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Geoffrey, the Fresh Prince's butler - an unsung hero of a 90s classic

Geoffrey, the Fresh Prince's butler - an unsung hero of a 90s classic

Geoffrey, the Fresh Prince's butler - an unsung hero of a 90s classic

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a small US sitcom that became a huge success, kick-starting the career of an actor who would go on to be one of Hollywood's biggest stars: one Will Smith.

While Smith's charisma was undeniably the driving force behind the show, he was supported by a cast of memorable characters who were instrumental in its success. One particular character who made an impact with his sarcastic sense of humour and cynical take on things was Geoffrey, the butler of the Banks household.

A comedy highlight
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air follows the character of Will Smith (with the actor playing a fictionalised version of himself) as he moves from the tough streets of West Philadelphia to live with his aunt and uncle in the wealthy Los Angeles neighbourhood of Bel-Air.

Will's various experiences and adventures serve as the focus of most of the series' 148 episodes, but many of its funniest moments come courtesy of Geoffrey, who was played by English actor Joseph Marcell.

Geoffrey has a colourful backstory, having been an Olympic runner and worked for the band Led Zeppelin before coming to America to serve in the Banks household.

He delivers some of the show's funniest moments, regularly popping up with scathing one-liners and comebacks that often poke fun at the Banks family and their lifestyle.

The character also got to enjoy highlights including one episode where he goes on a blind date with a beautiful English woman played by Naomi Campbell.

While Geoffrey is often a purely comedic character, as the series progresses through its six seasons he becomes a more central figure. He is asked to be godfather to Philip and Vivian Banks' youngest son, Nicky, in the fourth season, and in the show's finale he returns to London to be with his son.

A cult favourite
The character of Geoffrey helped to make The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air a huge hit. It won fans all over the world, particularly in the UK, where many people of a certain age pride themselves on being able to recite all of the lyrics from the show's opening theme song.

At the height of its popularity in Britain, the series occupied the BBC 2 6:00pm slot that also hosted other much-loved American exports such as The Simpsons, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek and Quantum Leap.

Smith was catapulted to superstardom by The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, going on to take leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters such as Bad Boys, Independence Day, Men in Black and Enemy of the State.

But it was the various other actors and characters involved in the show who made it really special, by acting as foils to Will while enjoying countless hilarious moments and highlights of their own. This is particularly true of Geoffrey, the dutiful butler who did his job but had plenty of fun at the same time.

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