Now, this is a story all about how if you can’t sing the entire The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song, start to finish, we can’t be friends. It’s one of the most iconic family sitcoms, and the show is the reason we all know who Will Smith is, know how to do the Carlton, and can sing at least one rap word for word.
Actress Karyn Parsons was lucky to grab the role of Hilary Banks on the show. The 90s wouldn’t have been the same without The Fresh Prince, and Karyn’s portrayal of Hilary was a part of that. We’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, we’ll tell you what Karyn has been up to since leaving the town called Bel-Air.
On October 8, 1966, born and raised, in Los Angeles, California, was where Karyn Parsons spent most of her days, with her parents Louise and Kenneth. Karyn graduated with honors from Santa Monica High School in 1982. That’s right, Karyn was 12 years old when she started high school.
Though she was awarded scholarships for various colleges, like the elite Tisch School of the Arts in New York and Miller Theatre at Columbia University, she declined, wanting to get her life started. Karyn’s acting career began in high school, where she landed her first Broadway role at thirteen, and performed in various musicals and plays throughout high school.
Though Karyn was already a pro on the Broadway stage before leaving high school, her first television role was in two episodes of The Bronx Zoo in 1987.
In 1988, Parsons appeared on one episode each of Hunter and CBS Summer Playhouse. Her film debut was in 1989 when she played Brooke in the slasher movie Death Spa.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Noted as a hugely impactful show for Black identity, hip-hop, and cultural and social mobility, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was an amazing sitcom that touched on so much more. The comedy had heart, made you cry, laugh, and had you doing some pretty fun dance moves. The show followed high schooler Will Smith as he was sent to live with the Banks, made up of his posh Aunt Vivian, Uncle Philip, and their kids, to keep out of trouble.
Karyn grabbed the role of Hilary, the oldest daughter of the Banks crew, and Will’s cousin with a sister-like relationship. Hilary was spoiled, materialistic, and vain, but after a life-changing incident in season four, she started to become more mature.
For 146 episodes across the six-season run of the show, Karyn gave depth to an otherwise shallow character. Karyn embodied the valley girl attitude (and voice) and let us see her character’s growth from princess to person.
Like all great and successful shows like to do, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had characters cross over onto other 90s hits. Hilary popped up in an episode of Blossom and Out All Night.
What did Karyn do after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?
A few of Karyn’s most notable movie roles were while she was on The Fresh Prince. She was Ellen in the 1992 comedy Class Act and starred opposite Damon Wayans in the 1995 comedy Major Payne. Both movies have horrible Rotten Tomato scores, but deserve a watch. Major Payne more so, though. It’s pretty funny.
Once The Fresh Prince wrapped, Karyn had roles on television here and there throughout the rest of the 90s and early 2000s. She was on shows like Gulliver’s Travels, Melrose Place, and The Job.
Parsons appeared in a few more feature films after her time as Hilary. She played Nia in the 1998 dramedy Mixing Nia, as Julie in the 2000 SNL character spin-off movie The Ladies Man with Tim Meadows, and in the 2002 dramedy 13 Moons as Lily, which also starred Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals, and Peter Dinklage.
What is Karyn up to these days?
Karyn was in the short film On Monday of Last Week as Tracy in 2019, but her last movie was extra special. In 2020, she played the role of Eve in the drama Sweet Thing.
The film starred her two children and was written and directed by her husband. The movie went on to win the Berlin Film Festival’s Crystal Bear Award in 2019. That’s cute that they’ll always have that as a family memento.
But Karyn does more than act. She founded Sweet Blackberry Foundations, a company that brings awareness to Black heroes that aren’t as well-known. The foundation focuses on books, animated movies, school visits, and other activities. We love everything about that.
Parsons is also an accomplished author, having published three children’s books, released in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
Karyn married actor Frederick Randolph Brooks (Reservoir Dogs, various soap operas) in 1987, but they had divorced by 1990.
It was a little while before Parsons found love again, but she married screenwriter, director, producer, and professor Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup, 13 Moons, Little Feet) in 2003, whom she met in 1999. Alexandre is known for his poetic indie films and has given greats like Peter Dinklage, Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, and Sam Rockwell (no relation) boosters early on in their careers.
The pair have two children, daughter Lana, born in 2003, and son Nico, born in 2007. In addition to the whole family working on Sweet Thing, Alexandre wrote and directed the film Little Feet which starred their children.
With a talented family like that, there’s no telling what kinds of projects they’ll put out in the future. We’ll have to wait to see what’s to come for Karyn and her beautiful brood, but we’ll always revisit her time on The Fresh Prince to make sure we never forget how to do the Carlton or miss a single word of that theme song.