The following contains spoilers for Thursday’s episode of Bel-Air. Proceed accordingly.
Bel-Air welcomed another Fresh Prince alum with Tatyana Ali’s arrival in the Season 2 premiere as Ashley’s teacher Mrs. Hughes.
Previously, Daphne Maxwell Reid and Vernee Watson-Johnson — who played Aunt Viv and Viola “Vy” Smith in the OG series, respectively — appeared in Season 1 as board members interviewing Vivian for a coveted art fellowship.
This week’s episode revealed that Mrs. Hughes was fired for giving Ashley books about Black Panther activists from her personal collection. The Banks family, including Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, rallied around her to help get her job back — but to no avail so far.
For showrunner Carla Banks Waddles, Ali’s appearance in the first two episodes of Season 2 was a huge opportunity that happened organically.
“In the writers’ room, we talked about this character of Mrs. Hughes, this teacher who was very important to Ashley. Once we started talking about the character, then it became, ‘What if Tatyana Ali was that person?’” Waddles tells TVLine. “Knowing how important she was to the Banks family, knowing that Hilary would have had her as a teacher, that Carlton would have had her as a teacher, and now Ashley has her as a teacher, it just felt perfect.”
According to executive producer Morgan Cooper, it was important for the team behind the show to feature appearances from the legacy cast in a way that didn’t feel jarring or unnatural.
“Will [Smith] and I had conversations as we were developing Bel-Air [that] if there are organic moments where we can include some of the original cast in the Bel-Air universe, we should try to do that, but always in a way that felt organic and never forced,” Cooper shares. “[Ali] came in and absolutely knocked it out of the park and was such a collaborative partner for that story with her and Akira Akbar.”
But will we see Mrs. Hughes again? Waddles wouldn’t say, but noted that she is a “very important character in the series, and to Ashley.”
As for other OG cast members dropping in, Waddles confirms that Daphne Maxwell Reid will return this season as Janice. Per the Bel-Air EP, Reid is a “very big part” of Aunt Viv’s story and will “cause a little bit of trouble.”
Which other Fresh Prince cast members would you like to see appear in Bel-Air? Share your thoughts in comments below.