The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) is one of the most beloved classic TV shows during the 1990s. Every 90s kid who followed the sitcom knew all the words to its theme. But if you think you are well-versed about Will Smith – as the fictionalized version of himself – and the Banks family, look at the list of fun facts below and see how much you know about this sitcom. Some of them may even surprise you and make you wonder, “How come didn’t I know this before?” Nevertheless, enjoy reading them!
1. Will Smith only agreed to star on the show because of his IRS troubles.
Before he became known as an actor, Will Smith first gained widespread recognition as rapper The Fresh Prince. Along with the fame came a significant increase in his income. But unfortunately, Smith wasn’t able to manage his finances wisely nor didn’t pay the proper income taxes. As a result, his debt to the IRS soon ballooned to $2.8 million; almost all of his property, including his income, were seized by the government. Smith was about to declare bankruptcy when producer Quincy Jones came and chose him to star in an upcoming sitcom named The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Over the first three series of the show, Smith was obligated to pay 70% of his salary to the IRS.
2. Audition? What audition?
With the fact that Quincy Jones picking Will Smith and the network NBC itself approaching the young rapper, Smith didn’t have to go through an audition for the new sitcom. Another fact: he never had any acting experience before The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
3. NBC executives almost fired Will Smith.
As Smith had not acted before The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he was pretty much a novice and so he was often jeered for his lack of acting chops during the sitcom’s early seasons. The big wigs at NBC noticed this and considered firing him. But the show’s creators and producers still saw a strong potential in Smith, and convinced NBC to let him stay in the show.
4. The house in the show’s opening credits isn’t located in Bel-Air.
Instead, the house pictured in the sitcom’s opening credits is located in nearby Brentwood, which is also an affluent community itself.
5. Who’s the cab driver?
The cab driver in the show’s opening credits is no less than the show’s producer, Quincy Jones.
6. New dressing rooms!
Will Smith is not just known for his illustrious showbiz career, but also for his generosity. And that was seen even early in his acting career. To prove how big-hearted he really was, way back in 1995 he gifted each of his fellow Fresh Prince cast members with new dressing rooms. What a guy!
7. The “Carlton dance.”
The famed “Carlton dance” was inspired by Courteney Cox and Bruce Springsteen. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played as Will Smith’s on-screen cousin Carlton, said: “There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courtney Cox called ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance.”
8. Geoffrey did have a last (and a middle) name.
The Banks’ cynical and wise-cracking butler Geoffrey actually had a last name, which was… well, Butler. His middle name was Barbara.
9. Off-the-set rift.
In the show, Will Smith had often gotten in trouble with his Uncle Phil. But when it comes to relations with his cast mates off the set, he (apparently) crossed swords with actress Jane Hubert-Whitten who originally played as Aunt Vivian. Hubert was fired, and was eventually replaced by Daphne Reid for the role of Aunt Viv.
The biggest rumor is that Smith got Hubert fired from the show, but he has since denied of his any involvement to her dismissal.
10. The show was canceled twice.
The sitcom was originally canceled after the fourth season when Smith moved back to his hometown in Philadelphia. But the show was soon brought back after NBC received numerous reaction letters from fans. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air continued for two more seasons until it was finally axed off the air, this time for good.