Consider him the “Fresh Prince” of Kansas City. Morgan Cooper is a KC native and the creator of the show “Bel-Air.” This dramatic reinterpretation of the hit show starring Will Smith is currently releasing season two episodes on Peacock.
Morgan came back to KC recently to speak at the KC Chamber Annual Dinner. Here’s what he said about his beginnings as a filmmaker, his big break, and how Kansas City shows up in the show.
The 30-year-old success story began his story as a 19-year-old with a camera and a dream. He wanted to make a living behind the lens, so that’s what he set out to do — with no plan B.
Morgan described many years as “failing forward,” making lots of mistakes and spending lots of hours learning.
“It’s like Travis Kelce — yards after contact,” Morgan said. "[My mother] said imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.”
He said his inspiration for “Bel-Air” came to him while driving on 71 Highway. He quickly sketched down his idea at a local coffee shop. Then, he spent $25,000 of his own money to make the video short.
It went so viral, it caught Will Smith’s attention.
“Without Kansas City, there is no ‘Bel-Air’”
That’s what Morgan said at the Chamber dinner, saying he purposefully infused the show with KC.
“I love my city [...] I rep it so hard because we have some of the most innovative, creative people come from this city,” Morgan said. “Who would I be to not get my city involved?”
That means works + designs from local artists Jason Wilcox, Whitney Manney, and Herald Smith can all be seen on scene. Morgan’s goal was to use the show as a platform for KC.
“‘Bel-Air’ is just the beginning of a much bigger vision.”
He said his next project — a TV show called “Black Coffee” — will feature Kansas City’s East Side.