During the early 1990s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had one of television’s most captive audiences. Now, 20 years later, its audience is mostly captives. According to The Daily Mail, the defunct NBC sitcom has become a big hit with the suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, supplanting the Harry Potter books as the preferred form of entertainment for the inmates. It’s just one more unexpected development in a series that was always full of surprises. Come along as we reveal five other facts you didn’t know about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Will Smith took the role because he was in serious debt
Rappers aren’t known for their fiscal prudence and Will Smith was no exception. The gangly Philly native failed to report many of the earnings from his albums and 1-900 number and soon found himself on the government’s radar. “The tide turned somewhat at 19,” he told 60 Minutes. “The IRS came and took all my stuff. They were talking about I didn’t send them no money, and I didn’t but I didn’t think it would be such a big issue.” The IRS seemed to feel otherwise and threatened legal action unless he paid $2.8 million in back taxes.
Smith met with his representatives and together they came up with the idea of transitioning into television and film in order to keep him out of the poorhouse. The plan worked, although it took a while before Smith began reaping the financial benefits of being a bona fide star. “For the first three years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air the IRS was taking 70 percent of every cheque and after the third year I got back to zero,” he said. “It’s terrible to have that kind of success and have to quietly be broke.”
Ironically, Smith now believes that he and his fellow celebs should be taxed at a much higher rate. “America has been fantastic to me,” he recently told the Associated Press. “I have no problem paying whatever I need to pay to keep my country growing.”
Alfonso Ribeiro stole his signature dance from two other celebrities
Alfonso Ribeiro isn’t afraid to give credit where credit is due. The Image Award-winning actor recently told TMZ that his famous “Carlton Dance” was actually appropriated from Courteney Cox and Eddie Murphy. According to Ribeiro, his spastic shimmy was a mash-up of the moves displayed by Murphy during his famous “white man dancing” routine and the boogying done by Courtney Cox on the Bruce Springsteen music video “Dancing in the Dark.”
Will Smith’s cab driver was the most famous person on the show
Will Smith may have four Grammys, but his driver in the show’s opening credits has 27 and counting. Look closely and you’ll notice that Smith’s colourful cabbie is none other than Quincy Jones, the musical impresario responsible for producing some of the world’s best-selling albums. Jones also served as the show’s executive producer and made three cameos as himself between 1990-94.
Will Smith is ashamed of his early performances
Smith had appeared in only one TV production prior to being cast in The Fresh Prince and his lack of refinement was painfully apparent in many of the show’s earlier episodes. “I was trying so hard,” he told Hollywood.com. “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.” Smith’s acting gradually improved as the program progressed and he has since been nominated for two Oscars and four Golden Globes.
It introduced American audiences to Tyra Banks
Will Smith wasn’t the only neophyte actor on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show also introduced viewers to Tyra Banks. Already an established model in Europe, Banks was still relatively unknown to American audiences when she made her professional acting debut during season four as Will’s sassy girlfriend, Jackie. Of course, Banks wasn’t the show’s only notable guest star. Luminaries like Chris Rock, Oprah Winfrey, William Shatner and Hugh Hefner also dropped by during The Fresh Prince’s successful six-year run.