WATCH: Tatyana Ali Reveals What It Was Like To Return To Bel-Air Academy


The original Ashley joins the Bel-Air’ cast for Season 2, providing on and off-screen guidance for the new generation of the Banks children

Tatyana Ali is back on her throne as the princess of Bel-Air, as the show returns to Peacock for Season 2 this week.

The original Ashley Banks joins the Bel-Air cast as an educator named Mrs. Hughes who ends up providing some much-needed guidance for the new generation of the Banks children.

“It’s been amazing,” Ali tells ESSENCE of the experience. “I don’t know if its a reboot. It’s its own show. It takes the themes, and sure it has the characters. It got the most salient, important aspects of the story, and now they’ve run with it.”

WATCH: Tatyana Ali Reveals What It Was Like To Return To Bel-Air Academy
BEL-AIR — “A Fresh Start” Episode 201 — Pictured: (l-r) Tatyana Ali as Mrs. Hughes — (Photo by: PEACOCK)

Though the show is it’s own animal in many senses, Ali says she was still struck by the stark similarities with her own on-set childhood experience when she set foot inside the new Bel-Air Academy.

“I really treated it as an opportunity to play with an amazing cast and play a really dope part on a great show,” she says. “And then I got onto the Bel-Air Academy set and I was like ‘what?! This is crazy!’ It wasn’t that wild until I saw everyone in the uniforms that I used to wear all the time and that Alfonso [Ribeiro] and Will [Smith] used to wear all the time. That really blew my mind.”

Ali says she feels grateful for the surreal experience of retracing her steps from a new perspective and loves the relationship she’s been able to form with the young actress Akira Akbar who has taken on the role of Ashley Banks for a new generation.

“My character Mrs. Hughes is a teacher, and all of my scenes for the most part are with Akira who plays Ashley beautifully and has completely made that character her own,” she says. “I’ve found a special sisterhood with her where we’re kind of like this two-person sorority. It’s just incredible. Not many people get to have full-circle moments like that in their career.”

Bel-Air returns to Peacock for its second season on February 23, premiering with its first three episodes.





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