Jordan L Jones chatted about playing “Jazz” on Peacock’s “Bel-Air”, bonding with co-star Jabari Banks (Will Smith) and much more!
Actor and lifelong Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fan Jordan L Jones stars as “Jazz” in Bel-Air. A dramatic retelling of the beloved Will Smith sitcom, which aired on NBC between 1990-1996.
Jordan’s previous projects include episodes of shows such as Shameless, The Rookie, NCIS: Los Angeles and an extended role on Rel as “Nat/Offset.”
In this interview with Courageous Nerd, Jordan discusses his acting background, landing the role of “Jazz” and the creative experience of Bel-Air, as well as so much more. Read on below for the transcribed article or watch the video on our YouTube channel, linked below.
People can currently see you playing “Jazz” on Peacock’s Bel-Air. Before we dive into the show, how did you first get into acting?
Jordan L Jones: I was always a class clown in school. Getting kicked out of class for making untimely but funny jokes. So the teachers were like, “Now you’ve gotta get out.” I did my first commercial in high school and when I went to college, I had this yearning for it.
My mom didn’t really want me to act, just because of the journey. It’s a tumultuous journey, the journey of ‘no’. She didn’t want it to affect my ego or me as a person. I knew I wanted to do it, my mom was also an actress. I was like, “Nah, I really want to do it. It’s all good.”
That’s how I got started. I went to USC and they were like, “Hey man, you should do entertainment for real.” I had a job and I literally just quit it. I got an agent and manager and was like, “I’m going to try this, man.” The trying became happening and now the rest is history. I’m blessed that I didn’t quit, believed in myself and my mom believed in me.
Bel-Air is of course a dramatized remimagining of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Before landing the part, how much of a role did Fresh Prince play in your life?
Jordan L Jones: Dude, that’s my favourite show to this day. By the time it ended, I wasn’t old enough to even like that kind of stuff. The fact that it’s my favourite show ever just shows how timeless it is. It’s a show I watch all the time, it’s probably on right now. It’s always on VH1 and MTV.
I’ve seen every episode hundreds of times so just the fact I get to play this iconic character. In the back of my head, I’ve got how he acts or how he is. It’s been a crazy journey, seriously, man. I’m just glad that Will Smith saw me and thought I’d be good. Morgan Cooper really knew it was gonna be me after my first audition. I’m just blessed that they saw whatever they saw, in me. They allowed me to bring who I am to the character.
The show had a lot of momentum thanks to Morgan Cooper’s original Bel-Air video that started it all. When auditioning, how much did you know about the project and the character you were reading for?
Jordan L. Jones: When I first got the audition, I didn’t even wanna do it. I really didn’t wanna do it. Just because it’s my favourite show, you know? Is this a sitcom? Are we doing the same exact show with different characters and calling it The Fresh Prince? Like, no.
My manager called me and was like, “Hey, you gotta do this audition.” So, then I finally read the breakdown for it. In the breakdown, I saw ‘Morgan Cooper’ and was like, “Why does that sound so familiar?” I Googled him and went, “Wait, I remember this from 2 years ago. I remember the trailer, I remember the concept video.” I rewatched it and in the breakdown, it had the script.
Now I’m reading the script and I’m like, “Okay, I can do this. Now this, I can do.” Then, I got attached to the character while auditioning. Morgan Cooper is a genius and he had this vision a while ago of doing it this way. This kind of ‘dark’ way. I don’t really like saying ‘dark’, but cinematography-wise, it’s definitely darker than the sitcom multi-cam.
I’m glad that he had this vision and didn’t let anybody tell him that he couldn’t do it. A lot of people were probably like, “Bro, you can’t do this. Don’t do this, what are you doing?” I’m just blessed to be a part of something so iconic in its own way.
All the series regulars in Season 1 have a Fresh Prince counterpart. For yourself and Jabari Banks [who plays Will], however, there’s an added layer of playing characters influenced by the original actors. Did you focus more on ‘Jazz’ the character, talk to Jeff Townes or do your own thing?
Jordan L. Jones: That’s so crazy. I think it’s a testament to Morgan, man. Morgan cast us and we got cast on Zoom. Usually, when we do a chemistry read, I’m in the room with Jabari. I can see the guy there and they can see how he actually vibe together. [Morgan Cooper] knowing that we were gonna vibe the way we vibe… through the screen. As I say, the rest is history.
There wasn’t something that we were trying to do. Put it this way, we watched Fresh Prince so much. I’ve seen every episode individually, at least 30 times. I’d fall asleep to it or rewatch certain stuff. My mom had all the season DVDs, it’s just a part of us. It’s a subconscious thing; I don’t try to be Jazz, I know what Jazz is. I don’t try or think about it.
As far as character reimaginings go, I love Jazz. Your version of Jazz is a few years older than Jabari Banks’ Will. There’s a sort of ‘big brother-little brother’ or ‘mentor-mentee’ vibe going on. Would you agree with this? How would you describe the characters’ dynamic overall?
Jordan L. Jones: I would say that 100%. That whole entire dynamic is different and they’re still best friends. It’s just a different dynamic, you know what I’m saying? It’s a drama, so sometimes you’ve got to really explain what happens. Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff as people were friends and won a Grammy before the show was even a thing.
In a sitcom, you don’t have to explain everybody’s storyline. It’s kind of what makes a sitcom funny. Jazz comes in and you do the sitcom applause. No one’s like, “Where’d he come from? What’s his storyline?” It doesn’t have to be like that in order for it to be a good show.
In a dramatic retelling, [my Jazz] is different. I pick him up, the subtle nod to the ‘dice in the mirror’ and the licence plate. This makes sense because in a drama I can’t just pop up. No one knows me from before. I never was DJ Jazzy Jeff in real life, me and Jabari weren’t noticeable friends before the show.
Although we’re still going through Season 1, can you tease anything about what’s ahead on Bel-Air?
Jordan L. Jones: Nothing! I can’t tease anything, Conor, are you kidding me? I would just say honestly to stay tuned. Every episode gets better and better. You’ll see everybody’s relationship unfold. Episode 10 is going to be one for the books. Episode 10 will be one for the ages. It’s going to be a good one, man. I’ll just tell people to stay tuned.
As the show goes on, what would you want to explore further with Jazz?
Jordan L. Jones: We kind of talked about this, too, for other seasons ahead. I just want them to dive more into Jazz. You see my and Will’s relationship, my and Hilary’s (Coco Jones) relationship. Stay tuned, because you might get a chance to learn more about Jazz’s background and what happened when he was younger.
That’s something I want us to explore. Every character has a storyline and that’s why I’m happy we got picked up for 2 seasons. You gotta know Geoffrey’s (Jimmy Akingbola) storyline, why Uncle Phil is the way he is. Why is Carlton the way he is? We’re going to tap into that, as well as tapping into Will, obviously, the whole entire time. We see Hilary’s struggles of being independent.
As the seasons go on, each character is going to develop. I can’t wait to start shooting Season 2, honestly.
Lastly, what do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2022?
Jordan L Jones: I think about Will Smith, as an idol. He did Fresh Prince which was very comedic, Pursuit of Happyness. All these different characters where he could play a comedian, a suave sexy guy, a very dramatic Oscar-winning role. He can do impersonations – King Richard. He can do it all and it all makes sense.
With this show, I love how Morgan Cooper allows me to be funny, sometimes I’m really acting seriously. Get in fights, be romantic, be dramatic, be flirtatious. A lot of stuff I’ve done has been comedy. So, I can’t wait and see where this propels me forward.
As for the rest of the year, I’ll be in some more stuff. I can’t talk about other projects that I’m in right now, but stay tuned. I can’t wait for people to see me in different projects where I show other lights of myself.