Olly Sholotan (as Jeff) & Jabari Banks (as Will) on “Bel-Air”
*Actor Rufus Burns is speaking out about not being cast in Peacock’s “Bel-Air” series even though he claims he was promised a role on the show.
Burns played DJ Jazzy Jeff in the short film by Morgan Cooper that inspired the new reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” sitcom. As Business Insider reports, when NBC decided to pick up the short film, Burns details in a new essay why he believed he’d reprise the role in the network’s reimagining of the series.
He moved to LA and had creative involvement in the series reboot, but was never cast. Cooper would eventually become a co-creator, director, and executive producer on “Bel-Air“.
In an essay penned for Insider, Burns recalls the moment he learned the short was going to be expanded into a series.
Peacock’s “Bel-Air” season 2 cast
“When the show was picked up, I had chills — it was incredible to see the impact we had, making this short. Cooper sent me messages like, “Hey man, you’re gonna be Jazz in the television version — get ready for your life to change,” Burns writes.
“When I heard him say that, especially with him being attached as the executive producer and co-creator on “Bel-Air,” I figured it was a done deal. I proceeded to mold my life around that opportunity,” he continues.
Burns goes on to detail his creative input on the series during the development stages.
“I was in the writers room Zoom call when they kicked off pre-production for “Bel-Air.” I’d sit in the virtual writers room meetings and take notes, do research, and pitch storylines. Cooper would send me scripts that NBC would send him, and have me read them and give my feedback — then I would sit in the meetings and hear him pitch my feedback verbatim to NBC,” he shares.
Burns notes that many of the “same team” from the viral “Bel-Air” short had “all been offered the opportunity to be part of “Bel-Air” in some form or another — to be seen by casting for a role, or to apply for crew work — so I wasn’t the only one fueled by that promise.”
But Burns says that as time passed, “Bel-Air” had been fully cast unbeknownst to him and he “never got to read for or be cast as Jazz, which I was fully expecting was going to happen,” he writes.
Burns’ relationship with Cooper quickly soured because of this perceived casting diss. He eventually had to move out of LA after finding himself broke and jobless in the city.
“I had bills that had accrued during that time. I moved out of LA the first week of August — I just couldn’t afford to continue living there. Not only that, I was devastated; I just couldn’t be in the area,” Burns explains.
“Cooper did eventually reach out in December of 2021, offering to mend the relationship. It was too little, too late for me. After six months of not speaking, I realized that my friendship was profitable to him — and without him acknowledging what had happened, there was nothing to fix anymore.”
Read the full essay here.
Season 2 of “Bel-Air” is now streaming on Peacock.
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