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The Untold Truth Of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

Now this is a story all about how Will Smith's life got flipped-turned upside down, and we'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, and find out about the sitcom called "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." When the NBC show debuted in September of 1990, no one could have expected it to carve out the lasting legacy it has to this day. Not only was it Smith's launching pad into superstardom, but it also provided some of the most iconic moments in sitcom history and eventually inspired the grittier reboot, "Bel-Air."

While "The Fresh Prince" was undoubtedly lightning in a bottle and a case of the right place and the right time for everyone involved, it wasn't all laughter and good times. Behind the scenes, there were conflicts and even instances of minor romantic turmoil between co-stars. On top of all that, Smith was on the rise as a big-time player in Hollywood and had to make a crucial decision on when to pull the plug on the show and pursue his other showbiz ambitions. So, let's take a moment to head on back in time and find out more about this essential '90s sitcom. Yo, holmes, to Bel-Air!

The unexpected origin of the Carlton Dance

Throughout its six seasons, there are many moments of side-splitting hilarity on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." However, there's one recurring gag that's always guaranteed to have the audience doubled over in stitches — the Carlton Dance. Watching Carlton click his fingers and let the rhythm take over his flailing limbs is worth its weight in gold every single time. But who conceptualized this memorable dance in the first place? That's the real question.

Speaking to Variety, Alfonso Ribeiro admitted he came up with the moves after some inspiration from the music world. "The Carlton Dance was created when it said in the script: 'Carlton dances,'" he said. "It was never even intended to be funny; it was just that he was dancing. The dance is ultimately Courteney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video 'Dancing in the Dark'; that's the basis. Or in Eddie Murphy's 'Delirious' video, 'The White Man Dance,' as he called it." Ribeiro revealed that he wanted the Carlton Dance to be ridiculous, so he simply thought of the most absurd dance moves he could imagine. Let's say he certainly succeeded here.

When Will Smith knew The Fresh Prince was done

Compared to other sitcoms, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" had a good run. Not many shows get to have 148 episodes (via IMDb), so the fact that this cast and crew were able to stick together for so long is a cause for celebration. However, Will Smith revealed the moment when he knew the show was reaching its end and a decision needed to be made on its future. In his memoir, "Will," (via Entertainment Weekly), Smith explained how he noticed the storylines were getting worse and he had a choice to make about his own career since the movie offers were starting to roll in.

"Anyone who has ever been on a sitcom can tell you the episode in which their show jumped the shark," Smith wrote. "Ours was Season 5, episode 15, 'Bullets Over Bel-Air,' the one in which I got shot and Carlton started carrying a gun." The actor explained how a heart-to-heart discussion with sitcom star John Amos made matters clearer. Smith wanted to end "The Fresh Prince" on a high note and not allow it to become a shadow of itself. So the actor called his cast to say they would be ending the show after the sixth season in order to make sure it went out on the best possible terms.

Will Smith took the role because of IRS trouble

Before Will Smith got into a little trouble and his mom got scared and he moved in with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air, the real Will Smith also found himself in a little pickle. Smith had tasted success as a musician alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff. A Grammy and fame followed, along with fast cars and faster times. Unfortunately, after their breakout album "He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper," the pair struggled to match the same level of success. As Smith revealed in his "Storytime" video series, he went broke, and the IRS came knocking for their pound of flesh.

As a result, his then-girlfriend encouraged him to go to "The Arsenio Hall Show" in an effort to network with others and see what opportunities were out there. At the show, Smith bumped into Benny Medina — the real-life inspiration for "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The two hit it off and Medina took Smith to a party at the home of the eventual executive producer of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," Quincy Jones. It was there that Smith performed a quickfire audition in front of Jones and everyone else. Reportedly, Jones was so impressed by what he saw that he got his lawyers in the room to immediately draw up a contract for Smith, who went on to star in the show.

Karyn Parsons thought the premise of the show was terrible

As Hilary Banks, Karyn Parsons played a preppy spoiled rich girl role to perfection. Alongside Will and Carlton, Hilary became an important character who connected with the fanbase and remained integral to storylines throughout the sitcom's run. Parsons, however, revealed to The Independent that she wasn't convinced by the premise of the show when she first heard about it, calling it a "stupid sitcom."

Parsons explained how she was trying to establish herself as an actress and auditioning for many different parts in 1990. Her acting coach mentioned a role in what would become "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," but she laughed it off, thinking it would never amount to anything significant. "It sounded so silly to me — like, a rapper on a TV show?" she said. "That hadn't happened yet and so I laughed about it." At the end of the day, Parsons won the part for Hilary and realized the show was much more than what she had initially imagined.

Alfonso Ribeiro was almost fired after the pilot

While Will Smith might have been the star, there's no doubt that the supporting cast of the "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was just as crucial to its success. One of the most popular characters on the sitcom is Carlton Banks, as portrayed by Alfonso Ribeiro. The actor has become synonymous with the part, heralded by fans and critics for making the sitcom as special as it is.

That said, Ribeiro almost lost out on the opportunity to cement his legacy as Carlton, as he revealed to Digital Spy. The actor recalled the incoming president of NBC at the time wasn't a fan of his portrayal of the character after seeing the pilot. "I auditioned for the character, and got the role," Ribeiro said. "Then, after we did the pilot, [the new president] decided that my character should be recast. So there was a moment where essentially I was hired and rehired — you may look at it that way!" Fortunately, the team stuck with Ribeiro, which is a good thing since it's practically impossible to imagine anyone else playing Carlton.

Will Smith and Janet Hubert had a 30-year feud

Aunt Viv might have been Will's biggest supporter on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and loved him like her own son; however, the actors who portrayed the roles allegedly fought more than Lannisters behind the scenes. Janet Hubert portrayed Vivian Banks for the first three seasons of the sitcom before being replaced by Daphne Reid for the rest of the show's run. There were several rumors surrounding Hubert's departure — some people said she had been fired, and there were murmurs of a conflict between her and Will Smith. However, Hubert eventually clarified what happened was she was offered a lower deal that didn't suit her. When she didn't accept the offer, she was recast.

"During that third season, when I got pregnant, there was a lot of things going on in my life and Will's life as well," she told Hollywood Life. "There was some friction because I was pregnant." This led to a 30-year animosity between the two actors. In the end, they buried the hatchet, with Smith even admitting in his memoir that he should have handled things differently with his co-star.

Will Smith's co-stars didn't think he'd become a superstar

Having established himself as a music star and television sensation, the odds were high that Will Smith would be able conquer Hollywood as well. He tested the waters while "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was still in production, as he appeared as a leading man in Michael Bay's "Bad Boys" alongside Martin Lawrence. After the sitcom ended, he didn't look back and went on to become one of the highest paid actors in the film business, as well as an Oscar winner.

Karyn Parsons revealed to The Scottish Sun that his co-stars knew he was talented, but they never expected him to explode as a superstar, especially so soon after the end of the sitcom. "Will was a successful actor going into 'Fresh Prince' and he was charismatic, funny and smart as a whip," she said. "We knew all of that. But it doesn't always translate to someone becoming a megastar." Parsons added she was surprised to see him cast as an action star in films such as "Independence Day" since she remembered Smith in a different way. However, she admitted she was wrong, and the producers obviously saw something that everyone else missed at the time.

Will Smith used to mouth other people's lines on air

People tend to forget that "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" was one of Will Smith's first forays into acting. At the time, he was extremely green and inexperienced, but he still had the responsibilities of the leading star of the sitcom on his shoulders. During this time, Smith was very much living the definition of learning on the job. However, the actor has revealed that he struggles to watch his early performances on the show. Not because he was a horrible actor, but for another amusing reason.

"It was my very first role, and I was very, very focused on being successful, so I learned the whole script and everyone else's lines," Smith said on "The Graham Norton Show" (via ET Online). "If you watch the first four or five episodes, you can see I'm mouthing other people's lines. It's terrible and I can't bear to watch it." Well, this was undoubtedly good news for his co-stars, though, since they could always rely on Smith to feed them a line if they hit a blank during a scene.

Jada Pinkett Smith lost out on a role in The Fresh Prince

There was almost a moment of pure serendipity during Season 5 of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Jada Pinkett auditioned to portray Will's girlfriend Lisa on the show, but she ultimately lost out on the part to Nia Long.

Speaking about Pinkett's audition in his memoir, "Will" (via The Mirror), Smith wrote: "Apparently, the casting agent had just told her she wasn't tall enough to play my girlfriend on the show. She hated that about Hollywood — that somehow her height (or lack thereof) was of more vital importance to the art than her abundant talents."

While Pinkett didn't get a shot to star as Smith's significant other on the sitcom, she ended up meeting and getting to know her future husband during the otherwise disappointing audition process. However, the two only began dating a year later, even though Smith was still married to his then-wife Sheree Zampino. Eventually, Zampino and Smith divorced, and he married Pinkett in 1997.

Will Smith asked out his co-star

It isn't uncommon for co-stars to spend enough time around each other for something more to develop between them. It happens all the time and has led to some of the biggest romances in Hollywood such as Brangelina and Bennifer. Turns out "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" set wasn't exempt from similar romantic impulses, especially for Will Smith.

In his memoir (via AceShowbiz), Smith admitted he started to develop feelings for his co-star Karyn Parsons and asked her out on a date one day. "She was smart enough to tell me 'hell no' when I tried to explain we were not really cousins, so it would be fine if we dated," he wrote, adding he told her it would have no impact on their professional relationship, either. However, Parsons declined the offer, which is something that Smith believes was the right call, in retrospect. Truth be told, it would have been weird to see Smith and Parsons on screen in "The Fresh Prince" as family, only to then see them holding hands and kissing in the tabloids. Even if they weren't cousins in real life, this still feels like something Cletus from "The Simpsons" or a character from "Game of Thrones" would do.

Why Will Smith named his character Will Smith

We often hear the misconception that "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is a fictionalized version of Will Smith's actual life. The reason for this is simply because the main character is also named "Will Smith" and the show contains allusions to Smith's music career. Surely, if the show was about someone else, the creators would have given the character a different name completely unrelated to the star, right?

Smith revealed in his memoir (via Entertainment Weekly) that the idea for the character's name actually came from co-star Alfonso Ribeiro. Smith wrote that Ribeiro pulled him aside and told him, "Hey, man, I hear the producers discussing names for your character. Take it from me: Give your character your name, Will Smith. Because people are going to call you that for the rest of your life." It turned out to be sound advice, since the sitcom became a smash hit around the world and helped establish Smith as a household name under his own name. Although, it could have also gone terribly wrong had the show flopped, and he would have been remembered as the Will Smith from that horrible program.

Alfonso Ribeiro believes he was punished for his role as Carlton

While appearing on a popular television show might seem like the dream for every actor, there's also a downside to it — namely, typecasting. If someone is very good in a part they play for a long period of time, they may struggle to find another role down the line because everyone views them as an iconic character they used to play. It's also one of the reasons many actors are apprehensive about joining franchises since there's always the fear they will only be seen as a single character.

For Alfonso Ribeiro, he experienced worldwide fame as Carlton Banks, but it also had a detrimental effect on his career, as he revealed to Atlanta Black Star. He explained how he basically did his job as an actor to convince people he was this character, but he was then told he couldn't be seen as anyone else afterwards. "And then I was punished for it," Ribeiro said. "Because then I didn't get to go do what my craft was. I didn't get to do it anymore. So going through that, you learn what that feeling is like and how valuable it is to be able to do what you love to do."