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Trivia / The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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  • This was one of just two freshman shows in the 1990-91 NBC primetime lineup to get a second season. The other was Law & Order.

Listed Trivia:

  • Adored by the Network: Regardless of who airs it, the show is broadcast every day. VH1, MTV2 and BET have assured this airing it in blocks on weekdays, weeknights, and weekends, respectively.
  • 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:
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    • 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.note 
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  • Directed by Cast Member: Alfonso Ribeiro directed the final season episode "I, Ooh, Baby Baby".
  • Doing It for the Art: Will Smith gave 60% of his salary to getting the first three seasons off the ground.
  • Dueling Works: With Family Matters. Both shows made occasional mention of the fact that James Avery and Reginald VelJohnson looked similar; Avery himself appeared in the closing of one Family Matters episode that lampshaded the similarities. In a later Fresh Prince episode, Jaleel White guest-starred 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.
    • While filming his now-famous monologue at the end of "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse," Will Smith was so overcome by the scene's Reality Subtext that James Avery broke character and gave him a much-needed hug.
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  • 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. Hubert-Whitten claims that it was ultimately Smith's behavior that played a role in her sacking.
  • Fake Brit:
    • Los Angeles native Craig Kirkwood portrayed Geoffery's son, Frederick.
    • Subverted with Geoffrey himself — Joseph Marcell was born in St. Lucia, but moved to the UK when he was 9.
  • 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.
  • Hey, It's That Sound!: In "Hilary Gets a Job", you can briefly hear the buzz-in noise from the 1983-89 NBC revival of Sale of the Century as a telephone ring.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • Alfonso Ribeiro confirmed that the whole cast was like one big family, except for Janet Hubert-Whitten, who was difficult to work with and 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 her that the show was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not "Philip and Vivian of Bel-Air." She was allegedly fired from the show due her conflict with Will Smith which lasts to this day.
    • Tatyana Ali is said to have been very doubtful of Smith's acting potential during the earliest episodes of the show, saying that he constantly messed up his lines. Because of this, there was slight tension between them while on set.
  • 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 will probably never escape this. "When we go out together, people are like: 'Will, Will! Carlton!'"
  • Irony as She Is Cast:
  • Money, Dear Boy: A positive example. Had it not been for Will Smith's financial trouble during his initial music career, the series would never have happened.
  • Old Shame:
    • Will Smith has said he cannot watch the first few episodes because he considers his acting in them to be terrible, noting how he was mouthing the other actors' lines.
    • Interesting case with Janet Hubert — sometimes she seems as though she's come to regret taking the role, sometimes she doesn't. The times she does are mainly due to her conflict with Will Smith, and she's even requested for fans not to refer to her as Aunt Viv. The times she doesn't, she seems to look back on her role with pride, and has reposted various fan-created memes claiming her to be "the true Aunt Viv" on her social media accounts.
  • One-Take Wonder: The infamous ending to "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse" was done all in one take. Karyn Parsons (Hilary) could be heard crying backstage. Director Shelly Jensen was too emotional to do another take.
  • 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. She also wanted a higher salary, and for the show to be centered on Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil. She allegedly felt insulted that Will was earning more money than her. The drama continues to this day.
    • 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.
  • Post-Script Season:
    • The third,note  fourth,note  and fifthnote  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.
    • A literal case with the fifth and sixth seasons; the show was actually cancelled during the fourth.
  • Reality Subtext: Though Will Smith's father was there for him in his childhood and the two were on good terms at the time, Will's monologue at the end of "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse," which Smith wrote himself, was partially inspired by their rocky relationship. More than that, it was inspired by Smith's memories of all of his childhood friends with deadbeat fathers whom they never knew. That Cool Down Hug he and James Avery share at the end was not acting.
  • 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!"
    • "Ill Will" recycles the basic A-plot of The Golden Girls episode "The Operation". In both episodes, a central character (Dorothy Zbornak in "The Operation", Will in "Ill Will") must visit the hospital to have surgery done. While there, something happens to scare them into running away from the hospital and hiding out back home. Eventually they are convinced by their loved ones to go back to the hospital and have the surgery done. In both cases, listening to their roommates' stories in the hospital ward ends up making them feel foolish for chickening out. Incidentally, the writer of "The Operation", Winifred Hervey(-Stallworth), was Fresh Prince's executive producer by the time "Ill Will" came around.
  • Technology Marches On: Considering this was produced in the early-to-mid '90s, there's bound to be plenty of 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 improvised by Will Smith.
    • Carlton running around the set hysterically at the end of "Will's Misery" was unscripted and was improvised by Alfonso Ribeiro.
    • Will Smith personally wrote his famous monologue at the end of "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse." Additionally, James Avery hugging him was also totally unscripted.
  • 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 Season 4, with "The Philadelphia Story" serving as the Grand Finale. The overwhelming response, with viewers writing in by the truckload to NBC and Will Smith, as well as demands by NBC affiliates to make more episodes so that they could have a more decent rerun syndication package, convinced the network to go back on this decision, allowing it to run for what became two more seasons.
  • Underage Casting: Vivian turned 40 in Season 2. Janet Hubert-Whitten was in her mid 30s when she was cast.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The show is laden with contemporary pop culture references, especially in the earlier seasons, which not only had many late 1980s fashion lingering around, but also 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:
    • The title of the script from Will Smith's impromptu audition at Quincy Jones' house read "Failed Morris Day Pilot". Apparently, the show was originally created with him as the star.
    • Alfonso Ribeiro was almost let go following the pilot. He ultimately stayed on the show thanks to the staff.
    • Jada Pinkett 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 demeanor was too laid back for the part. It was later offered to Ben Vereen.
    • Apparently, a reunion special featuring the surviving cast members was proposed, but ultimately scrapped. The special would've seen Will and the surviving Banks family coming together in the wake of Uncle Phil's death, which would've made Phil a case of The Character Died with Him.
  • The Wiki Rule: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Wiki, another The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Wiki, and another The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Wiki.
  • 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 1 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.

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