Pop Culture | 90s

7 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of the most-loved sitcoms of the 90s. Between Will Smith's impeccable comedic timing, Alfonso Ribeiro's hilarious dance moves and James Avery's always perfect Uncle Phil, the show was nothing short of amazing.


The show ran for six seasons, ending in an incredibly emotional finale. Watching the show was always the highlight of our weeks when we were young, but it turns out we missed a lot of interesting trivia.  So I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, and we'll share 7 awesome facts about The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.

Will Smith was about to file for bankruptcy before he got chosen to play the part


Producer Quincy Jones picked Smith to play the lead in the new show, even though he had no acting experience. Smith was recently gaining some fame as a rapper but had been having some financial issues. He hadn't filed income taxes properly and was over $2 million in debt to the IRS. If he hadn't had gotten the part he would have filed for bankruptcy.

70% of Smith's salary went to the IRS


In order to pay back the money he owed, he was forced to have 70% of his pay check deducted and given directly to the IRS for the first three seasons of the show.

Carlton's iconic dance is inspired by Courtney Cox and Eddie Murphy


Alfonso Ribeiro said that his dance was based on "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 and made it my own, and made it my character’s."

There is so much left to learn about the show, including which of the most memorable scenes was improvised...

Karyn Parsons kept a notebook on set for the cast and crew to write in


Apparently it was filled with notes, poetry, scribbles and sometimes even gossip about other actors. Parsons kept the notebook and still has it. "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."

Both Smith and Ribeiro got to pick their own character names


Ribeiro warned Smith that he should be careful when picking a name because if it was popular that's how he would be remembered. Smith took that advice and had the clever idea to name his character Will Smith.  

The heartbreaking scene about Will's dad wasn't supposed to happen


Everyone who has watched the show remembers that moment when Smith completely breaks down after his father leaves him. Turns out that wasn't how the script went.

The original plan was for Smith to just brush off the fact that his dad left him, but because the actor's real father walked out on him when he was young, he became super emotional. The words he said were his own, and James Avery's big hug was unscripted as well. They only shot that scene once because they knew they wouldn't ever get that same level of emotion.

The show was actually canceled after the fourth season


The show originally was cancelled by NBC after season four with Smith heading back to Philadelphia. Fans were completely outraged and eventually NBC changed its mind and brought it back. The opening of season five started with Smith getting out of an NBC van and saying, "It's called the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia."

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