Entertainment, Film and Music
11 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air’
You know the story: Young kid from West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where he spent most of his days. Chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and, of course, shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school. But the rough and tumble streets of his hometown were unforgiving, and after getting into some trouble, our hero was shipped off to a strange and exotic land to live with his auntie and uncle in a town called … Bel-Air.
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” defined a generation, started plenty of bad fashion trends and had arguably the greatest opening theme song of all time. The series may have ended in the ’90s, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t miss the Banks family and all of their upper-class shenanigans.
You probably remember the multi-colored vests, can perfectly imitate Carlton’s signature dance move, and you might have considered hiring your own sassy English butler back in the day, but we bet you didn’t know these 11 facts about “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
1. The cast used to keep a diary on set.
In an interview with ABC News, Karyn Parsons, who played spoiled and air-headed Hilary Banks on the show, let slip that she and her cast-mates had a secret journal they hid on set. “In the kitchen, there was a drawer in the island that had a little diary,” Parsons said. “Every now and then a camera person or the actors, somebody would just write silly poetry or ‘James is getting on my nerves.’ We would make little notes.” Parsons was able to snag the notebook before she left and uses it to remember her on-screen dad, James Avery, who died earlier this year.
2. You can thank Courteney Cox and Eddie Murphy for the Carlton Dance.
Alfonso Ribeiro, the guy who rocked blazers and jammed out to Tom Jones, admitted the “Friends” star and famous comedian inspired his signature move. “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,” Ribeiro told Buzzfeed. The actor also credited Eddie Murphy’s “white man dance” from his “Delirious” comedy video as a model for his popular jig.
3. Will Smith used to memorize his cast-mates lines so he wouldn’t forget his own.
Smith was a relative newcomer to the acting world when he landed the “Fresh Prince” gig, and the rapper felt uncomfortable acting opposite his more-seasoned co-stars. “I was trying so hard,” Smith said of his early days on TV. “I would memorize the entire script, then I’d be lipping everybody’s lines while they were talking. When I watch those episodes, it’s disgusting. My performances were horrible.” If you go back to the first season of the show and look closely, you’ll see what he’s talking about.
4. Warning: You better not get fresh with the Fresh Prince.
You don’t just switch out the matriarch of the Banks family and hope we don’t notice, but NBC certainly tried to. In 1993, actress Janet Hubert left the sitcom and was replaced by Daphne Reid who filled in for Aunt Vivian for the remainder of the show. There’s been plenty of speculation as to why Hubert left. Some say it was because she violated a clause in her contract and became pregnant while filming, but the bigger story was of her strained relationship with co-star Will Smith, who Hubert claims was the real reason she was fired. Apparently the two didn’t get along while filming, so Hubert was given the boot. Smith for his part says he had nothing to do with Hubert’s dismissal from the show, but the actress proved she can hold a pretty long grudge when TMZ caught up with her to talk about reunion plans. “There will never be a reunion,” Hubert told the news outlet. “I will never do anything with an asshole like Will Smith. He is still an egomaniac and has not grown up.” Yikes!
5. Boyz II Men had a connection to the youngest Banks family member.
Baby Banks was born in Season 3 of the show and while fans and his family members gave him the nickname “Little Nicky” early on, his full name was a play on one of the hottest R&B groups of the decade. Boyz II Men gave us songs to help us get through breakups and makeups — really anything where an emotional ballad might come in handy — during the ’90s but they also gave us something else: Nicholas Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanya Banks. The little guy’s last four middle names were taken from the group’s members after they performed at his Christening ceremony on the show.
6. NBC tried to give the “Fresh Prince” the boot after its fourth season.
At the end of Season 4, Will and the family visits his hometown and he decides to stay behind with his mom in Philly. That ending was originally slated to be the wrap-up for the entire show, not just Season 4. NBC was looking to end the “Fresh Prince’s” run early, but after canceling the sitcom, fans were outraged. Thanks to what we can assume were thousands of angry letters sent to both Smith and the producers of the show, NBC renewed the series and the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” continued on for two more seasons.
7. Jazz and Will were best buds in real life, too!
Oh, Jazz. The guy could never catch a break on the show. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, had an unrequited love for Hilary Banks, and spent most of his time getting thrown out (literally) of the Banks’ mansion. But he was Will’s best friend and watching the two get into all kinds of trouble in the upper-class neighborhood made for some good TV. The duo made plenty of waves off-screen, too. Before the show, Will Smith and his partner in crime, Jeffrey A. Townes a.k.a. DJ Jazzy Jeff, formed the rap duo that gave us classics like “Summertime” and “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” The two worked together for years, earning the Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1989, and they remain friends to this day.
8. The sitcom played matchmaker for Will and Jada-Pinkett Smith.
We can thank the show for one of the hottest power couples to ever rule Hollywood. Before she was Jada Pinkett-Smith, she was just Jada Koren Pinkett, a young, up-and-coming actress looking to make it big in L.A. Pinkett thought she had struck gold after landing an audition for the role of Smith’s onscreen girlfriend, Lisa, but was told she was too short to play the part. We have a feeling Pinkett’s not too torn up about it, though. She got the guy in real life after the two became friends during the auditioning process and eventually fell in love.
9. The most emotional scene of the show wasn’t scripted.
In the episode “Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse,” Will’s father Lou, who abandoned the family when Will was just 4 years old, comes back into his son’s life claiming to try to get to know him better and make up for past mistakes. The fictional story doesn’t have a happy ending, but the story of what was going on behind the camera definitely does. The scene between James Avery and Will Smith at the end of the episode was ad libbed by the younger actor. Avery was so moved by Smith’s speech that he immediately hugged him before the scene ended, which wasn’t in the script either.
10. You can thank the IRS for giving us the show.
Before he was a TV star, Will Smith was a pretty successful rapper. Unfortunately for Smith, he forgot to pay the IRS and the agency soon came after the performer, demanding $2.8 million in back taxes. In order to pay the sum, Smith’s financial advisors urged him to take the show NBC had offered, though Smith had no prior acting experience. “For the first three years of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ the IRS was taking 70 percent of every check and after the third year I got back to zero,” Smith told “60 Minutes.” “It’s terrible to have that kind of success and have to quietly be broke.”
11. Will Smith is actually a genius.
Remember that episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” when Will interviews for a spot at Princeton? The whole thing isn’t going too well until Will solves the dean’s Rubik’s Cube. Apparently, that little trick is actually a hobby of the actor’s. He would do it again in his film “The Pursuit of Happyness” and he also showed off his skills on a foreign talk show. Read more