Adrian Holmes: ‘Bel-Air’
Adrian Holmes had big shoes to fill in his role as Uncle Phil in the new Peacock series “Bel-Air.” The role was originated by James Avery in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and it was important for Holmes to not try and replicate the specifics of his predecessor’s performance, despite the series being a dramatic reimagining of the iconic ’90s sitcom. “What the show runners and [creator] Morgan Cooper wanted us to do was to not feel that we had to reenact or do what they did,” says Holmes in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “They wanted us to take the reins and have fun and create these characters as authentic as we could for this generation.”
While Holmes did try to emulate the leader qualities that Avery brought to Uncle Phil, he drew more of his inspiration from a public figure who came along after “Fresh Prince” had left the airwaves — President Barack Obama. With “Bel-Air’s” version of Philip Banks running to be the new District Attorney, Holmes looked to Obama’s confidence to project that kind of inspirational image. “I think that we really need to to have positive Black characters on screen like Phil,” adds Holmes. “That’s why I really love playing him because he’s such a gentleman, and in every sense of the word he’s a gentle man.”
One of the key relationships in the series is Phil and his nephew, Will (Jabari Banks), who arrives from West Philadelphia after Phil calls in a favor to get him released from jail. Phil is shown to be protective of Will, likely because as Holmes explains, “he sees a lot of himself in Will.” As someone who pulled himself up by his bootstraps and became a fighter for the disadvantaged, Phil felt emboldened to take care of Will, even if it meant pulling some strings to do so. “He was in a position where the people around him, there was a lot more risk in his neighborhood for him to go down the wrong path,” notes Holmes.
Holmes is proud to be part of a show that sparks real conversations, revealing that he has received a number of messages from friends who were inspired by its themes. “It gets those those uncomfortable conversations going on and that’s what we really pride ourselves on,” the actor states, “which is also what the original show did as well, so we we wanted to really keep that alive.”