Entertainment

Canadian actor Adrian Holmes on the Toronto Black Film Festival and his new series ‘Bel-Air’

The Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) has been growing exponentially, and this year it is celebrating its 10th anniversary with bigger and stronger online programming. Created by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, TBFF commemorates this milestone with a record number of 200 films from 30 countries hosted online between Feb. 16 and 21.

On Friday, TBFF will host an in-conversation with Welsh-Canadian actor Adrian Holmes, who has been a big supporter of TBFF, and has been involved in the festival since its inception.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the event Holmes stressed the importance of this platform. “It’s so important that we have festivals so that we can showcase our art and our stories. It’s important that we tell positive Black stories, authentic, truthful and honest Black stories, and the only way to do that is to do it ourselves. It has to be by us, for us in that way it’s grounded, it’s real. I’m just a huge supporter of the festival. Shout out to Fabienne Colas for putting it together in both in Montreal and the Toronto Black Film Festival.”

While the festival has been growing over the years, the Vancouver-raised actor hopes for expansion and growth of the film festival across Canada. “We’re in Vancouver now, we have a Black Film festival that just started this year which is a beautiful expansion and so I just hope that we can get into more cities.”

The 47-year-old actor continued, “There are so many talented producers, directors and actors in Toronto and in Canada who are just not getting exposure. People don’t really know they exist and I just hope that they get a platform to really shine and showcase who they are and what they have to offer because there’s so much talent, but not everybody gets an opportunity to be seen.”

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The festival will also pay tribute to the late Sidney Poitier by highlighting his contributions to the industry through a video compilation. Holmes was one of the many people Poitier inspired. “He is the one that made it all possible. He was the first African-American to win an Oscar and at that time; it was unheard of. He fought so much adversity to achieve success. He represents strength and dedication, and he did everything with so much integrity, class and dignity. That’s what I admire about Sidney Poitier. The way he makes me feel, and every other African-American, Canadian boy and girl feel, I would love to have a fraction of that just to be able to have a piece of what he had and to give back and to inspire others.”

The festival also coincides with the launch of Holmes’ new series, “Bel-Air,” a re-imagination of the iconic Will Smith ‘90s sitcom “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” in which he plays Uncle Phil. “This is a dream come true for me because this is all I’ve ever wanted which was to be able to be on a stage that was big enough to really showcase what I have and really distil what I’ve got to the masses. Not everybody gets that opportunity, and I hope, by God’s grace, that that will be available for most of us.”

The character of Uncle Phil was originated by the late actor James Avery. “He left such a blueprint for me that I was able to just tap into, and just find my identity. I wasn’t trying to recreate what he did in any way. I have stepped into his shoes, but filling his shoes is impossible because he was authentic to him.”

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“Bel-Air,” which premieres on Showcase, also has Smith’s stamp of approval. Smith signed a book for Holmes and wrote “To Adrian, I love how you’re filling those shoes.” That gave Holmes the confidence to trust he was doing the right thing. “When I met him yeah, he said ‘you’re killing it man’ and to look into Will’s eyes and to have him say that, it’s just so incredible. It’s an out of body experience when you’re being admired by one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. It’s pretty cool. It’s just pretty damn awesome.”

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