Coco Jones on the Authenticity of ‘Bel-Air's' Hilary Banks
If you’ve been tuning into Bel-Air on Peacock, there’s no doubt Hilary Banks has caught your eye. Evoking the same fashion-forward, confident vibrance of her Fresh Prince predecessor, Coco Jones brings the eldest Banks kid into 2022 with a whole new kind of charm and digital space savvy. As the first season continues to air, LA Confidential chatted with Jones about Hilary, new music and the importance of sticking to your morals.
Did you grow up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
Oh, yeah, of course. It was a classic. I remember me and my family would watch the show together.
I thought Hilary was beautiful. I loved her headstrong personality. She kind of reminds me because in my family, I'm the one where like, if I want something to happen in my life, it's going to happen just like that. So I kind of saw that in myself in Hilary.
Tell us more about your version of Hilary Banks!
Well, first of all, she's an influencer. So that relates to so many people because social media is a part of pretty much everyone's life these days. She also is a go getter, like she's trying to accomplish these goals for herself that even though she's in an upscale environment, you can't buy them. You have to work for them. I think that makes her really relatable to the world, especially the girls who are starting companies, like eyelash companies, lip gloss. There's so many things that women are starting in this world and trying to make a name for themselves, and I feel like they can relate to Hilary's journey.
What have you enjoyed most about the role?
Of course, the fashion. Every look, I'm like, “OK, is there any way I can take this home? I know that this is for a professional network show, but wow.” So I love the looks. I think I really loved working with such a talented cast. I feel like everyone is so grateful to be there and they work so hard to put their best selves into these characters that it just inspires me to be on my A-game as well.
Do you have a favorite look?
You know what? There is this blue and white Balmain two piece that I think it’s so cute. When I first tried it on, I was like, “Oh my gosh, I would love if the girls were doing this look for Halloween if they want to be Hilary.” I think it's just a really cute look with the high-waisted skirt and crop top. It’s super 2022, but it also has that nostalgia that the original Hilary gave.
What can we look forward to from Hilary’s journey on Bel-Air? Early on, she makes it clear that nothing can make her compromise her values, even to get ahead in her career.
I can definitely relate to Hilary's journey because there's so many opportunities that come with a cost and that cost is your values or your authenticity. And I think it takes a lot of courage, which Hilary has and is like, “I'll make it another way. This isn't the only way.” Really, I tapped into my own journey in the entertainment industry playing out those scenes. And also keeping in mind that people who watch her journey are going to feel inspired, so even though sometimes it's hard to say no in the moment, it always pays off in the end when you can make decisions for yourself.
I'm super curious to get people's reactions when Hilary— without giving any spoilers— gets into a position where something she didn't expect is put on the internet. I'm curious to say what people's reactions are to that situation. But there's so many jaw dropping moments in the whole show, so I just love seeing people's reactions to all of them and so many more to come.
You’re signed to Def Jam Recordings. What can you tell us about new music you have coming?
Middle of March for sure I'm going to be dropping my song. It's an upbeat song. It's really flirty, sexy and basically I'm telling this guy who's interested in me like he's gonna have to work for it, for sure.
We just built something from scratch and it kind of all just fell into place. I guess we were all talking about how we have these guys in our lives and they're just not coming with the right energy. They gotta come strong and they gotta treat me the way I need to be treated in order to be interested at all. And that's how we came up with the song.
The goal is to have an EP out this summer. This is one of at least, I would say, four songs, but hopefully more. I have so many. Everyone on the cast knows that whenever I wasn't on set that I was in the studio.
What was it like balancing music and the show?
It was a lot of work balancing, but I'm always thinking of my younger self— the nine-year-old me who wanted this so bad, who would go into all these auditions and perform her little heart out. So any moment where I get a little tired, I'm like, “Let me just keep pushing forward just because I know how important this has been to me for such a long time,” and now I get to live these things out. I want to do them all to the best of my ability.
What sort of creative fulfillment do you find in making music that you might not be able to from acting, and vice versa?
With music,it's me. I'm not necessarily playing a character or I'm not putting pieces of myself into a character like I do with Hilary… I feel like it can change depending on my mood. It's like a more free version of expression. They both are versions of expression, but with music, I'm the head honcho.
With acting, it's about taking dialogue and making it come to life. And that's a whole different challenge that's so fun. You put the pieces together of a character to make it feel like they're a real person and also use your own real-life experiences to keep those moments authentic. It's a different version because it's challenging to not be yourself, but it's a fun challenge to be someone else and make them come to life, make them feel relatable.
I'm excited for all of my fans who have watched my journey. I actually did this video last July responding to a tweet that was like, “What happened to Coco?” I told this whole story of my journey, so I'm excited for the people who have been watching me since I was a kid to see that the worst thing that you can do is to stop moving forward. Even if you feel like you're not going anywhere, the fact that you haven't stopped walking means you are going somewhere. It's just about timing and persistence and God will open the right doors for you. I hope they can see that through my journey.
With the show coming out and being on the verge of releasing a new single, has 2022 just felt like a sigh of relief?
It definitely feels like that. 2021 as well because all of this started really like in July of last year. And that's when I also got aligned with my management team. It did feel like a sigh of relief, but also it felt like a moment of understanding. You have so many questions like, “Why didn't it happen like this? Why didn't this opportunity work out? Why did they say that?” And it's not happening, you know? And so now because I'm more of who I'm meant to be, it's a sigh of relief, but also I see why those things didn't work out and I'm so glad that they didn't. Hindsight really is 20-20.
This interview has been edited and condensed.