While it may seem presumptuous to speak for the star, in most likelihood the last few months are not the ones Will Smith will look back to and remember as the best of his life. In the wake of the actor slapping comedian Chris Rock at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, Smith’s career and reputation have taken some massive body blows. This week, however, brings news of one big victory the star can lay claim to: Bel-Air — the reboot of Smith’s career-making The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and upon which Smith serves as executive producer — has become the most watched original series on Peacock.
That’s the news from Deadline, who says Bel-Air has been streamed by 8 million different Peacock accounts. The fledgling series just debuted in February, but it’s already broken Peacock records in terms of “new subscribers, usage, and upgrades.” Bel-Air‘s first season concluded at the end of March, and — unsurprisingly, considering the show’s performance — it was given the green light for season 2. Unlike the inaugural ten episodes upon which J Brady and Rasheed Newson served as co-showrunners, the sophomore season will see Anthony Sparks as showrunner. Sparks previously served as the showrunner for the Oprah Winfrey Network’s acclaimed drama Queen Sugar. Will Smith will also continue on the series as executive producer, in spite of all the work he’s either lost or that has been put on hold since the infamous slap.
The original concept for Bel-Air came from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air super-fan Morgan Cooper, who produced a trailer for a version of the hit sitcom that took a more dramatic angle on the story. Will Smith caught wind of the trailer and began working with Cooper and others to make the idea a reality. It was in August that Jabari Banks’ casting as the new Will was announced. The young actor had the pleasure to learn about the casting from the original via video conferencing. You can see a clip of that conversation below.
If nothing else, the news of Bel-Air‘s record-breaking success should prove to protect the series from the Oscars fallout, in spite of Smith’s involvement. In the wake of the slap, Will Smith was barred from any and all Academy Awards events — including future Oscars ceremonies — for ten years. But in light of everything else, the Oscars ban may prove to be the lightest of his punishments. While Hollywood’s brightest might have given him a standing ovation for his King Richard victory that night, it didn’t take long for the town to change its tune. Production on upcoming Smith films like Fast and Loose and Bad Boys 4 have been paused, while Netflix’s plans for Bright 2 were scrapped entirely. In the meantime, Disney has decided to not yet release the third of the National Geographic docuseries hosted by Will Smith, Pole to Pole. It’s gotten to the point that reports were leaked about Smith projects that were canceled long before the slap — such as the solo Deadshot movie — almost as if studios were simply making sure everyone knows he’s not working with them.