Defender Managing Editor ReShonda Tate is in Martha’s Vineyard
vacationing, working, covering the 20th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. During a panel Monday night, she got the answers to some questions viewers across the country had about the infamous Bel-Air scene when Uncle Phil shows off his Alpha Phi Alpha Skills.
- The actor who plays Uncle Phil is not Greek. The actor, Adrian Holmes, who plays the reimagined Uncle Phil is NOT a member of a Greek organization.
2. Did the Alphas know about the scene? Executive Producer Rasheed Newson says not only did they know, they gave their approval. “We reached out to the Alpha’s leadership with our request. They requested to see the script and we did something you NEVER do in film, we let them read the script. They only had one show note – instead of having the Alphas play dominoes, leadership requested they play chess. We happily obliged.”
3. How did Adrian get the steps down? Holmes says they brought in a choreographer and members of APhiA to teach him the steps. Holmes said when he learned all the steps, the choreographer changed it. “I had one day to learn all the new steps, like that day. I’m just grateful that I was able to learn it.” Holmes says the biggest takeaway, next time wear gels in his shoes. “I had on dress shoes that were flat. By the end of all the takes (like 15), my knees were sore for two weeks.”
4. Were those actual Alphas in the scene? Yes, all of the men in the scene in Alpha paraphernalia are real Alphas. “I was standing off camera crying behind the monitor because I don’t remember the last time I’d seen that many Black men in a scene and there was no crime, there was no violence,” Newson said.
5. Why did the show choose to focus on the Alphas? In the original, James Avery, who played Uncle Phil, was a member of a fraternity. In this reimagined version, Newson said they wanted to shine a light on HBCUs.
Executive produced by Will Smith and inspired by Morgan Cooper’s viral trailer that reimagined the iconic ’90s sitcom, “Bel-Air” takes a fresh and raw approach to this world of swagger, style, and aspiration while exploring Will’s complex journey through a current lens.
The new series features an ensemble cast that introduces Jabari Banks as Will and a creative team that includes Cooper, who serves as director, co-writer, and executive producer, and co-showrunners and executive producers T.J. Brady and Rasheed Newson.