'Bel-Air': Creator Morgan Cooper on Critical Reception and Surprises in Season 2 (Exclusive)

Morgan Cooper never thought that when he released a trailer for a reimagined and dramatic version of the 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that it would become one of the most successful television series. After 7.9 million views on YouTube, and an unprecedented two-season deal with Peacock, that's exactly what happened. His rendition takes the comedy elements out and journeys viewers into what would really happen in modern times if a kid from West Philly is thrown into a gated community of Bel Air with family members he rarely knows, and how socioeconomic and racial factors come into play. An identity crisis of sorts is expected. And in Season 2, which premieres on Feb. 23, that clash is further explored.

Cooper continues to play an intricate role in the daily tasks of the show, including writing, wardrobe, editing, and everything in between. PopCulture spoke with Cooper about how he's managing the show's success while keeping the momentum going on set. He also discussed what to expect in Season 2, the cast's dynamic on and off screen, and character development of some of the more controversial storylines. Check out the full video interview on our YouTube channel.

PC: So, congratulations on Season 2. To have the reception that you've had from this dramatized version of the show has been crazy. How are you taking it all in?

MC:  Oh, man. Just full of gratitude. I'm so thankful for our fan base for expressing their passion for our show and our reimagined Banks family. It's been a beautiful journey. So just very, very thankful.

Now, how involved are you season to season? Are you on set? Are you dealing with wardrobe? Are you in the writer's room? How does it go for you from season one to Season 2?

Absolutely. So many tasks, whether it's being on set, covering set, whether it's being in color sessions, when we color grade the episodes, whether it's being in sound mix sessions, giving notes on scripts, giving notes on outlines, giving notes on edits. The work never ends. And so I've got my hands everywhere on this. And I'm very thankful to be collaborating the season with Carla Banks-Waddles, our tremendous showrunner who's delivered an excellent season of television. It's been an incredible collaboration all around, all hands on deck, and we're very proud of the work we've done.

Now, as far as character development, who has been your favorite character in this version of the series to explore? There are so many viewers who are obsessed with the Will and Carlton dynamic. What was the motivation behind the dramatic switch in their relationship for this version of the show as well?

Yeah. Absolutely. With Will, and thinking about bringing that dynamic of young, Black man from West Philadelphia and a young, Black man who's grown up in the Bel-Air bubble, what would happen if that Philly presence comes into Bel Air? What would that look like when you have Carlton, who before Will shows up, is the Prince of Bel-Air. This is his domain. He understands this world. And all of a sudden, his cousin comes in and pops that bubble. There's going to be tension there. So it's just approaching it from the prism of what this would authentically look like today in modern-day life and then letting that be the fuel for our story. And so always approaching it from a place of truth and honesty and what would these scenarios actually look like and bringing that to the screen. 

What or who do you think viewers will be the most surprised by in Season 2?

Ooh. Great question. I think people are going to be really surprised by Hilary. I mean, really everybody, to be honest with you. And I say that unbiasedly. Everybody has a really, really special journey in their own right. Carlton is... I would say Carlton comes to mind, but they're all great, but Carlton has quite a journey, Season 2, so buckle up. That's what I tell everybody. Just buckle up.

Well, listen, Carlton had a journey in Season 1. So I can only imagine…

Carlton be going through it.

Carlton is tripping. I saw the first four episodes of the season, so we got a hint there, but you just never know with that good old Carlton Banks. How is it working with the cast? And because it is a newer, fresher version, and they're younger, how is the relationship with you guys on set? And how does that translate off-camera as well?

Oh. Amazing. Amazing. Since day one, back when we were casting for Season 1, I told Vickie Thomas, our casting director, and everybody that in order to tell the story of a family, you have to build a family and has to feel like a family, not just onscreen, but offscreen as well. And we've done that. And we were not only looking for actors with incredible acting talent but also who are very strong in just character, just in the way they move in life, the way they communicate. We were looking for actors who put each other in the best position to do their best work. And each of our actors are incredible in their own, but their real superpower is their ability to collaborate with each other and bounce energy off each other. That's why the relationships are so infectious, and we feel them at such a real level is because they really care about each other in real life.

And we're one big family. I've got a tremendous relationship with everybody on the cast. I love them to death. And I'm so thankful for them. And they show up every day and give so much of themselves for these roles in terms of what they have to express on screen. And I never take it for granted.