‘Bel-Air’ Showrunner Breaks Down Season 2’s Emotional Ending: ‘That Was Carlton’s Breaking Point’

·13-min read

Note: The following includes spoilers from the “Bel-Air” Season 2 finale.

“I’m a drug addict. A really f—g good one, too. I’m high on coke most days. In fact, I’m high right now.”

The words echoed loudly as Carlton (Olly Sholotan) spoke them while accepting the Founders Award during the Season 2 finale of “Bel-Air,” as the other members of the Banks family watched in disbelief.

It’s a demon Carlton has been dealing with since Season 1, as he battles with his anxiety. No one knew about his drug problem but Will (Jabari Banks,) who vowed to stay quiet and in return asked his cousin to stop and lean on him instead. Aunt Viv (Cassandra Freeman) and Uncle Phil (Adrian Holmes) were none the wiser but knew something was bothering their son.

Carlton suffered internally as he tried to be two people at once: A distinguished student and a person who abuses drugs to escape the realities of his life. The public display of his struggles in Thursday’s new episode now sets him on a new path toward recovery.

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“Olly is just a dynamic actor, so we knew he was going to kill that moment,” “Bel-Air” co-executive producer and showrunner Carla Banks-Waddles told TheWrap of the finale’s bombshell announcement. “I was excited just to be on set that day and watch it, and there wasn’t a dry eye after his first take.”

There were other jaw-dropping moments in the finale. Fans thought they would see Jazz (Jordan L. Jones) and Hillary (Coco Jones) reconnect, but instead, Hillary appears to be heading out to Paris with her ex and current business partner LaMarcus (Justin Cornwell.)

Uncle Phil receives a text message from Erika (Diandra Lyle) who says she wants to keep things professional, but she has her eye on Vivian’s husband. She texts him to join her for a late dinner. He hesitates at first, but then accepts the invitation.

Adrian Holmes as Philip and Cassandra Freeman as Vivian in “Bel-Air.”
Adrian Holmes as Philip and Cassandra Freeman as Vivian in “Bel-Air.”

Geoffrey (Jimmy Akingbola) received anonymous calls from East London and got a picture in an envelope someone took of him and his son, Frederick (Joivan Wade.) Now, we’re all wondering who’s after Uncle Phil’s right-hand man.

Lastly, Will seems to have his life together and is drawing closer to Lisa (Simone Joy Jones.) He practically mended fences with everyone except Jackie (Jazlyn Martin,) but fans wonder, is she out of the picture? That remains to be seen.

Banks-Waddles spoke with TheWrap about Carlton’s big moment, discussed the other twists from the finale and what to expect from Season 3.

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TheWrap: Would you consider this the breaking point for Carlton?

Banks-Waddles: Yes, he was feeling like a fraud. He was getting this award and people were seeing him a certain way. But in his heart-of-hearts, he knew that he was not that person. So I think that is [Carlton’s] breaking point. He doesn’t want to be [the person] that does one thing and another in private.

Albeit it was the whole season really building up to that point for him, again, being his lowest point, the breaking point. But honestly, [it’s] also a high point to step into that and know there’s no turning back, and that you want true healing. The only way to have that is to hit rock bottom and just put it all out there. It doesn’t matter how you say it or who sees it. So, it’s sort of a breaking point but also a high point for him.

Carlton and Will seem to be going on opposite journeys, as Will grows from his earlier mistakes with Doc and his team, and Carlton spirals further and further. What were you hoping to explore with both characters this season?

“You know, [Will] hit rock bottom in Episode 9. And so we really wanted the 10th episode for him to sort of pull himself out of that, while Carlton was sort of going in an opposite way. And Season 1 ended at a very low point for Will with his dad. And we knew Season 2, that we really wanted to end him on a high point, like really taking charge in his life and saying “I’m here.”

And I think for Carlton for the shoe to be on the other foot, where he ends at a very low point in the season. Sort of having hit his rock bottom, knowing that there’s only one way to go from here, and in a weird place. They’re both at that place where they’re ready to start the journey, like Will is now firmly placed in Bel-Air like “I’m here, I’m not angry, I’m not yelling at anybody. I’m not frustrated. Like I’m here and I’m ready to take it on.”

And I think for Carlton, he’s at the place like “I’ve admitted everything. I’ve left it all out on the table. I’ve been honest, I put my heart out there. Everybody knows I’m ready to now take on that life and see what I can be now.”

Adrian Holmes as Philip, Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey and Diandra Lyle as Erika in the Season 2 finale of “Bel-Air.”
Adrian Holmes as Philip, Jimmy Akingbola as Geoffrey and Diandra Lyle as Erika in the Season 2 finale of “Bel-Air.”

Uncle Phil had a big moment himself, edging closer to being unfaithful with Erika in the finale. Why does Phil make the choice to go see her in the end, and where do see his decision taking him in Season 3?

We never want to think that Uncle Phil is going to cheat on Aunt Viv. But I do think that decision can be read both ways. You know, that he’s going through a lot of stress in his life. Is he gonna lean on this moment emotionally? Is she an escape?

But I think ultimately what we really wanted to say in that moment is that he really feels like the man who can juggle it all. In many ways. They’re both parents juggling it all. Viv is going to try to juggle her responsibilities with this new fellowship while also looking for rehab for her son. Phil is starting a new firm. He needs this business from this woman, Erika, it’s a little complicated. But as he told Geoffrey, and I think he believes it, he’s going to do it; all he knows how to handle Erika. And part of that is a little give and take, a little of saying yes to the work dinners to sort of get what he needs. But you know, is he playing with fire?

Cassandra Freeman as Vivian and Daphne Maxwell Reid as Helen in the Season 2 finale of “Bel-Air.”
Cassandra Freeman as Vivian and Daphne Maxwell Reid as Helen in the Season 2 finale of “Bel-Air.”

Vivian and Helen (Daphne Maxwell Reid) got to have a powerful moment together, as Helen passed the torch to Vivian. What does it mean to you to have these two formidable Black women share this moment of support for each other?

When we were talking about Viv’s story we had a lot of debate in the writers’ room, because half of us, you know, we’re like, “well, she can’t take it like that.” What’s she gonna do, like, push this poor Black woman over a cliff and just be vicious? And even though Erika was sort of saying, “Hey, I don’t know your full story. But why are you giving so much respect to people who have not given it to you,” which has totally been the story.

And she would totally be well within her right to take that job. But we wanted her to take the job and take it in a big way. So knowing that she was sort of wrestling with “am I going to do this to another Black woman, even though I can and I should probably should, that I don’t want to I don’t want to be that person.”

And so we felt like her saying, “Oh, I’m taking the job. I’m not backing down from that. But that it’s a good thing, like it’s safe in my hands. And if it’s not going to be you, if it’s not going to be me, it’s just going to be someone else.” So there was something poetic about our new Aunt Viv, and our old Aunt Viv sitting together in that moment and her saying “you got to pass the torch to me,” there was something poetic about that moment.

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We see as Geoffrey gets calls from East London and appears to be getting threatened by a mysterious figure. What can you tease about this storyline moving forward?

Yes, everybody loves Geoffrey. First of all, he’s a man of mystery. And Season 1, everyone was like, “Oh my God, this new Geoffrey, we’re intrigued. We want to know more.” And so Season 2, we gave a little more, you know, and reasons as to why he did some of the things he did and the betrayed Uncle Phil last season all sort of connected to the son in his life.

He had a soft spot for fathers and sons. And so we learned in Season 2 a little bit more about that son, Frederick, but also heard early in the season, that there was some risks involved with reaching out to the to the son. But ultimately, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv said “we want to help you, we don’t want to get in the way if this is what you want.”

So it sort of seemed like the son came and went without any fanfare. But of course, we find out in the season finale, not true, there was some consequences to him doing that. And so in Season 3, I think we really again, in hopes to fulfill the wishes of learning a little bit more about Geoffrey by giving the fans a little more information about his East London life and what that life was like before he came to Bel-Air, and probably seeing a little bit of that East London life come to Bel-Air a little bit and just see how he’s going to deal with it. And how the family is gonna support him.

But also give us a little more of a peek behind the curtain of Geoffrey because everybody is really intrigued by that character.

Simone Joy Jones as Lisa and Jabari Banks as Will in “Bel-Air.”
Simone Joy Jones as Lisa and Jabari Banks as Will in “Bel-Air.”

Will seems to make things right with pretty much everyone by the finale, except for Jackie. Where does their story go from here?

I think she did extend the olive branch, and I think he’s sort of like “if things were different who knows what we could have been?” But I do think you know he’s a teenage boy. And he hasn’t fully committed to his decisions for the future. He’s, I think, dabbling a little bit on all the relationships and seeing where they could go; so even though it seems, with Lisa, that they’re making some progress to getting back together, I think Jackie’s probably still gonna be in the picture. Not fully broomed away emotionally from him just yet, because there was a connection there that he can’t deny.

Cassandra Freeman as Vivian and Olly Sholotan as Carlton in “Bel-Air.”
Cassandra Freeman as Vivian and Olly Sholotan as Carlton in “Bel-Air.”

By the end of the season, everything is changing. Vivian has a new job, Phil is starting a new career, and the family has to come together to help Carlton through his addiction. How do you think the family will handle all this change?

Obviously, Will was the focus when he came in and they all rallied around him. He’s here. He’s the fish out of water. He’s not used to Bel-Air. We have to help, we have to support. So I think pivoting or including Carlton and realizing how they may have taken their eye off the ball in Carlton [will be a big story moving forward].

But it’s my hope in Season 3 that Carlton will sort of be a mirror to all of them, and that they all realize that he’s not the only character that has healing to do. There’s a restoration that needs to happen within the whole family, really. And it’s an opportunity for all of them to hold the mirror up to themselves and say, “have are our relationships fractured? How can we be better?”

And I think we’ll see that in Aunt Viv and Phil’s marriage, and just in other relationships in the household a bit, Carlton will sort of be the tipping point where they can sort of all go, “oh, maybe we all have some introspection [to do].”

Coco Jones as Hilary and Jordan L. Jones as Jazz in “Bel-Air.”
Coco Jones as Hilary and Jordan L. Jones as Jazz in “Bel-Air.”

Speaking of relationships, we all thought it would be Hillary at the door when Jazz opened it but instead it was a delivery. She was actually at the door with LaMarcus telling him she’s ready to go – what do you see happening with these characters moving forward?

Yes, that relationship has been the most tweeted about storyline. And in the show, people want to know, what is Hillary doing? And are you Team LaMarcus or Are you Team Jazz?

And I think wanting to see Hillary, just like Carlton’s journey is not a straight line — it’s two steps forward, three steps back. And I think that journey with Jazz, even though she wanted to make it work, and they were determined that their differences were’t going to get in between them, that there was too much.

It was just too complicated, too hard. And there was an ease with LaMarcus. But I do think there’s something that Hillary will also realize in herself, you know, maybe it was not the right decision to get on that plane. But there’s a part of her that bails before she fails. And she’s quit college. She pivots when things get too hard, she changes up, she quits.

And I think Jazz getting too close and really getting her heart hurt, that she may not be willing to do that. She chose the easy way, which is a safer way with LaMarcus.

Lastly, what do you want fans to take away from the show these last two seasons?

I hope that it was an enjoyable ride all season. And then they can just look back over the stories and talk about them and how they unfolded. I just want them to feel satisfied at the end like “wow, they like gave us everything. They put it all out on the table. They held nothing back.”

All the emotions were felt. I just hope that it was a satisfying ride for them.

All episodes of “Bel-Air” are now streaming on Peacock.

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