Bel-Air’s Jabari Banks Has the Best Story About the First Time He Met Will Smith

And I get on this Zoom, and there’s Will Smith. At first I’m stuck. I’m like, wait, is this a recorded video? Because his screen is so clear, [I didn’t think it was happening live]. And then he goes, “What’s up? What’s up?” I’m like, oh, this is crazy. He says, “I want to congratulate you. You got the part of Will on Bel-Air.” It was surreal and out of body. That was the first time I met him—when he surprised me over Zoom.

Wow. What did you do that night to celebrate?

Oh, I went to sleep. I was so overwhelmed, I went to sleep. I mean, I called my mom, I called my dad. My friends were actually in the apartment with me because I was over at my friend’s house doing the audition because I was in the process of moving. Will even said, “Where is everybody? Go get everyone in the house!” So I brought them all in. They met Will, and it was amazing. He said he was really looking forward to being an asset for me in my career, which was huge. So after all that, I needed to rest, you know what I mean? I just need to…I got to take this all in.

It’s overwhelming, it really is. As if I know. [Laughs] I have no idea, but I’d imagine so. How are you doing with the sudden attention?

I always say everyone’s time is going to come; if you ask the universe, if you ask God for something, it’s going to give it to you, right? But it just depends on who you are, and if you’re ready when it comes. I felt like I really prepared myself for this moment. There are things definitely in this that you can’t prepare yourself for, but I feel like I’ve got what it takes.

So I’m really just taking it one day at a time. For sure it’s been overwhelming, but Will said something in his book, Will, that has been really important to me. He said his dad asked him and his brother to build a wall when they were younger, and they were like, “Oh, I don’t how we’re going to build this wall, it seems impossible.” And then his dad said, “Hey, don’t think about building the wall. Just think about laying a brick perfectly every single time.” And so I go about that, focusing in on one day at a time and just trying to live in every moment and be the best I can in that moment.

That’s such an important lesson. So, when you were growing up, what was your idea of what it meant to be a successful actor and what is it now?

When I was growing up, I definitely thought it was all about the Oscars and the awards and who won. Now my idea of being a successful actor is being happy. It took me a long time to get to that because I would be around a lot of people who would say, “I really want to just thrive in the Philly scene.” I didn’t get that at first. I was like, “But don’t you want to be the biggest star in the world?” That’s not for some people, and as long as you’re happy where you are, then that’s what being a successful actor means to me.

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