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Bel-Air creator Morgan Cooper and season two showrunner Carla Banks Waddles are defending executive producer Will Smith following criticisms of his character after he slapped Chris Rock onstage at the 2022 Oscars.
In a new interview published ahead of the second season debut of Bel-Air on Feb. 24, Cooper spoke to Yahoo! Entertainment about the support Smith has given the show and its creative team day in and day out. For the show’s writer and director, he’s “got nothing but good things to say about Will.”
“Will is a great guy, and he’s demonstrated that with his actions throughout the whole Bel-Air development process, back when this was just my short film,” Cooper explained. “I’ve seen the content of his character on a day-to-day basis with this crew, this cast, my producing partners, the network and the studio.”
Morgan added that when it came to Smith’s behavior at last year’s Oscars — an incident that resulted in a 10-year ban from the ceremony for the actor — there is “so much happening in the world right now,” and amid that people make mistakes.
“That was a very human moment that took place [at the Oscars], but human moments happen — nobody’s perfect, and it’s important not to be judgmental,” he said.
Waddles, a co-executive producer for the first season and the two-season series’ fourth showrunner — following the departures of Chris Collins early in the series development process, and TJ Brady and Rasheed Newson, who co-helmed the first season — also supported Smith as professional on the series.
She told the outlet that Smith’s actions didn’t have any serious impact on the fruition of the show’s second season. “The show has taken on a life of its own, and has become important to so many people,” Waddles said. “There are so many reasons for it to be successful, so that didn’t concern me at all.”
The incident did reportedly impact several other projects Smith had in the works, including Netflix’s crime drama Fast and Loose, which had already lost its director David Leitch, and Apple TV+ enslavement drama Emancipation, which hit the streamer late last year. Following the March 2022 ceremony, Bad Boys 4 was also reportedly on hold, but on Jan. 31, both Smith and co-star Martin Lawerence announced their reunion for the next franchise chapter.
Speaking to how supportive Smith has been of the production, Waddles added that “we’re still able to tell stories with his character and all of the original Fresh Prince legacy characters. We still have the freedom to do what we want to do creatively and tell stories that are important to us.”
Ultimately, regardless of what happened at the Oscars, Smith and the Bel-Air team have a “proud” partnership, Cooper said.
“Day in and day out, I’ve seen a guy who is committed to excellence and committed to putting people in the position to do their best work. That’s been Will since Day 1, and I’m very proud to be in partnership with him.”
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