Things You Might Not Know About ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’Published on April 5, 2017. Updated May 11, 2020
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of those iconic ’90s series that fans can’t get enough of. While the show originally ran for six seasons from September 1990 to May 1996, it has continued to be loved and even gains new fans thanks to Netflix and re-runs, and no matter how many times fans watch it, it is always funny. With more than 20 years since it has been on the air, the loss of some beloved cast members, and a rumored reboot in the works, take a look back at the beloved series with these 8 things you never knew about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
8. Being Will Smith
It seems odd that every other actor on the series would have a different name for their character except for Will Smith. As it turns out, Smith revealed that the reason his character is also called Will Smith is because when he and his co-star Alfonso Ribeiro were trying to come up with names, Ribeiro told Will he had to be careful because in public people would most likely refer to him as that character’s name. He then suggested that if it bothered Smith he could just stick with Will Smith and that is what he did! Interestingly enough, his real name and character name are different because his full character name is William Smith, but his full real name is Willard Smith. The difference is even referenced in an episode where one of his girlfriend’s fathers joking calls Will Smith “Willard.”
7. Will Smith Was Broke
Despite having no acting experience and focusing on his rapping career at the time, Will Smith really had no choice when NBC offered him his own series. According to reports, at the time Smith wasn’t very good with his money and owed the government around $2.8 million for not filing his taxes properly. The IRS had reportedly already seized most of his belongings so when the income from a series came along, Smith couldn’t pass it up. Due to the amount he still owed the government, the actor then had to pay the IRS 70 percent of his salary for the show’s first three seasons.
6. Alfonso Ribeiro Was Fired
While many had issues with Smith’s complete lack acting experience in the beginning of the series, it was actually Alfonso Ribeiro who was fired after the pilot episode aired. NBC executives reportedly didn’t think he was funny and were not impressed by his acting so they decided to ax him. When the rest of the cast and the crew heard the shocking news they immediately lobbied to keep him on because they all really liked him. Ribeiro has stated how grateful he is that everyone worked so hard to get him his job back and said the entire experience of being fired and then brought back was “traumatic.”
5. It Was Cancelled
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was actually lucky it made it to six seasons because NBC actually canceled the series after the fourth season. They wrapped it up by sending Smith’s character back to Philadelphia, and the network believed that it made more sense to keep making money off of re-runs rather than spend money on making new episodes. There was an immediate outcry from fans and from local NBC affiliate channels who had great faith in the show, so after an agreement was made, NBC agreed to bring the series back.
4. Debbie Allen
Back in the beginning of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a surprising star had a major influence on one of the characters. The character of Vivian Banks was originally named Wendy Banks, but when Debbie Allen was brought in to direct the first two episodes, she said the character reminded her of her own mother, Vivian, and had the name changed. While Debbie Allen was directing the pilot episode of the series in 1990, most fans will know her best as an iconic actress who starred in the ’80s hit series Fame, the ’90s series A Different World, and most recently stars as Dr. Catherine Avery on Grey’s Anatomy.
3. Tension On Set
By now, fans are well aware of the feuds that occurred on the set of the hit series, specifically between the original Vivian Banks actress Janet Hubert and star Will Smith. It turns out, there was some tension early on between Smith and one of his younger co-stars. With no acting experiencing, Will Smith has admitted how awful his early episodes were and he often messed up his lines. While many of his co-stars doubted his abilities, it was apparently Tatyana Ali who was only 10 years old at the time who was the most vocal about it. Because of her doubts in the lead character, there was reportedly tension between the pair while on set during the early years of Fresh Prince.
2. The Carlton Dance
The “Carlton Dance” has become one of the most iconic pop culture references to carry on after the show, and years later Alfonso Ribeiro opened up about where he came up with the dance. “There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox called ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance. And it was also from Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” comedy video where he does ‘the white man dance.’ And what I did was ultimately take those two dances and combined them to make it my own, and made it my character’s. But ultimately it’s ‘the white man dance.’ So that’s where the dance kind of came from,” the actor told Buzzfeed.
1. Real Emotions
The season four episode “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” is widely regarded as one of the most serious and emotional episodes of the usually lighthearted series, and it is also the highest rated of the entire series. In the episode, Will Smith’s character talks about his father not wanting him to his on-screen Uncle portrayed by James Avery, and his speech hit close to home for the actor for all his friends who never knew their fathers. The hug James Avery gives him at the end is widely regarded to not be acting, but a moment between the two stars, and when the camera cuts Karyn Parsons, who plays Hilary Banks, can be heard crying backstage.