Will Smith (Jabari Banks) and Carlton Banks (Olly Sholotan)
Source: Peacock

Can Will and Carlton Ever Be Friends in 'Bel-Air' Like Their '90s Counterparts?

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Feb. 22 2022, Published 3:12 p.m. ET

Spoiler alert: The following article contains spoilers for the Peacock series Bel-Air.

There were many, many great things about the iconic '90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. One of the show's best aspects was the brotherly relationship between cousins Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro) and Will Smith (Will Smith). Carlton and Will didn't start off as besties when Will moved to Bel-Air from West Philly, but the two gradually grew to understand and respect each other's point of view.

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Can the same be said for Will (Jabari Banks) and Carlton (Olly Sholotan) in the Fresh Prince reboot Bel-Air? The new series is a more dramatic take on the original but still follows the same basic premise. Will's mother Vy (April Parker Jones) sends Will to live with his Aunt Viv (Cassandra Freeman) and Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) after Will gets into a dangerous fight in West Philly. While '90s Carlton didn't like '90s Will instantly, he wasn't nearly as hostile as the Carlton of Bel-Air.

Carlton Banks (Olly Sholotan)
Source: Peacock
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'Bel-Air's' Carlton masks his anxiety in unhealthy ways.

Yes, Carlton is rich and extremely privileged in the original series and Bel-Air. However, Carlton in Bel-Air struggles to cope with his anxiety, and so he turns to drugs instead of reaching out for support from his family. Naturally, Carlton feels more isolated when Will comes into the picture, and things get even worse when Will instantly clicks with Carlton's ex Lisa (Simone Joy Jones).

Carlton doesn't even stick up for Will when Carlton's friend Connor (Tyler Barnhardt) plants drugs in Will's bag. Will also calls Carlton out for being OK with Connor and Carlton's other white friends repeatedly saying the N-word in the locker room while rapping a song. Carlton argues that "It's just a word" and he can't expect his friends not to say it when rappers use it all the time. The contrast is clear. Carlton will do anything to keep his status quo, even though it drives him to drugs.

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Will Smith (Jabari Banks)
Source: Peacock

The respect that the OG Carlton and Will had went both ways.

One great scene that exemplified how much Will had grown to care about Carlton in Fresh Prince is when Top Dog (Glenn Plummer), the president of Phi Beta Gamma, told Will that Carlton didn't fit the fraternity's vibe. Carlton and Will had been going through a series of tests trying to prove they belonged in the fraternity. Will tried to protect Carlton by telling his cousin that he was the one who didn't make it in. Naturally Carlton quickly found out that it was the other way around.

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For once in the series, Carlton defended himself: "You think I'm a sellout? Why? Because I live in a big house or dress a certain way? Being Black isn't what I'm trying to be, it's what I am. I'm running the same race and jumping the same hurdles as you are, so why are you tripping me up? You said we need to stick together, but you don't even know what that means."

Needless to say, it's Top Dog that was kicked out of the fraternity after that. In true comedic Carlton fashion, he angrily told Will afterward, "I don't say make like a tree and leave, it's make like a banana and split!" The two cousins couldn't be more different, but at that moment, they cared more about each other's well-being than what a college fraternity thought of the both of them.

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Source: YouTube/@Peacock

Can Will and Carlton of 'Bel-Air' ever have that same kind of close relationship?

It's possible for the new Carlton and Will to find their own way into a Fresh Prince-esque friendship. The OG Will defended Carlton to Top Dog by noting that Carlton always put 150 percent into everything. The Carlton of Bel-Air definitely has the same drive, and he does have goals to get into college and better himself. Will certainly didn't see Carlton as a friend four episodes into Bel-Air, but he did believe in trying to keep the peace after everything he's gone through.

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What these two cousins need is a true bonding moment, something that actually demonstrates that they can be more than family, they can be friends as well. In order to do that Carlton needs to finally start accepting himself and stop trying so hard. Will, on the other hand, needs to recognize that Carlton has struggled too, in different ways. As OG Carlton so eloquently told Top Dog, Will and Carlton need to actually accept that they're both jumping the same hurdles in life.

Source: Instagram/@belairpeacock

And to be fair to 'Bel-Air' Carlton and Will, we're only four episodes into Season 1. The show has done a great job of laying the groundwork for each character's individual struggles so far, and there are six episodes left for Carlton and Will to actually form a brotherly bond. When there's a Will, there's a way?

New episodes of Bel-Air hit Peacock on Thursdays at 5 a.m. EST.

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