Coco Jones and Cassandra Freeman on ‘Bel-Air,’ new versions of Hilary and Aunt Viv

Both actresses also shed light on Black representation on television and their own journeys throughout Hollywood

On the latest episode of Acting Up, Coco Jones and Cassandra Freeman (Hilary Banks and Aunt Viv on Peacock’s Bel-Air) open up about the popular reboot, reinterpreting the original characters and their own experiences as Black women in the industry.

As theGrio previously reported, Peacock’s Bel-Air is one of the biggest new shows of 2022, a self-described “dramatic retelling” of one of the most beloved 90s sitcoms, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Starring Jones, Freeman, Jabari Banks as Will, Olly Sholotan as Carlton Banks, and more, the series has earned positive reviews and an already loyal fanbase. Coco Jones, who many were introduced to as Roxie on the popular Disney series, Let it Shine, gets to show “a more grown side” of herself with her interpretation of Hilary.

BEL-AIR — “Dreams and Nightmares” Episode 101 — Pictured: Coco Jones as Hilary Banks — (Photo by: Adam Rose/Peacock)

“This is nothing like beloved Roxie, and I appreciate her for all that she has done for me and my growth, but Hillary is actually a lot like who I am now,” she said. “She’s very determined, very ‘my way or the highway, I’m going to achieve what I want, what I see for myself,’ and honestly, it’s an honor to get to play such an iconic character, with looks that kill at all times! But yeah, Hillary is a huge change from what people know and love me as. It’s really refreshing to me, personally.”

Diving into how this version of Hilary has more depth than the original, she added, “I think there’s a lot more of her struggle being in an industry that doesn’t necessarily cater to her…I think the tension between her and Aunt Viv, I think it’s all very honest and relatable because we’re all humans going through a similar human experience. Maybe it’s not social media, but there’s always, especially as a Black woman, there’s always additional obstacles that you didn’t sign up for.”

When discussing how she developed her version of Aunt Viv, Freeman gave props to the series creator, Morgan Cooper.

“It was hard to think how to come in and do this character in a way that would also make the culture feel like these characters have also progressed, but we’re not trying to erase the OG Aunt Vivs,” she explained.

“Morgan said, ‘You know, we’re not here for you to try to replicate those shoes. We’re here for you to create new shoes.’ And so with that, it gave me freedom.”

“Dreams and Nightmares” – Cassandra Freeman as Vivian Banks — (Photo by: Adam Rose/Peacock)

This allowed her, she explained, to really focus on what she knows for sure about Aunt Viv as a character, which is that she is the “heart and consciousness” of both versions of the show. “The way you try to portray that, for me through this body is, you know, deep listening,” she explained.

“And then also, the thing that I really wanted to submit in my version is that I didn’t want to erase where she’s from. I was like, We need to feel that the Philly in her is still present, even though she’s surrounded by this opulence. Because to me, that’s success is that you’re willing to hold on to who you are and still take new things along the way, not erase yourself.”

The latest episode of Acting Up is available to listen to now.

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