'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Star Joseph Marcell, 72, Still Loves Acting but Prefers the Theatre Scene

Monica Otayza
Jul 09, 2021
08:03 P.M.
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Joseph Marcell is well known for his role as the smart British butler from "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." However, his accomplishments to this day go way beyond the screen. 

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Joseph Marcell can’t be out on the street without someone yelling "Geoffrey!" and hoping for him to confirm their suspicions.

It’s been 25 years since the show's last episode was aired, and still, fans recognize Marcell as the friendly butler that served the Banks family in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

The cast of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Images

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These days, the father of two is still working. However, he has moved back to England, where he is part of the board of The Globe, a playhouse and acting company in London.

He has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Royal National Theatre on numerous occasions and is considered a veteran in theater both in England and the US.

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Marcell has made it clear that he wants people to learn the distinction between acting on TV and acting on stage, as they are two very different things.

In fact, he is extremely passionate about theater, that he does not miss his television roles too much. He told The Observer in 2017:

"I don’t think you should try to conflate the types (of entertainment). It is the same profession, to an extent, but they are so different."

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More than acting itself, Marcell revealed that he enjoys the art of words, especially if they come from Shakespeare, no matter the size of the audience. He said:

"I once played a show for three people. We had six in the cast, not including the crew. Small audiences have never been a problem for me. You just make contact with them..."

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At one point, he also revealed that although acting on television definitely pays more, acting in theaters makes his soul feel alive. Explaining more about his passion for acting in theater, he told Kreol Magazine: 

"The screen pays better, but the stage is for the soul. [...] The interaction with the audience keeps the play alive and evolving."

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Marcell has given life to King Lear, Otello, Titus Andronicus, and has participated in plays like “Macbeth,” "A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” “Lady Windermere's Fan,” “The Tempest” and “Gem of the Ocean” among others.

And although theater is his first love, Marcell made his return to the screen as part of the cast for Netflix’s original film "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" in 2019. He also made small appearances on “HERO Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross” and “Wrapped Up In Christmas.”

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He's also maintained a good relationship with his "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" co-stars. In 2020, the cast got together and gifted fans of the '90s series with a special reunion on HBO Max.

In the reunion, Will Smith, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Marcell gathered in a living room set that recreated the one shown on the famous series.

Throughout the reunion, the charisma and chemistry among the artists remained evident, and they effortlessly jived with one another the same way they did decades ago. 

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James Avery, who played the Banks patriarch, died in 2013 and was given a special tribute in the reunion show. Meanwhile, Ross Bagley, who played Baby Nicky, made a late cameo. 

At the time of the reunion, Marcell was busy working to make sure the popular replica of the 15th century original Globe theater in London did not close down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he made sure to fly to the US to make it to the much-awaited reunion. 

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It wasn't an easy decision for him, though, as he actually put a lot of thought into it. He spoke to his wife and children about flying to the US, and ultimately, he decided:

"It took a little consideration, and the only way to operate is to follow the guidelines – but of course, I was going to do it."

Everything went smoothly for Marcell and fellow "Fresh Prince" cast members, who followed all necessary government-mandated protocols to make the reunion show happen. Now, they look back at the experience with a grateful heart that they got to do it amid the circumstances. 

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