Olly Sholotan Didn’t Attempt to Fill Anyone Else’s Shoes as Carlton on ‘Bel-Air’

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Photo Source: Peacock/Evans Vestal Ward

The following Career Dispatch essay was written by Olly Sholotan, who plays Carlton Banks on the Peacock series “Bel-Air.” 

OK, I’m going to start this off with a weird anecdote. But just hear me out, because I think it’ll pay off.

When I was young, my dad used to travel a lot for work. He worked on an oil rig and would be onsite for 30 days at a time, then he would be back home for 30 days. My dad and I were thick as thieves. Whenever he was home, I would follow him everywhere and would copy everything he did. When he was gone, I would walk around the house in his much-too-large clothes and try to do everything he did. 

As hilarious as it is now to look back at little Olly, literally putting on his dad’s clothes and trying to take on the responsibilities of a grown man at the tender age of 4, I think this story is a really cool precursor to a lesson I’ve learned while working on “Bel-Air.”  

See, the thing is, my dad’s clothes obviously never really fit me. And even now that I’m an adult, they still aren’t me; the style is of a different era, he has a larger torso than me, and he likes pleats. I think very much in the same vein as I step into the shoes of my “Bel-Air” character, Carlton. 

From September 1990 to May 1996, Alfonso Ribeiro gifted the world with what I would consider to be one of television's most charismatic and lovable performances as the original Carlton on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Those are huge shoes to fill. But with guidance from our fantastic executive producer and series creator Morgan Cooper, I’ve given myself permission not to worry about filling those specific shoes. They’ll always be there, and they’ll always be dancing to Tom Jones. 

Instead, I bought different, brand-new shoes, ones that are exactly my size and style. And I have to say, I’m so very proud of where I landed and the character I found. He’s beautiful, complex, caring, and flawed. I think the show itself is a tribute to the incredible legacy that the original cast laid down. And now, we get the chance to take on that story and share it with a new generation.

All of that being said, I can promise that if you enjoyed the original “Fresh Prince,” you’re going to fall in love with “Bel-Air” and with the Black excellence we’ve cooked up for you over the last few months. I think I speak for the entire cast when I say that this revival fits each and every one of us like a perfectly tailored glove.

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