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Bel-Air Co-Showrunners Explain Why Debating Real Issues From The First Episode Is So Important - Exclusive

Fans think of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" as a comedy, but throughout its six-season run, the series managed to tackle quite a few issues, from racism to gun violence and sexism. Now that Peacock has rebooted the series as "Bel-Air," a drama that takes place in the present day, serious issues have been placed front and center. From the very first episode, the show makes it clear that it plans to delve into all the intricacies of its premise. Not only is the violent incident in West Philadelphia that drives Will's (Jabari Banks) mother to send him to Bel-Air dramatized (it's a way bigger deal than "one little fight"), as soon as Will lands in the upscale Southern California neighborhood, it's clear some of his own family members look down on him for his lower-class upbringing.

The show's exploration of these issues, especially those of class and race, helps establish who each character is, while at the same time digging into some of the most important debates impacting society right now. It's one of many things that make "Bel-Air" such a rich experience.

In an exclusive conversation with Looper, co-showrunners TJ Brady and Rasheed Newson explained why they felt it was important to highlight the issues embedded in the story of "Bel-Air" starting in the show's pilot episode.

'The promise of the drama'

In the premiere of "Bel-Air," Will encounters violence on the streets of West Philadelphia and experiences subtle classism from his Uncle Phil when he lands in Bel-Air. Meanwhile, he and his cousin Carlton (Olly Sholotan) get into a fierce debate after Carlton condones his white friend saying the N-word. According the series' co-showrunners, it was necessary to incorporate these things immediately or the show wouldn't be as realistic. "It's part of the promise of the drama," explained Newson. "The idea of, 'You're going to take this story and you're going to ground it and you're going to make it real,' we had to address some of those issues right off the bat. Will is coming from West Philadelphia and he's walking into this mansion. You've got to comment on class, you've got to talk about money."

Moreover, by delving into these issues, the show points to an important question that was never addressed in the original series. "You've also got to talk about this family where you wonder, 'Why exactly have you been rich on one coast and I've been struggling on another? What family secrets have kept us apart?'" Newson observed. "All of that is laid bare once you take this on as a drama and we had a responsibility to explore it."

So does this mean "Bel-Air" will address the lack of contact between Will and the Banks family? According the showrunners, that will be part of the plot as the first season goes on. "That's one of greatest pieces of inspiration that the sitcom gave us unknowingly," Brady revealed. "Why didn't they talk? No one asked that question in the sitcom, they never talked. [Will] met [the Banks] in the pilot, and coming into it, a drama asks the question behind the laugh or the smile to get to really what was at the root of the reason that they never spoke. We are going to explore that this season."

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