In ‘Bel-Air,’ Jimmy Akingbola Turns Geoffrey From a Butler to An Enforcer With a Heart of Gold

We have to talk about what’s happening between Geoffrey and Uncle Phil. In episode nine, he fired you after you went behind his back and found Will’s father.

Man, it was heartbreaking because what we’ve done with this version is, Jeffrey and Uncle Phil are like brothers—they go way back. Adrian [Holmes, who plays Uncle Phil] and I just met on the job, but there’s such a strong bond between us, so playing those confrontation scenes and seeing that split, it felt like a real element of our friendship was breaking. It was emotional and we went there as actors, but it showed the type of man Geoffrey is. Yes, he’s a man of his word, and if you ask him to do something, he gets it done, but he is also prepared to put himself on the line for what he believes, even if it goes against what Phil wants. Now, Geoffrey has set this all up, and everyone has to take a step back. It’s going to be interesting to see the ripple effects that it has on the family.

You’re not in the finale, yet everything Geoffrey has set in motion is felt throughout the entire episode.

Geoffrey’s always there even when he’s not. [The rest of the characters] are definitely asking, “Where is Geoffrey?” I don’t know how much I can say about where he is, but when he gets fired, we get a bit of a chuckle from Geoffrey, like he knows that was going to happen because he knows Phil. And he knows he can’t do something like that again and come back from that. This is the last step between us.

The last step for now, because you’re coming back for season two, right?

I got no comment [laughs]. Maybe you might see Geoffrey again. Who knows?

You recently tweeted a picture of yourself and Joseph Marcell, the original Geoffrey, from when he played your father on an episode of the BBC show Death In Paradise. One, how serendipitous, and two, did he give you any advice on playing the character?

It’s funny because I forgot to send them that picture in my slate when I was auditioning. I might have sent it in a second slate, but no one saw it, because when I told Morgan [Cooper, the creator and director of Bel-Air] about it, he had no idea. He freaked out: “What is this picture?” When I got the job, I wanted to tell Joe right away, but Peacock was very serious about that NDA, and I couldn’t say anything until they publicly released the cast. But when I could, I called Joe, and he told me, “Congratulations! We’re all happy for you, and you’re going to be fantastic.” I got quite emotional, actually.

Later, we connected in LA and had a lovely dinner where he gave me a lot of advice, which included just enjoying being the Brit on the show and owning that and letting my work speak for itself. When I see all the love on Twitter and Instagram—and I see all of it, sometimes I even blush—I truly feel like Joseph manifested that for me.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo