Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a beloved hit sitcom that ran from 1990 to 1996, and helped launch the career of its titular character, Will Smith. Just the simple words "In West Philadelphia, born and raised" inspires fans everywhere to break out in song and recite the words. Let's take a look at 24 funky facts about the hit television show.
1. During the first few episodes, Will Smith's acting skills were constantly ridiculed and dismissed by NBC executives. They almost nearly fired him, but the show's creators and producers saw strong potential in Smith and convinced NBC to keep him on the show.
2. Alfonso Ribeiro invented the Carlton dance. When he first read the script, it simply said "Carlton Dances." The actor later said in interviews that the dance was inspired by Eddie Murphy's white boy dance and Courteney Cox dancing in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."
3. There was tension on set initially between Tatyana Ali (Ashley) and Will Smith because he constantly kept messing up his lines.
4. Quincy Jones approached Will Smith about the show's script, but Smith was initially reluctant to do television. He had a successful rap career that made him a lot of money, but also put him in debt with the IRS for nearly $3 million. He ultimately agreed to do the show partly to pay back what he owed.
5. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Smith revealed the IRS took 70 percent of his checks during the first 3 seasons until he repaid his debt. He had said, "It's terrible to have that kind of success and have to quietly be broke."
6. Jazz got thrown out 16 times during the course of the show; however, they only did one shot of him being thrown out and they simply reused it when needed in order to save money.
7. The iconic Banks' mansion is not actually in Bel-Air; the address 805 St. Cloud Road is actually located on N. Bristol Avenue in Brentwood.
8. The sassy and wise-cracking Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell) is only referenced by first name, but he does have a last name: Butler. Ironic yet fitting.
9. Jada Pinkett-Smith auditioned for the role of Lisa, but was rejected due to a lack of chemistry with Smith as well as their height difference. Interestingly, the pair would get married three years later.
10. Tyra Banks made her acting debut as Smith's on-screen girlfriend Jackie in Season Four.
11. Will Smith used to mouth other actors' lines during filming, in order to help him remember his own. This was even caught on film.
12. Many famous faces appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, most notably Oprah, Queen Latifah, Tyra Banks, Don Cheadle, Jay Leno and Hugh Hefner.
13. NBC cancelled the show after the fourth season, but was forced to reinstate it after fans complained.
14. The iconic scene at the end of the episode "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse" dealt with Will's on-screen biological father coming back into his life, only to quickly abandon him again. Smith actually went off-script and tapped into his own similar real-life experiences to deliver the emotional and heart-wrenching scene. Audience members could be heard crying off camera.
15. In August 2012, the sitcom overtook the Harry Potter series as the entertainment of choice at Guantanamo Bay.
16. For the first three seasons, Aunt Viv was played by Janet Hubert but for the rest of the series she was played by Daphne Maxwell Reid. Many reasons are speculated for this, including Hubert being unhappy with the non-competition clause (she was unable to take other roles while on the show). There is also a rumor Will Smith and Hubert didn't get along, so he requested she be fired.
17. The cast and crew kept an on-set diary that they would all write in with random notes, doodles and thoughts, according to Karyn Parsons (Hilary). She took the notebook once the show ended.
18. Will Smith encouraged the writers and producers to write more serious episodes and story lines after being inspired by emotional scenes in Roseanne.
19. The late James Avery (Uncle Phil) voiced Shredder in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV shows.
20. Daphne Maxwell Reid (the second Aunt Viv) was a successful model before she began her acting career, and was the first African American woman to be on the cover of Glamour magazine.
21. Geoffrey was also a butler for Led Zeppelin and Chuck Norris before working for the Banks' family.
22. There is an episode in which Will interviews at Princeton University and impresses the dean by solving a Rubik's Cube. This is a real-life talent of Will Smith; he is able to solve one in under one minute and has done so on live television.
23. James Avery, Will Smith and Karyn Parsons were the only cast members to appear in every episode of the show.
24. The third, fourth and fifth season finales were written to be a respectable farewell in case the show wasn't renewed. The sixth season finale was written with the full knowledge and intent that the show would not continue.
© 2019 Rachel M Johnson