Karyn Parsons and Coco Jones talk about their portrayals of the iconic Hilary Banks of Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air and the Bel-Air reboot.
When the show originally aired in the early 90’s, hip hop was making its mark on mainstream television with images of California’s Compton. Boyz N The Hood would become a huge cult hit starring Ice Cube who was formerly of the game changing rap group N.W.A. The film would also portray women from the hood with an edge with future director Regina King, which was a drastic contrast to her character on 227 as the young Brenda Jenkins.
As viewers tuned in for the debut episode, they were treated to a beautiful socialite in Hilary Banks. She showed the world that there was another side of West Coast women, which paved the way for the black women on shows such as Girlfriends. However, the television sitcoms that came after could still not evoke the traits of a Hilary Banks in the same fashion. This was cause for concern when the reboot was first rumored.
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With the blessings and backing of the original star of the show, Will Smith, fans at least had hope that his co-signing of the characters would at least lend some credibility and lineage to the original cast. The reboot has some changes, one of the biggest is surrounding the character of Carlton Banks. He is not the fun loving dork as originally cast, but more of rich kid with drug and anxiety issues trying to curb his cousin Will at any stop.
As Carlton received some character changes, so did Hilary Banks, who is a social media influencer that has culinary skills. This is in contrast to Hilary Banks of the 90’s, who was a weather girl and 90’s talk show host. The other traits of Hilary Banks are in tact with her high sense of fashion and living in her family’s pool house.
The other big difference that can’t be ignored is the darker shade of Hilary Banks. In an interview with Unbothered, Coco Jones detailed her experience of being a brown-skin women in Hollywood. “As a dark-skinned actor, you’re pretty much starting from zero every single time,” she continues. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or what your resume says — a lot of the determining factors for being ‘qualified’ are out of your control, no matter how much time and effort you put into the script.”
In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Coco Jones spoke about whether or not there was pressure to portray the ionic and beautifual light-skinned Hilary Banks. “The pressure really just came from myself. I wanted to give quality to everything, and not forget my intentions playing Hilary and my intentions representing a dark-skinned version of this role,” stated Jones.
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She continued by explaining that she wanted to represent the other shade of black people. CocoJones was emphatic explaining, “And I wanted to further open the door for other people that look like us on this cast. That’s my favorite part. More Black everything! More Black shows, Black writers, Black all of it.”
What does OG Hilary Banks this of this reboot? Karyn Parsons seems to be intrigued in the new elements of her iconic character when she spoke with Harper’s Bazaar. “Her story is very relatable and it does make people feel seen. This time around, this is a drama, this isn’t a comedy, so it’s a very different Hilary journey in that regard. It’ll be really interesting for people to see themselves in that character as she grows into her womanhood.”