Road trip inspiration sends Morgan Cooper on Bell-Air ride – Deadline

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places, such as walking the dog in the park or buying a soft pretzel at the mall. For Morgan Cooper, it was time to get off Route 71 in Kansas City, Missouri in 2019. Going home after shooting a low-budget beauty commercial, Cooper made a plan to launch a 90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bell-Air In a glamorous short film, Will Smith’s iconic character is recaptured as an unfortunate Philly teenager caught with a gun during a fight on the playground. Instead of facing a definite future behind bars, his uncle Phil works some attorney magic and arranges for Will to start in a wealthy Southern California neighborhood where he will attend an elite private school.

Filmed in eight days with local actors from Kansas City and Burbank, the three-and-a-half-minute potboiler was never intended to serve as a grassroots biography for a gig in Hollywood; Morgan just wanted to have some fun. “I’ve built my career focused on what I can control, and I haven’t been too focused on results,” Cooper recalls, now 30. “But I knew the idea was special. I knew it had a huge potential to grow.”

Within a day of uploading the film to YouTube, Cooper Will and Jada heard from Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook production company, which used it as the basis for Peacock. Bell-air—Now the most streamed original series on the streamer. “Really, I’m not a fan of Reboot,” said Cooper, who was named as one of the series’ executive producers and directors who immediately gained a two-season pickup. “But when there is an honest reimagined take, like The Dark Knight, Now anyone is taking something and really making it their own. There’s not a ton of things that come from really intimate places that aren’t made in the studio, that aren’t born in the corporate boardroom. The mine came from Highway 71.

Cooper likes to say Fresh prince I found him. While honoring his skills as a self-taught cinematographer-he bought his first camera at the age of 18 and spent his days in Missouri shooting music videos and learning how to illuminate his subjects তিনি he likes to spend his lazy time watching 90s sitcoms. “It’s always revived on his local Channel 38,” said Cooper, who never went to film school before starting his own successful commercial-building business. And looking at California, everything about it was very impressive. I didn’t grow up around wealth in Kansas, so Sitcom was far ahead of its time to see all these different perspectives from black people. ”

So, it was a bit surreal for Cooper to fly to Miami and meet Smith in the flesh. “It was like meeting a friend I already knew,” Cooper said. “He was incredibly warm, he was from day one. He was filming Bad guys for life And I saw him across the beach. I saw his silhouette, ‘Yo, yo, yo’. He extended his hand. He hugged me and felt like a big brother.


On the left, Simon Joy Jones and Jabari Bank in Bell-Air.
Adam Rose / Peacock

The men immediately set out to cast their rehearsal drama. Like in Fresh prince, Bell-airIts protagonist is Will Smith, a cheerful teenager who is a normal and young man in basketball. In other words, until Jabari met Banks, it seemed almost impossible to find anyone who could embody Smith’s style and charm displayed on the original sitcom. “I’m naturally charismatic,” said the 23-year-old newcomer. “I am just a human being. The character is a delight and it sometimes gets him in trouble. I naturally fell into that stream. “

The next important role was played by Carlton Banks, Will’s high-strength cousin who played the original character by Alfonso Ribeiro. In the updated version, Carlton (Nigerian-American actor Oli Sholotan) hides his crippled anxiety on the campus of Bell Air Academy, a big man who rips Xanax off in his bedroom. He and Will immediately clash over sports, cultural identity and a very beautiful girl, but find a moment of grace when Will reveals how he didn’t know his real father. (Eater caution! Will will eventually meet him in the final, but more on that later).

The cast includes Cassandra Freeman as Will’s Aunt Vivian, Adrian Holmes as Uncle Phil, April Parker Jones as Will’s single mother Vir, Coco Jones as Will’s entrepreneur’s cousin Hillary and Simon Joy Jones as Will’s love interest Lisa. After starting a lie with their first lead author – Chris Collins resigned in August 2021 – TJ Brady and Rashed Newson Chi And 100 Taking charge as a reputation co-exhibitor. Fortunately for them, many foundations have already been laid.

“We had to start the Morgan trailer,” Brady said. “There is a lot of controversy on other shows about looks and sounds, feelings. That was already settled. So people wanted to do this show. Because of that trailer we were privileged in many ways. Where the debates come from is what the characters have to push. Was what we did with Carlton too far away? How much can Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil argue? And what about those arguments? These are just some of the goal setting shareware that you can use.

“The issues are African American, but the big stories are universal,” Newson said. “It’s a family story. One thing we did, and I’m proud to say we had to fight, is that we decided that parents were going to tell a really funny story that doesn’t always involve kids. The show has seemed a bit unfocused in recent episodes, however; We’ve created something that has something to do with middle-aged people. “

Realism was at the forefront of modern-day youth storytelling in high school, so Morgan and Shorner made the bold decision to use explosives and n-word dialogue (and use rap music). One of the more memorable moments of the pilot is when Will discovers that some white kids at school are singing a clear rap song and Carlton is dropping the N-sound without even looking. “Insulting people,” Cooper simply says. “They curse. We wanted to create the truth so that it would come to the screen. “

“I can tell you, pilot, that we calculated the use of the n-word and cut it out,” Newson continued. “It simply came to our notice then. The rule that has come up is that it can come up when it’s loud, when it’s angry, but it can’t be like ‘Hey, n-word’. You cannot enter a room that way. There are lots of African Americans working on this show and we have a lot of opinions. Much like this show, it has become a conversation that we have to hurry to make sure we are doing what we were doing intentionally. “

Now, back to that cliffhanger of the finals. Cooper and the writers introduced Marlon Owens as the long-lost father of Will in the first 10-season season in March. Before his unexpected arrival in California, Will was led by his mother and uncle to believe that Lou had left his family; In fact, Lu was spending time in prison and never wanted his son to see him behind bars.

George Miller / Deadline

Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Ear / Disruptor Magazine for 2022 here.

“It’s one of the things that comes with taking a sitcom and turning it into a drama,” Newson said. “In a sitcom you can see the fact that Will met his rich relationship which he has not seen year after year. In this one, you have to explain why there was this rift in the family. It’s a normal question, those stories have to come out. When Will was four, his father was convicted of a felony and sentenced to life in prison, and he told Will’s mother and uncle, Phil, ‘Don’t let my son down here. If you bring him down here I will not go out to see him. I don’t want him to see me like that. I grew up watching my dad in prison and I think it confuses me and I don’t want to do it with my son. ‘ Uncle Phil and Will’s mother were unable to tell the 4-year-old, ‘Your father is in prison and doesn’t want to see you anymore,’ so they let him think his father was gone. They are counting it now because his father is at the door. “

The episode ends with Will Storming Out from Bell-Air Mansion আপ the perfect setup for Season 2. The chances of the young hero returning to a good life are very good (otherwise where will the show be?).

Either way, Cooper is excited about the possibilities ahead. “I got a lot of ideas, but I will continue as an executive producer Bell-air“I sincerely hope that others will learn from his good fortune,” he said. “I think in 2022 and beyond, we need to be entrepreneurs for filmmakers and create our own opportunities. There is a huge difference between pitching an idea and going out and creating it yourself. Trust the 10,000 hours you put into your craft. Invest in yourself. People will respond. “

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