Interview: Jordan L. Jones talks about playing Jazz in Bel-Air series

Red carpet image of Jordan L. Jones
Jordan L. Jones plays Jazz in Peacock’s Bel-Air. Pic credit: Photo by: Alberto Rodriguez/Peacock

Peacock’s latest drama Bel-Air is a modern-day reimagining of the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which aired on NBC for six seasons in the nineties. Produced by original cast member Will Smith, the new series follows actor Jabari Banks as the main character, Will, and his journey from West Philadelphia to the affluent Los Angeles neighborhood Bel-Air.

Jordan L. Jones, best known for his roles in REL, Snowfall, and Disjointed, steps into the series as Will’s close friend, Jazz. Jones first got into acting in 2017 after getting his degree in Communications with a focus on Sports Journalism. He told us, “When I was younger, I did my first commercial in 11th grade, and [I] didn’t really know if I wanted to do it. But I got the audition so quickly and they cast me so quickly. Then when I went to SC [University of Southern California], I didn’t major in theater. People ask me all the time. I majored in Communications, I just wanted a backup plan, but I knew I wanted to do entertainment.”

He continued to tell us that he decided to “do the L.A. thing,” after spending some time working as a production assistant. Jones added, “So, I got a manager. This was late 2017. And after my first audition with my new manager, I got a callback. Then they signed me.”

Monsters & Critics had the opportunity to chat with Jones about what Bel-Air means to him, his favorite on-set memories, and how he tapped into his character given the show’s rich history.

Monsters and Critics: You and your castmates have this really great chemistry. Do you have a favorite on-set memory?

Jordan L. Jones: Oh, they’re all great, but let me see. Actually, I have a couple. One is me and Jabari [Banks] hijacking one of the carts. And we just drove through the lot. It was just so funny because we were new and there are other shows at Universal. We were driving by one of the trams and laughing with each other because they didn’t know who we were yet. It was honestly great. And it was really impromptu because we were supposed to obviously be on set and stuff.

There was another great time. The first time when I got on set, I was just like, ‘look, if I’m gonna try anything, I’m gonna try it on the first day.’ And I improvised a line. And I wasn’t scared, but I was just thinking, he [Morgan] might be like, ‘no do that’. I said it and the cameraman and everybody started laughing. We had to do it again. But I was like, ‘oh my god, we’re doing it again.’ Morgan was like, ‘no, say exactly that, we just have to do because they were being loud’. So I thought that was one of my most memorable moments because, as an actor on your first day, you’re trying to kill it in a way.

Production still from Bel-Air
Pic credit: Peacock

M&C: What was the most challenging part about playing Jazz?

Jones: I mean, I’m not gonna say that it wasn’t challenging, but I’m not gonna say there was some extra thing that I had to do or tap into, in order for me to be the best Jazz I can be. I think, me and the original Jazz, our characters are different. It was a 30-minute sitcom and Jazz was really the comedic relief. And in this version of Bel-Air, I am sometimes the comedic relief, but I’m more of a helping hand. And I’ve actually said this to Jabari, I’m kind of like Will’s Jiminy Cricket. Whereas he loves everything I say because I’m somebody that reminds him of home.

I watched a lot of Fresh Prince. I’ve seen every single episode 100 times. It wasn’t a thing where I’m like, ‘okay, let me try to be Jazz some ways here and Jazz some ways there’. I took what I thought Jazz was and what I am myself, and I combined them. To me, Jazz is a cool suave friend. They got their handshake. He was coming in, shaking it up.

M&C: What should fans be looking most forward to? Can you tease the show?

Jones: I’ll give you a little bit. There’s a lot of emotion, a lot of drama. I think, a lot of Black excellence. With this show, we don’t just show you know the Banks family and their wealth, Jazz is different. He’s from Compton. Then, you got Will who comes from Philly and is trying to adapt to this new lifestyle. You have Jimmy [Akingbola] as the butler [Geoffrey Thompson]. It shows different types of Black people in the same world, how we navigate, how we get through, how we get by. I think it’s a great Black show. I genuinely can’t wait for people to see it, tap in emotionally, and get their favorite characters. This is not the Fresh Prince. This is Bel-Air.

Bel-Air airs Thursdays on Peacock.

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