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Olly Sholotan Explains How Carlton Survives His Community On Bel-Air - Exclusive

Over 25 years after the show left the airwaves, fans remember "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"'s Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) for his nerdy enthusiasm, his preppy ways, and of course, originating a dance so adorkably memorable it was named after him. While he often clashed with his cousin Will (Will Smith), the pair ultimately developed an endearing brotherhood.

That's not the case for the updated version of the character on "Bel-Air," a dramatic reimagining of the sitcom that's streaming on Peacock. This Carlton, at least in the series' early episodes, often comes across as a villainous rival to his newly arrived cousin Will (Jabari Banks). No longer a sheltered nerd, Carlton is a popular lacrosse player who uses his power to keep Will on the fringes of his prep school while disparaging him for his West Philly roots. Olly Sholotan, the actor behind this new version of Carlton, sees his character's perspective as a realistic result of the community he's grown up in.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Sholotan reflected on exploring issues of class and race through this new take on Carlton.

Surviving and thriving in a privileged community

From the first episode of "Bel-Air," Will and Carlton are in conflict, especially when Carlton voices stereotypical views about poor African Americans. However, Sholotan said that it wasn't difficult to get into Carlton's mindset for a very specific reason. "Well, to be quite honest, it wasn't much of a challenge because it's something that I think every Black person has experienced," Sholotan explained. "I always say the Black experience is that of constantly experiencing white supremacy to a certain extent."

Sholotan went on to share that he feels Carlton's perspective should be viewed as a reflection of a Black person attempting to thrive in a community that may not otherwise accept him. "It's easy to look at Carlton and be like, 'Oh, this is a kid who sees Black people as lesser than,'" Sholotan observed, "but when you realize that a lot of his opinions are as a result of him trying to survive in his community and in his very privileged corner of Bel-Air, then you see why he feels the way that he feels. For me, it made sense. When I read that scene, I was like, 'It totally makes sense that Carlton would feel that way about that.'"

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