Easily one of the most the recognizable shows of the 90’s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ignited the acting career of one the most recognizable actors of this century. It also gave us possibly one of the greatest theme songs EVER. While the show enjoyed a life in the limelight, it definitely has it’s share of secrets. From financial troubles to secret diaries, lets take a look!
Will Smith only agreed to star in the show because of his debt to the IRS.
Starting as the world renown rapper “The Fresh Prince”, Will Smith found widespread success in the late 80s and early 90s. But with that success came a larger financiall responsibility, and due to severe overspending and poor financial management, Will Smith owed the IRS 2.8 million dollars. Fortunately for him though, at the height of his money troubles, Will Smith was cast by Quincy Jones for his new sit-com “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
The IRS garnished 70% of his wages for 3 years.
Due to his previous money troubles, Will Smith had his property seized and his income severely garnished. This continued for 3 years until the 2.8 million was paid off.
The Fresh Prince was his first acting role.
Will Smith, looking back, said he is totally embarrassed of his first few episodes of the show. “I was trying so hard,” he said. “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.”
The actual house from the show isn’t in Bel-Air.
The houses used for exterior shots in the show is actually located in the neighboring area Brentwood. Since Bel-Air is a closed community, choosing a house in a more open location made shooting that much easier.
Unless you’re in the Netherlands, you can’t buy a physical copy of the soundtrack.
While the shows soundtrack is now available on streaming and digital services such as Spotify and iTunes, the only physical release was an extended mix of the shows theme song released in Holland in 1992.
The cast kept a secret diary in the set’s kitchen drawer.
Earlier this year, Hilary Banks actress Karyn Parsons revealed that the cast kept a secret diary in the set kitchen’s island.”Every now and then a camera person or the actors, somebody would just write silly poetry or ‘James is getting on my nerves,'” she said. “We would make little notes, so I took that. I need to pull that out, especially now that James has passed, because I know he’s written in there. I know he was written about.” Karyn took the diary with her when she left the show.
Geoffrey the Butler had a first and last name.
Geoffrey’s full name was Geoffrey Barbara Butler.
Contrary to popular belief, Quincy Jones is not the cabbie in the shows intro.
Many sites (even IMDB) state the Quincy Jones is the driver of the fuzzy diced cab, but Rashida Jones and Jada Pinkett Smith both say that the driver is “absolutely not” Mr. Jones. Their statements coupled with the fact that Jones never learned to drive due to a car accident at age 14 that left him mentally scarred, it looks like this is a mystery that still needs to be solved.
Carlton’s Dance was inspired by Eddie Murphy and Courtney Cox.
“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,” said Carlton actor Alfonso Ribeiro, “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 and made it my own, and made it my character’s.”
Tyra Banks first acting role was on show.
Tyra Banks played Will Smith’s on-screen girlfriend, Jackie, in a season 4 episode.
Nicky’s middle names were inspired by Boyz II Men.
Nicky, the son of Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv born in season 3, has a full name of Nicholas Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanya Banks. The members of Boyz II Men (Michael, Shawn, Nathan, and Wanya, respectively) actually appeared in a season 4 episode for a performance at Nicky’s christening.
Will Smith and now wife Jada Pinkett Smith met during auditions for the show
Originally auditioning for Will’s on-screen girlfriend, Jada didn’t get the part, but that didn’t stop the 2 from getting married in 1997. They’ve been together ever since.
Will Smith was the creator of multiple episodes.
The Fresh Prince not only made Will Smith a successful actor, it kick-started his work behind the camera as well. Will helped write multiple episodes during the shows run, one of the most notable being season 3 episode “Ain’t No Business Like Show Business.”
Aunt Vivian was played by 2 different actresses.
Janet Hubert played the character during the first 3 seasons and Daphne Maxwell played Aunt Vivian during the last 3 seasons. Hubert said that when the show’s producers offered her a 10 episode contract that would restrict her from working on any other project during the contract’s duration, she declined to sign. At this, the producers just simply recast the character.
The show had a lot of famous guest stars.
Queen Latifah, Hugh Hefner, Jay Leno, Boyz II Men, Bel Biv Devo, Don Cheadle, Donald Trump, and Oprah all made appearances.
The show was cancelled… then brought back.
NBC decided to cancel the show in it’s fourth season, with the Fresh Prince heading back to Philadelphia at the end of the season. Due to fan outcry however, NBC decided to bring the show back for another 2 seasons. Season 5 starts with an NBC executive pulling Smith into a van to drive him back to California, saying “It’s called the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia.”
The theme song incited a school lockdown.
In 2013, a receptionist from Ambridge Area High School in Pennsylvania called a student to remind him of an upcoming appointment. He didn’t answer, and the receptionist was directed to the student’s voicemail. In his answering message, the student imitated the show’s theme song, and the receptionist thought he said “shooting people outside of the school” instead of “shooting some b-ball outside of the school.” The local police brought the student into custody, although he was later released.
The show is the most watched entertainment program at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.