Jimmy Akingbola on Will Smith and his personal connection with Bel-Air

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Jimmy Akingbola has teased some details on the upcoming season two of Bel-Air, as well as working with Hollywood star Will Smith.

A remake of classic sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which shot Smith to fame in the 1990s, Akingbola plays the Geoffrey for this generation – reimagined as a house manager rather than a butler – on the show, which is executive produced by Smith.

Bel-Air debuted on streaming service Peacock in the US last year, and also stars Jabari Banks, Cassandra Freeman, Adrian Holmes and Olly Sholotan.

Speaking with Akingbola on the red carpet at the 2023 Baftas, where he was co-presenting the best documentary award with Jodie Turner-Smith, the 44-year-old actor and producer gave a little taste of what is to come.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘[Last season] Geoffrey got fired from the house, so we’re going to see whether him and Phil are ever going to be friends again.

‘I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but we’re also going to see the impact of that last episode where Will’s father came in because it triggered Goffrey. Basically, without giving it away, Geoffrey has some family issues of his own that he needs to deal with, so we’re going to see a little bit of that, and at the same time you’re still going to see Geoffrey turning up being Geoffrey and handling stuff.’

We caught up with Jimmy on the red carpet at the Baftas on Sunday, where he was a presenter (Picture: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)
One of his most high-profile roles to date has been on Bel-Air, the remake of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Picture: WireImage)

He also confirmed that he has had the chance to meet Oscar-winner Smith, and talk to him about the parallels of the show with his own life in east London.

‘Will is amazing! We got to hang out, he loved what I was doing with the character.

‘It was a dream come true because in some ways – [show producer] Benny Medina was adopted, and so Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is about Benny Medina being adopted, and he was adopted by a white family.

‘So, I was saying to Will, this is a weird full circle that I’ve grown up watching you as a kid but you were playing a version of myself in the US, and how that inspired me – and now I’m playing Geoffrey in your show!’

The actor was able to hang out with executive producer Will Smith and tell him how the original show was an inspiration (Picture: Getty)
Will shot to fame on the 1990s original (Picture: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

He added: ‘We celebrated that, and there was a great moment where I was with Will and Joseph Marcell, the original Geoffrey.’

The actor and producer, who has also appeared in TV shows Ted Lasso, Arrow and crime drama The Tower, said that he felt ‘very blessed and lucky’ to have achieved what he has.

‘I hope my work and career can inspire people to dream big and go for what they want,’ he said.

Akingbola grew up being fostered by a white family, following the divorce of his Nigerian immigrant parents, and explained why he had decided to explore that recently in a personal documentary, Handle with Care.

‘I chose to do it because after the pandemic, I lost a lot of family members, and it made me think about what is family. But also [about] a lot of people would be in care right now, not being adopted or fostered.

‘Over the last 20, 30 years, I’ve never seen a positive, inspiring care story, so when I pitched that to ITV they agreed, and they let me tell my story. For me it was important to inspire you, no matter if you’re a kid, or an adult that’s been through care, to show you that your beginning doesn’t have to dictate your present or your future.’

Akingbola also called his experience in the care system a ‘blessing’ rather than a barrier as is often depicted, sharing that it was ‘my foster family as well as my biological family being in my life has made me the man I am today’.

On the impact of the documentary, the star and producer also said that, as far as he was concerned, ‘if one person, let alone a few people, are thinking about adopting or fostering I feel like the documentary’s done its job’.

Bel-Air season two streams on Peacock in the US from Thursday, February 23. Season one is available on NOW in the UK. Jimmy Akingbola: Handle with Care is available to watch on ITVX.

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