — Will Smith about turning that vision into a new TV show.

Fast forward to 2022 and the first season of "Bel-Air" has been released on the streaming service Peacock (and they've already ordered a second season). While the new series adheres to the basic premise of the sitcom, "Bel-Air" takes its updated cues from the creative approach Cooper established in his short film. Yet, it never would have happened without the involvement of Smith, who is an executive producer on the project. Cooper chatted exclusively with Looper to discuss his initial meeting with the superstar actor and how it ended up evolving into the collaboration that brought "Bel-Air" to the small screen.

Cooper was taken aback when the superstar reached out

Before Morgan Cooper's short film for "Bel-Air" went viral on YouTube, Will Smith got wind of the "Fresh Prince" reimagining and took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Cooper about where he imagined going with it. "Will's company, Westbrook, reached out under 24 hours from the time I released the short film," Cooper remembered. "I was in Calabasas the next day and I met Will's manager, and I'm FaceTiming Will. [He] was down in Miami filming 'Bad Boys 3.' He was on FaceTime, he still had prosthetics on from a fight scene, and he's like, 'Yo, 'Bel Air' [is] crazy. What do you want to do with it?' I gave him my quick pitch of the vision for the show, and he was so excited."

Smith's embracing of Cooper's ideas planted the seeds for what would become the newly launched drama series, as Cooper further explained, "I go down to Miami a few weeks later and [Smith and I] start discussing what this thing would look like and jumpstart the development process for the show. At the end of the trip, we shook hands and decided to get into business together and bring this thing to life."

It's a remarkable origin story for a reboot that's now being widely embraced by critics and audiences alike. And Morgan is grateful for everything that's happened to get him here. "It's been an incredible journey," he confessed, "and Will is the best guy and so supportive of my vision, and I couldn't be more thankful for that."

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