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20 Interesting Facts About 'The Fresh Price Of Bel-Air'

Celebs November 28, 2016 By Hugo

From it's beginning in 1990 until its end six years later, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a show about a street-wise teen who goes to live with his uncle in the affluent area of Bel-Air proved an unlikely hit and thanks to syndication deals, the show continues to attract new fans. But as well as spawning the career of an A-list movie star and giving us a dance move that won't be forgotten anytime soon, many fans are unaware of the politics that went on behind the camera as well as some of the show's lesser-known facts.

Yes, the NBC show wasn't short on drama, and it's fair to say the show's production wasn't either.

Here are 20 Fresh Prince facts few know about. 

1. Will Smith Only Joined The Show For The $$$

While Will Smith can now have the pick of any project in Hollywood, it wasn't always that way, and before he made a career for himself as an actor, he was one-half of the rap duo Dj Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. 


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But after finding success in the 1980s, Smith spent the bulk of his earnings while paying little tax, and it was only because of a $2.8m tax bill that he took up NBC's offer of a TV show titled, The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. 


2. 70% Of His Salary Went To The Government

After coming to an agreement with the IRS, the then 21-year-old would see 70% of his income from the show's first three seasons go straight to the IRS.


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Thankfully, the show was a hit and went on for another three seasons, allowing Smith a clean financial slate. 


3. Will Smith Was A Novice Actor

It sounds strange to put the word novice and actor in the same sentence as the legendary screen actor, but it's worth remembering that Smith's early foray in the show business was as an MC artist rather than an actor. And it was only after Smith found success on the show that he made the decision to leave music behind and focus on acting.

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With that said, he did have one small acting credit to his name before The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Role? A T-shirt salesmen on an ABC after school special. 


4. He Was Embarrassed' By His Earlier Performances

It's fair to say that Will Smith wasn't exactly full of confidence when he first took on the role, something he admitted in the past when he recalled his embarrassment when watching his earlier performances.


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"I was trying so hard," he said. "I would memorise 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."


5. Uncle Phil's House Isn't In Bel-Air 

While Uncle Phil's lavish Grecian mansion is located in a wealthy Californian suburb, it isn't located in Bel-Air.


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Instead, and in the interests of those wanting to pay homage to the setting of their favourite show, it is located in Brentwood, at 251 N. Bristol Avenue.


6. Carlton's Iconic Dance Was Inspired By The Moves Of Two Celebrities

If you've ever been to a club and you haven't seen someone attempt to replicate the legendary 'Carlton Dance', then you haven't been partying in the right places. But as much as we'd like to believe the awkward dance was entirely original, it was modelled on the moves of the actors Courtney Cox and Eddie Murphy.


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Explaining the creative inspiration behind the dance, Alfonso Ribeiro said, "There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox called 'Dancing in the Dark,' and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance. And it was also from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious comedy video where he does ">'the white man dance.'  And what I did was ultimately take those two dances and combined them and made it my own, and made it my character’s."


7. The Physical Copy Of The Show's Soundtrack Is Hard To Find

One of the beast features about the six-year show was the uplifting and catchy soundtrack at the beginning as well as the handful of other cool tracks the show featured. But finding a physical copy of the soundtrack is harder than you'd think.


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While you can stream the music on Spotify, finding a physical copy of the soundtrack is difficult due to the CD only getting a release in Holland.


8. Tyra Banks Made Her Acting Debut On The Show

Can you remember Will's hot girlfriend, Jackie, in an episode of season 4? She was a knockout, which isn't surprising when you realise it was a fresh faced Tyra Banks.

The supermodel, who is now a household name in America, was a complete unknown to American audiences when she made her acting debut, and while she had experienced success as a model, her Fresh Prince appearance gave her the opportunity to begin a more lucrative career as a television personality.


9. Quincy Jones Is Not The Cab Driver

Many reputable sites, including IMDB, list the driver transporting Will to his new life as none other than Quincy Jones. But that simply isn't true.


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According to Rashida Jones (Jones' daughter), as well as Will Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, it isn't him, a myth that is further dispelled when you realise that Jones has never driven in his life following the psychological repercussions from a car accident he was involved in at just 14-years-old.


10. Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro Were Allowed To Choose Their Character's Names

In an unusual move by studio executives, Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro, two of the show's main stars, were allowed to choose their characer's names.


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Being true to Carlton Banks, Alfonso urged Will Smith to be careful when selecting a name for fear of being typecast with it. So with that in mind, Will Smith lent his own name to his mischievous character. Genius, or what?


11. When Will Met Jada

These two have been lovebirds for as long as we can remember, and while rumours continue to circulate around the strength of their marriage, the two are still together having first met on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air set. 


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Ironically, Jada unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Will's on-screen girlfriend, but in perhaps a sign of fate, she got into a relationship with him in real life instead.


12. Two Different Actresses Portrayed Aunt Vivian

For ardent fans, you probably already know this, but for those who don't let us clear up a theory your mind hasn't been able to solve for years: Janet Hubert didn't undergo plastic surgery! No, she simply got annoyed and left the show.

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The reasoning stemmed from a dispute Hubert had in her contract which didn't let her take on other work, leading to her to quit the show altogether, while other rumours have suggested that she didn't get on with Will Smith. Because of her grievances, the role of Aunt Vivian was given to Daphne Maxwell instead, who played Aunt Viv for three seasons.


13. The Show Was Originally Cancelled After Four Seasons 

Despite the show's popularity, NBC decided to pull the plug after four seasons and originally intended to have Will's character moving back to the mean streets of Philadelphia in the final episode. However, mass complaints led studio bosses to revert the decision and continue it for another two seasons. 


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Moreover, the opening credits to season five humorously illustrated this when an NBC executive placed Smith into a van and drove him back to California, telling him "It's called the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia."


14. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Is Watched In Many Prisons- Including Guantanamo Bay

As well as watching and enjoying the seven Harry Potter films, prisoners incarcerated in prisons as dangerous as Guantanamo Bay watch episodes of the NBC show when out of their cells, and it is supposedly their favourite.


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Yes, even in prisons housing some of the most dangerous people in the world, Will and Carlton's on screen antics can still be enjoyed.


15. Daphne Maxwell Gave Up Acting To Run A Photo Blog

Will Smith may be synonymous with Hollywood fame, but the rest of the cast haven't found the same success, and while some still find regular acting work, others, such as Daphne Maxwell, have given up the profession altogether. 


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Instead, Maxwell, who portrayed Aunt Viv for the last three seasons now runs a photography blog and is married to actor Tim Reid of 'Sister, Sister' fame.


16. Will Smith's Rubik Cube Skills Are Real

Will was always up against it whenever it came to academically competing against his goody-two-shoes cousin, Carlton Banks, yet that didn't stop him wowing professors at Princeton University with his ability to quickly solve a Rubik Cube.

But it wasn't staged. It's been a skill of Will's for some time, a skill he also showed in his Oscar-nominated performance as the aspiring stockbroker, Frank Gardner. 


17. The Show Endorsed A 'Bel-Air' Themed Pair Of Air Jordans 

Fans of the famous trainer are probably unaware of the limited edition Jordans designed for the much-loved show. 


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Called, 'Air Jordan 5 Bel-Air', the shoes now retail for around $300 online but are incredibly hard to find.


18. Actors Of Many Talents 

Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro were the stars of the show, but their talents extended behind the camera, too. 


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Will Smith wrote a script for an episode, while Ribeiro directed an episode in season 5. So not only did they get to choose their character names, but they also got to direct and write. Not a bad gig for two young actors.


19. Will Smith Encouraged The Writers To Tackle Serious Issues

As well as being allowed to choose his character name and write an episode, his views around the show's storylines were also taken on board after the comedy 'Roseanne' inspired him.

A TV comedy which was known for tackling serious issues, Smith wanted the NBC show to go in a similar direction, and because of his insistence, the show spawned some powerful moments, which tackled everything from racial injustice to the effects of coming from a single-parent background.


20. The Cast Kept A Diary

Following the death of James Avery, who played the loveable Uncle Phil, Karyn Parsons, who played Hilary Banks, revealed to ABC News that the cast kept a diary in the drawer of the set's kitchen island.


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Taking it with her after the show ended, she said that looking back at it, helps her deal with his death. "Every now and then a camera person or the actors, somebody would just write silly poetry or 'James is getting on my nerves,'" she recalled. "We would make little notes, so I took that. I need to pull that out, especially now that James has passed, because I know he's written in there. I know he was written about."


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