Bel-Air has arrived and quickly become a hit on Peacock, despite many worrying if the show would not do the classic comedy sitcom justice. Notably, the star and the current occupant of our of Young Icons digital cover, Jabari Banks, is getting all the praise for his version of “Will” in the drama, but it’s one character that has also grabbed viewer’s attention, and it’s none other than Geoffrey.
In the dramatic spin on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) is no longer a butler. He is now Phillip Banks (Adrian Holmes) “house manager.” No longer reduced to keeping the Banks residence looking spiffy and just introducing guests like Joseph Marcell’s version of the character, the new Geoffrey can also be described as Phillip Banks’ “fixer” as he handles “situations” outside of the house. He also keeps a close eye on the Banks children, Carlton (Olly Sholotan), Hillary (Coco Jones), Ashley (Akira Akbar), and of course, Mr. Banks’ wife, Vivian Banks (Cassandra Freeman), to ensure they are good. Geoffrey is also tasked with ensuring that his boss’ campaign for Los Angeles County’s District Attorney stays on course and drama free.
While every character now has their own dramatic storylines for us to invest in, fans of the new hit show are very much drawn to Geoffrey’s enigmatic presence show and want to know more about him and what he REALLY does. With Akingbola taking over the character, Geoffrey has also become quite a hit with female fans, and viewers have expressed interest in Geoffrey getting his own spinoff show which would give us insight into what Geoffrey handling Mr. Banks’ business looks like.
Cassius Life had the opportunity to speak with Joseph Marcell and Jimmy Akingbola exclusively about Geoffrey’s character and the new take on him. We asked Marcell about his thoughts about the more serious tone Geoffrey has. We even asked both actors about Geoffrey becoming a sex symbol and what a Geoffrey spinoff show would look like. We had to break up a wide-ranging conversation into two parts that featured the two actors who knew each other outside of their craft, giving each other their flowers.
You can step into the first part below.
Cassius Life: Mr. Marcell, what was your reaction when you first learned about Bel-Air, and what do you think about seeing your character played in a much more serious tone this time around?
Joseph Marcell: Well, I was astonished. I mean, you have to remember, what we did was in the ’90s, and we are in almost a third of the way of the ’20s at the moment. And it was marvelous. You have to remember the show we did is of a different time, although the aspirations, the hopes of African Americans, or the diaspora, are the same. We are still trying to get that elusive thing that we need, but having Jimmy play the role and seeing the obverse of the characters, whereas Geoffrey was more, I don’t know, I was going to say coldblooded, but no Geoffrey, was dry. But it was what that time required because America had not seen that kind of character or a family with such status. The whole Pygmalion thing. And to see the obverse of Geoffrey, as in a modern sense, is perfect because we live in a time where black lives finally matter.
But it was what that time required because America had not seen that kind of character or a family with such status. The whole Pygmalion thing. And to see the obverse of Geoffrey, as in a modern sense, is perfect because we live in a time where black lives finally matter.
CL: Absolutely. Your Geoffrey always kept it real. That’s what we appreciate about your Geoffrey. So thank you for that. Mr. Akingbola, you almost didn’t take the role, but thank goodness you did. Is there any other original Geoffrey sprinkled into your character? Did you talk to Mr. Marcell about the role at all?
Jimmy Akingbola: There is so much of the original Geoffrey in my version. And like you’d said, why we loved the original Geoffrey because he kept it real. Some of the disses he used to give Uncle Phil, it’s just amazing. I’m having tears of laughter now just remembering them. But yeah, what was important for me is that I didn’t want to depart from the beautiful essence that Joseph had created with the original Geoffrey, that became one of the most popular characters in the show. And so there was a little bit of pressure with that, but actually, I decided to just use that and say, “Look, the main thing about Geoffrey is that he loved the family.” Even with the one-liners, the little side-eyes, there was pure love. There was advice. He was the Uncle G.
And then so I just thought, what does that look like now in 2022? And then I did call Joseph to say, “I got the role.” He was amazing. He was like, “Congratulations. I’ve heard. We’re all behind you. We all think you’re all fantastic. So just run with it.” And so just getting that sort of that nod from the OG cast and from someone like Joseph, it was an emotional moment for me because I’ve grown up watching Joseph, I’ve had the pleasure of working with him. And so yeah, he’s given me some nuggets. Haven’t you, Joseph? We’ve had a couple of rums and Coke.
JM: Yeah, man. Actor to actor.
JA: Yeah. So it’s in the motion. It’s in motion. So yeah.
There is so much of the original Geoffrey in my version. what was important for me is that I didn’t want to depart from the beautiful essence that Joseph had created with the original Geoffrey, that became one of the most popular characters in the show.
CL: Now, we don’t know if you guys know this, but the new Geoffrey has become sort of a sex symbol. He’s a hit with the ladies on Twitter. The ladies love him. What do you guys think about Geoffrey becoming this big sex symbol, and being sought after, even in the show?
JA: What I will say is that I’m just trying to follow Joseph Marcell, you know what I mean? The word on the street, Joseph was a snack as well.
JM: It’s one of those things that you kind of dream and imagine. I mean, if I were, I don’t know, 30 years younger than we could argue this, but I look at it with admiration. And although I’m told, I did have my moments, but I don’t know.
JA: Yes, Joseph, you still got your moments.
CL: Absolutely. You still got it.
JA: I’ve got some say, “Do you have his number?” No, listen. Making a black man blush is an achievement. So when I see a lot of the sort of the tweets and the Instagrams, and I do see them, I appreciate it, I’ll take the flowers, but also I’m about the work, man. I’m just glad that people are really responding to this Geoffrey because, as Joseph said, America hadn’t seen anything like the original Geoffrey. So when I was going into this, I was like, “Well, in terms of trying to show a different side of the whole black diaspora. And there’s the full spectrum of the Black community.”
I was like, “Well, what does this Geoffrey look like if he was a bit closer to some of the people that I grew up with and had a different kind of swagger.” I don’t know if you’ve heard this, Joseph. I feel like if your Geoffrey was the James Bond, I think my one’s trying to do a bit of the Jason Bourne. So they have a lot in common, and it’s really, I feel very proud that the way that people are responding to it because that is about honoring the legacy that Joseph created, and I think Morgan Cooper, the creator, just wanted everybody to do their own thing, but we are doing our own thing with love and respect to the original cast and the original show. And that’s in the DNA of Bel-Air.
JM: Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. It has become legend in itself, the magic of the seven of us being led by Will, that whole idea. And the foreign brother becoming a pillar of American society is also extraordinary. But I think again. I’ve done it. I don’t need to worry. I can give my version of English on any program, and it doesn’t matter. It is you that has to do it. And I mean, I think you can rest assured that you have my full support because I think the show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is not a museum piece. Those are living characters, and all you guys have done is you are embodying those characters. And so it gives it a whole new life, but also it’s a bit like when I keep saying this and people must be tired of me saying, it’s a bit like when Dylan went from acoustic guitar to electric guitar, the ethos and essence is the same. It’s just that it’s played on a different instrument.
Making a black man blush is an achievement. So when I see a lot of the sort of the tweets and the Instagrams, and I do see them, I appreciate it, I’ll take the flowers, but also I’m about the work, man. I’m just glad that people are really responding to this Geoffrey because, as Joseph said, America hadn’t seen anything like the original Geoffrey.
CL: Geoffrey sheds the butler title. Now he’s a house manager, but he kind of gives us like you had mentioned he’s like Jason Bourne. He kind of gives us this secret agent vibes. He’s more like Uncle Phil’s fixer. Now let’s just say hypothetically, Geoffrey gets his own spinoff show, where we actually see him handling these jobs and handling these things for Uncle Phil. What would you call the show? And two, what would, Mr. Marcell, what would your role be in the show?
JM: I mean, I haven’t really considered this, so I’m talking off the top of my head. But I think it’s important to remember that when the episode opened, many millions were watching it, leaving Super Bowl and coming to watch our show for 28-30 minutes, and then going back to football. When they arrived, they came to a family that was having a normal day, as all families do, but Geoffrey was at work. Geoffrey was working. Now, he was luckier than I would say many millions of people in the world because he could say what he thought. I don’t think there are many jobs in this world that you can say what you think. And so, what would Geoffrey’s role be? I think in the spinoff, I should be the elderly uncle.
Who comes in, who’s probably an accountant or something really dull, but when you do find him with his without his tie and shirt undone, he is the life and soul of the party. A rather serious man, but a man who spends most of his time laughing behind his hand.
JA: I love it. So my response to that is that I think the title, it would be called G. And it’s one hour about house managers. I was thinking, Joseph, either uncle or father. And basically we get to see what this house manager’s life is really like, how he handles the situations and jobs, but he’s still under the guise of, “Meet my dad or meet my uncle.” What’s his name? He’s Geoffrey.” See, this guy is just looking like he’s an accountant. He used to be a house manager, but now he is an accountant. And he’s got the books behind him like that. He’s just very intelligent, knows a lot about history, can talk about American politics, very unassuming.
JM: Yes. It becomes like Uncle Phil saying to Geoffrey, “Geoffrey, break out Lucile.”
JA: There you go. There you go. There you go.
Season one of Bel-Air is currently streaming on Peacock with new episodes premiering every Thursday.
*Interview was condensed for time*
Photos: Peacock / Getty