Why Uncle Phil Keeps Will’s Legal Trouble A Secret

Uncle Phil goes to great lengths to keep Will’s recent legal troubles a secret in Bel-Air season 1, telling others Will moved for a better education.

WARNING! Spoilers ahead for Bel-Air episodes 1-3.

The new Uncle Phil in Bel-Air is far more secretive about the reason Will comes to stay with them, making sure the family keeps Will’s legal trouble under wraps. In both the original Fresh Prince series and Peacock’s Bel-Air reboot, Will Smith moves to Bel-Air to live with his aunt and uncle after getting into a fight during a pick-up basketball game. However, in a fittingly more dramatic fashion, Bel-Air’s version sees Will’s mom send him away after he’s arrested in the fight, with Will spending a night in jail before Uncle Phil makes some calls to get him released.

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Will’s mother was nervous about his future in both cases, though Bel-Air’s was more about keeping him from being killed by a West Philly gangster who was arrested alongside him. After Uncle Phil’s status as a powerful lawyer gets Will off the hook with the legal system, Vy immediately takes him to the airport, though Will isn’t warmly welcomed to his family’s home. When Will first arrives to thank Bel-Air‘s Uncle Phil, the family is hosting a party for his campaign for L.A. County’s District Attorney, with the Banks patriarch cutting off Will when he begins to speak about what really sent him to Bel-Air. Instead, Phil tells the family and particularly Will that they will all express the reason for his move as an opportunity for a better education.


Related: Why Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’s Serious Reboot Is So Divisive

Considering the original Fresh Prince’s Uncle Phil wasn’t concerned with keeping the details of Will’s arrival secret, Bel-Air presented an interesting change to the character’s personality and motivations. The most significant difference is that Uncle Phil is running for D.A. at the very start of Bel-Air, which means his reputation has to be squeaky clean going into the race – anything that could compromise his campaign will be used against him by either his opponents or constituents. If too many constituents discover that Uncle Phil used his connections to get the new Aunt Viv’s nephew out of jail, or even that he’s the guardian of a Philly teen with past legal troubles, his campaign could be in jeopardy.



Such a discovery could suggest that Phillip Banks isn’t strict on crime, especially that involving gun violence, which is important to many voters for a prosecuting District Attorney. Hiding Will’s legal troubles also seems to be about Uncle Phil trying to appeal to the white voters in Los Angeles or those with enough institutional power to send the election in his opponent’s direction, as he only feels comfortable telling others about Will Smith’s Bel-Air problem when visiting with his old fraternity brothers. Since his fraternity brothers make it a point that Phil doesn’t connect with the Black community as much anymore, revealing to them that he helped Will proves he actually is trying to challenge the institutional racism of the school-to-prison pipeline that he campaigns about.


After Will made Uncle Phil step dance at the crawfish boil in Bel-Air episode 3, the lawyer seals support from a powerful reverend, with Phil even thanking Will for saving his campaign. Will’s connection to the Black community is a powerful asset for Uncle Phil’s District Attorney race, but only so far in this community. At the same time, Uncle Phil is able to exploit Will coming to live with them to support his campaign on his terms of the reason why he was taken in. When Uncle Phil and Will tell others that he is staying with the family for a better education, he’s able to give a personal example of how Black men are unfairly treated by society, institutions, and the legal system, and can use Will’s “better education” reason to prove the power of second chances. While informing others that Will was arrested and is being hunted a Philly gangster could derail his campaign, using Bel-Air‘s situation as an altruistic example of giving young Black men second chances can strategically gather support for his election.


Next: Is Fresh Prince’s Bel Air Reboot Too Serious?

New episodes of Bel-Air stream Thursdays on Peacock.

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