Trivia / The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

  • Actor Allusion:
    • "Will, there's something you have to learn. Sometimes, parents just don't understand." (cue Aside Glance)
    • "Will, you're only seventeen. You don't have a rep yet." (cue Aside Glance)
    • This bit from "As the Will Turns", after Will's been cast in a soap opera:
    Uncle Phil: Oh, please! They hired you, somebody who's never acted a day in his life, to star in a network TV show?
    Will: It happens! [cue Aside Glance]
    • Another example from the above episode is how Will backs out when he learns the "Jody" his character is in love with is actually a man, referencing his infamous turn as Paul in Six Degrees of Separationnote .
    • "Vivian, you are so naive. You'd believe that boy if he told you he was a rap star whose latest album just went platinum!"note 
    • In response to a character's truthful claim, Will sarcastically snaps, "Yeah, and I just won a Grammy".note 
    • Carlton to Will and Jazz: "I can understand why you're jealous. After all, you two have no musical talent whatsoever!" (cue Will and Jazz looking at Carlton like he's crazy)
    • "Father Knows Best" has Hilary and Carlton arguing over the correct pronunciation of "Porsche". Alfonso Ribiero was in Silver Spoons, wherein his character's father and Ricky Schroeder's character's father had a very similar argument.
    • Any time Carlton dances, it's hilariously dorky. Unless it's to Michael Jackson, in which case he busts out moves worthy of Jackson himself; Ribiero was a backup dancer for Jackson before he was cast on The Fresh Prince.
    • Eric, Hilary's boyfriend of the week in a second season episode, is played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner. He says "Everyone at dinner? I thought that only happened on The Cosby Show."
    • In one episode, Will dates a college student played by Jasmine Guy, who is best known for her role as Whitley on the college sitcom A Different World.
    • Cloudcuckoolander Judge Robertson, played by Sherman Hemsley, gets in a heated argument with Philip once he learns that Philip's running against him for Superior Court Justice, culminating with Robertson shouting "Lionel, show him to the door!" before walking up the Banks' stairs. Hemsley showing up later in the run to reprise his role as George Jefferson makes this Hilarious in Hindsight.
  • Adored by the Network: There are been times, no matter which station plays it, when the series will be on morning, noon, and night. As of this writing, TBS still plays it in the mornings. Since the show is available for barter, when a station sells ad time in exchange for the show, cable and local stations get Will Smith for free. Go ahead, TBS, play the story all about how Will's life got twisted upside down 24/7.
  • Casting Gag: In "The Wedding Show (Psyche!)", Will and Lisa runs off to Las Vegas in order to elope by having a Shaft-themed wedding. In the end, they decide against it. As they are leaving, Will says this:
    Will: "By the way, dude — your Isaac Hayes impression STINKS!!"
    Minister (Isaac Hayes): "I-I-I dunno, I thought it was pretty good."
  • The Cast Showoff: Alfonso Ribeiro getting to show off his dancing chops, as did Janet Hubert-Whitten (a Julliard graduate who danced in Cats on Broadway). She, Ribeiro, and Tatyana Ali showed off their singing skills in multiple episodes.
  • The Danza:
    • Will Smith plays Will Smith. However, in real life, Will's actual name is Willard, while in-show, Will's name is William. On an episode of Late Show with David Letterman, and again on The Graham Norton Show, Smith said that Alfonso Ribero advised him to do this, because people would be calling him by his character's name for the rest of his life, as demonstrated by the fact they went out and were called "Will!" and "Carlton!"
    • Will's best friend "Jazz" was played by DJ Jazzy Jeff.
    • Helen Lewis was played by Jenifer Lewis.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • Will Smith was 21 when he began playing the 16-year-old titular character. His music had already established that trend, with story songs placing him in the role of a young teen in high school even though he was in his late teens and early twenties at the time.
    • Alfonso Ribeiro was 20 when he began playing Carlton, who's stated a year younger than Will (a season one episode establishes Will as having been born in 1973, and Carlton in 1974).
  • Directed by Cast Member: Alfonso Ribeiro directed an episode in the show's final season.
  • Dueling Shows: With Family Matters. The show made occasional mention of this by doing such things as having a character mistake Uncle Phil for Reginald VelJohnson, and even having Jaleel White guest as one of Ashley's boyfriends.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The resentment the cast had towards Janet Hubert-Whitten probably made episodes like "The Baby Comes Out" easier to act.
  • Executive Meddling: At the start of Season 4, Janet Hubert-Whitten was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid. Smith eventually explained in a 1995 Jet magazine article, as well as in subsequent interviews throughout the years, that there was tension between him and the former (see below). Hubert-Whitten claims that it was ultimately Smith's behavior that played a role in her sacking.
  • Franchise Zombie: Averted. James Avery (Uncle Phil) even commended Will Smith on wanting to leave the show on a high note instead of keep it dragging on.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Alfonso Ribeiro confirmed that the whole cast was like one big family, except for Hubert-Whitten, who was difficult to work with, toxic to be around, and really killed the mood on set. This was further corroborated by James Avery in a June 2013 edition of OMG! Insider, in which he remarked that he constantly had to remind Hubert-Whitten that the show was titled The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not "Philip and Vivian of Bel-Air."
  • I Am Not Spock: Defied: Will Smith chose to call his character "Will Smith" because he knew he would be referred to as his character's name for the rest of his life. According to interviews, he was acting on the advice of Alfonso Ribeiro who hasn't quite escaped this. "When we go out together, people are like: 'Will, Will! Carlton!'"
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
    • Carlton's actor, Alfonso Ribeiro, was, and still is, an accomplished dancer. The character, according to the other characters, can't dance to save his life. Although this may be because his dancing is considered excessively "white".
    • In something of a subversion, Jada Pinkett (now Jada Pinkett Smith because she married Will Smith) was turned down for a role as Will's girlfriend due to a lack of chemistry and their height difference: (he is 6'2", she is 5').
  • Money, Dear Boy: Had it not been for Will Smith's financial troubles (he overspent, and didn't pay income taxes) during his initial music career, the series would never have happened.
  • The Other Darrin:
    • The role of Vivian Banks was recast after Janet Hubert-Whitten violated her contract when she became pregnant; the pregnancy and birth of her character's child, Nicky Banks, was worked into the plot to accommodate the situation. After she was fired, Hubert-Whitten's character was played by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the remainder of the show's run. According to both Will Smith and Hubert-Whitten, they had difficulties working together long before her pregnancy. The other cast members also admitted to having difficulties working with Hubert-Whitten mainly due to her being toxic to be around and for trying to make the show be more about Aunt Vivian and Uncle Phil, even though Will was the central character.
    • A small case. Will's mom in the opening sequence is the "mom figure" used in Smith's DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince videos (particularly "Parents Just Don't Understand"). She was played by Vernee Watson-Johnson in the series proper.
    • Frank Schaeffer was played by Diedrich Bader in Season 2, and by Robert Torti in Season 3. Both actors would go on to appear together on The Drew Carey Show.
    • Gregory Wheeler played five-year-old Nicky Banks in the 1998 segments of the season 4 episode "'Twas the Night Before Christening". The very next season, with Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome setting in, Ross Bagley was cast as the now-six-year-old Nicky.
  • Playing Gertrude: In real life, Janet Hubert-Whitten was only 10 years older than Karyn Parsons and 15 years older than Alfonso Ribiero but was playing their mother.
  • Post-Script Season:
    • The third, fourth and fifth season finales were written to be a respectable farewell in case they didn't get another season. The sixth season Grand Finale was written with the full knowledge it would not continue since Will Smith wanted to move on from the show in order to prevent it from being a Franchise Zombie.
    • A literal case with the fifth and sixth seasons; the show was actually cancelled during the fourth. See Un-Canceled.
  • Reality Subtext: "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse" is claimed to be the most emotional episode, due to the fact of how Will Smith felt about his relationship with his father, both in the show and in reality. Although Will Smith's real-life father was there for him growing up, Will had a lot of friends who never knew their fathers, and his emotions in the final scene came from thinking of all his friends who never had a father in their lives. His hug with James Avery was known to be a hug from man to man, and not them being in character.
  • Recycled Script: "The Big Four-Oh" recycles elements from The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "To Tell Or Not to Tell". In each episode, the mothers take the opportunity to rededicate themselves to dance in the hopes of finding out whether they could have "made it" if they hadn't taken different paths. Both episodes end with the women rising to the occasion and gaining the validation they sought, while acknowledging the physical strain dancing put on their (now older) bodies.
    Laura Petrie: "There isn't a bone in my body that isn't screaming out "for heaven's sake! Lie down in a hot tub!""
    Vivian Banks: "There isn't a part of my body that isn't aching for Ben-Gay!"
  • Technology Marches On: Many examples. This is most notably seen in "The Baby Comes Out". Vivian uses a big cordless phone with an even bigger antenna to beep Will.
  • Throw It In:
    • In "The Script Formerly Known As", Will's over-the-top lip-synching "performance" of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" was not scripted, but a gag made up by Will Smith himself.
    • Carlton running around the set hysterically at the end of "Will's Misery" was unscripted and was improvised by Alfonso Ribeiro.
    • The famous ending of "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse" was improvised by Will.
  • Tom Hanks Syndrome: Will Smith ran into a career block when trying to keep up the hip, street-savvy black guy he started portraying with this show. Ironically, no one remembered him as "The Fresh Prince" after Independence Day.
  • Un-Canceled: The show was actually cancelled during its fourth season, with "The Philadelphia Story" serving as the Grand Finale. The overwhelming response, with viewers writing in by the truckload to NBC and Will Smith, convinced the network to go back on this decision, allowing it to run for what became two more seasons.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The show is laden with contemporary pop culture references, especially in the earlier seasons, which had frequent references to early 1990s politics such as Operation Desert Storm and Dan Quayle, and celebrity scandals such as Zsa Zsa Gabor's slapping of a police and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's arrest for solicitation. This reaches the point that a gag in Gravity Falls mocking the worst excesses of the decade used the typeface of the show's title card.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Alfonso Ribeiro was almost let go after the pilot due then NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield not being fond of his acting. The staff rallied to keep him on the show and it worked as he eventually became the Ensemble Darkhorse of the show.
    • Jada Pinkett Smith actually tried out for the role of Lisa but was denied because of the height difference between her and Will. Ironically, this is where the two first met and they would get married three years later.
    • Laurence Fishburne was offered the role of Lou, Will's father, in "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse", but the producers felt his demeanour was too laid back for the part. It was later offered to Ben Vereen.
    • One would wonder what would happen to Season 4-6 had Janet Hubert remained instead of being played by Daphne Reid.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • Sherman Hemsley made multiple appearances as Philip's mentor, Judge Carl Robertson. After Robertson's death, Hemsley later went on to make two more appearances as some guy named George, with Isabel Sanford as his wife, whom he calls "Wheezy".
    • Nia Long once played a one-shot role as Will's rather airheaded prom date, Claudia, before coming back three seasons later to play Lisa, his long time girlfriend.
    • Queen Latifah made an appearance during season one as Hilary's Bad Boss, diva actress Marissa Redman, who had a crush on Will. A season later (in the same episode as Nia Long's first appearance, funnily enough), she returned as Dee Dee, a full-figured girl that Will actually liked, but was too afraid to admit it because of her size.
    • Jim Meskimen appeared in a memorable role as Will's philosophy professor Jeremy Mansfield. Two seasons later, after Hilary gets her own talk show, Meskimen reappeared several times as the show's producer, Werner.