So back in 1989 NBC decided to give a hot young rapper named Will Smith his own television sitcom. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, probably one of your favorite 90s shows, was the delightful result, and though you might think you know all their is to know about the Banks family, there are plenty of fun facts you might not have known about the series! It’s time to get educated! Here are some facts from the hit NBC TV show that helped launch the acting career of Will Smith. So kick back, have Geoffrey bring you something to drink and dig into these fun Fresh Prince of Bel Air facts!
Quincy Jones Plays the Cab DriverThe cab driver in the opening credits is Quincy Jones, who served as the executive producer on the show. Can you imagine the scale of importance. I mean, the executive producer wanted to participate in the show.
Fans Helped Extend the Show by Two SeasonsThe show was originally canceled after the fourth season when Will moved back to Philadelphia. Letters from fans poured in to Will Smith and NBC persuading them to renew the show. The show ended up continuing for two more seasons.
The Carlton Dance Came from Eddie Murphy and Courteney CoxThe popular Carlton Dance was actually a parody of the dance Courteney Cox did in the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 hit “Dancing in the Dark.” Said Ribeiro, “It was also inspired by Eddie Murphy’s ‘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. But ultimately it’s ‘the white man dance.’”
Will Smith Agreed to Star Because of IRS TroublesAs he gained widespread fame as a rapper, Smith didn’t manage his money wisely or pay enough in income taxes. He owed $2.8 million to the IRS, which seized most of his belongings, including his income. Close to declaring bankruptcy, producer Quincy Jones offered Smith the chance to star in the series. The IRS forced Smith to pay them 70 percent of his salary during the first three seasons.
The Show Won 13 Awards and Received 23 NominationsThe nominations included two Golden Globe nods (one in 1993 and one in 1994) and an Emmy nomination in 1996. The show won the 1993 Image Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and a Spanish entertainment award in 1994 for Best Foreign Series.
NBC Execs Nearly Fired Will SmithDuring the early seasons of the show, Smith was constantly being ridiculed for his lack of acting skills. Executives at NBC noticed and nearly fired him, however the creators and producers of the show saw strong potential in Smith and successfully convinced NBC to keep him.
Sherman Hemsley Appeared on the Show TwiceHemsley appeared as two different characters throughout the show’s run, once as Judge Carl Robertson and later in a cameo playing George Jefferson.
Jazz Was Only Thrown Out of the House OnceBecause it required on-location filming (which can get expensive), only one shot of Jazz being thrown out of the house was ever filmed. To avoid continuity errors, Jazz is always wearing the same shirt in the episodes that include him being thrown out.
Only Four Actors Appeared in Every EpisodeWill Smith, Alfonso Ribiero, Karyn Parsons, and James Avery are the only cast members who appeared in every single episode of the show.
Prisoners Prefer Fresh Prince over Harry PotterIn August 2012, the Miami Herald reported that the show had leapfrogged the Harry Potter books as the entertainment of choice among prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Roseanne Was the Inspiration for More Serious EpisodesWill Smith has said that he encouraged the show’s writers to write more serious and dramatic episodes after being inspired by emotional moments on Roseanne.
The Name of Uncle Phil’s Law Firm Comes From a Music GroupUncle Phil’s law firm is called Firth, Wynn, and Meyer which is a play on the band name Earth, Wind & Fire. Executive producer Quincy Jones is a big fan of the group.
The House Seen in the Credits Isn’t in Bel-AirThe house that Smith pulls up to during the opening credits isn’t actually in Bel Air. The house is located in the nearby, affluent neighborhood of Brentwood on N. Bristol Ave.
Two Different Actresses Played Aunt VivianAunt Vivian Banks was portrayed by two different actresses during the series run. Janet Hubert-Whitten portrayed the original Vivian in the first three seasons, but problems between Will Smith, the producers, and Hubert-Whitten caused her to leave the show in 1994. Daphne Maxwell Reid replaced her in the role for the final three seasons.
Geoffrey Has a Middle and Last NameThe Banks family’s ever-snarky butler’s full name was Geoffrey Barbara Butler.
Two Actors Had Never Heard of Fresh Prince Before Joining the SeriesJanet Hubert and James Avery have said in interviews that they had never heard of Fresh Prince before they signed on for the series.
Will Isn’t Really Short For WilliamWell, on the show it was. But in real life, Will Smith’s full first name is Willard.
Three Cast Members Are of Trinidadian DescentAlfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, and Karyn Parsons are all of Trinidadian decent.
Nicky’s Middle Name Was Inspired by Boyz II MenNicky was first introduced in season three. His full name was Nicholas Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanya Banks after the four members in R&B group Boyz II Men. They performed at Nicky’s christening in a season four episode and their names were added to Nicky’s original name: Nicholas Andrew Banks.