Actress Coco Jones on Being the New Hilary Banks, ‘Bel-Air’ Fashion & Black Representation in TV

There’s a new Hilary Banks in town. On Sunday, the world will see the story of beloved sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” retold in Peacock’s new one-hour drama series, titled “Bel-Air.”

The show, executive produced by Will Smith, stars Coco Jones as Hilary — an influencer and aspiring entrepreneur who’s motivated to make a mark of her own in the world of food. Meanwhile, Jabari Banks stars as Will, whose complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air is seen in a much more raw, dramatic tone.

For Jones — a former Disney child actress — reprising this iconic character means ramping up Black representation in Hollywood. “My favorite part about playing Hilary in ‘Bel-Air’ is representing a dark skinned, beautiful, hardworking, confident girl,” she told FN. “I just know how important that was for me growing up to see girls who looked like me, so I’m excited to further represent.”

One common thread throughout “Bel-Air” and the ’90s classic is the fashion. There’s once again sneakers galore from Will, a new twist on Carlton’s preppy style, Geoffrey retires the old-fashioned tuxedo for trendy suits and Hilary brings an elegant sex appeal.

BEL-AIR, cast, peacock
(L-R): Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey, Akira Jolie Akbar as Ashley, Olly Sholotan as Carlton, Jabari Banks as Will, Cassandra Freeman as Viv, Adrian Holmes as Phil, Coco Jones as Hilary in “Bel-Air.”
CREDIT: Kwaku Alston/Peacock

Read more of the conversation with Jones below:

Footwear News: When taking on the role of Hilary Banks was there certain touchstones from the ’90s character that you wanted to keep in terms of the fashion?

Coco Jones: “Every time Hilary in ‘The Fresh Prince’ stepped out, she made a moment. I definitely think that’s always the goal with Hilary, just to be very specific and detailed, and even to just cater outfits specifically for the scene. I’m hoping when everyone sees Hilary’s outfits, they are inspired to light up their color choices, their patterns and maybe even recreate the looks. I want to see some Hilary Halloween costumes.”

FN: In your first scene, you step out in an entirely pink houndstooth ensemble. How high-fashion does Hilary go this season?

CJ: “That look was Balmain. I mean she’s from Bel-Air so there’s some designer up in there. My goal was to really make her sexy and classy. That is such a thin line to balance on. I also wanted to incorporate some amazing Black designers, and I think we did that well. You’ll see some Brandon Blackwood, some Telfar.”

FN: How important is it to give these rising Black designers a platform on this scale?

CJ: “Seeing the positive reaction to this Black story will help the next Morgan Cooper, who is our director, or the hair and makeup team, the crew and the cast that are all Black. It’s important when you get these opportunities to give [people] what they deserve, going above and beyond so that there can be even more opportunity after you’re done.”

FN: How would you compare your personal style to Hilary Banks?

CJ: “She’s a lot more colorful than I am. She’s always in a heel. I love a good pair of heels. I mean, I’m 5’9 so heels for me, they make me lthe tallest in the room so when the goal is to really make it a moment, heels for sure. As far as labels, LaQuan Smith is crazy dope.”

FN: Outside of “Bel-Air,” you’re readying to launch a new single. What can we expect from that side of your career?

CJ: “I plan on dropping it at the end of the month. Music has always been my heart because I wouldn’t have started acting had it not been for singing, and that’s just that’s me being me. It’s not me playing a role.”

FN: Who is your inspiration when it comes to music?

CJ: “Beyoncé. What I love about her career is that she’s reinvented herself in so many ways, and she also has creative control. That’s one of my biggest goals: to one day feel like it’s up to me — what I say and do and what I’m involved in and that my name carries a lot of weight.”

“Bel-Air” will premiere on Feb. 13, Super Bowl Sunday, with three episodes at launch on Peacock and new episodes streaming weekly.

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