Now this is a story all about how… one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time turned 30. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air starring Will Smith premiered on September 10, 1990, and over the last three decades, the show has attracted fans of all generations and backgrounds. And now, that love has turned into something tangible: a reboot spearheaded by Smith and the original Fresh Prince team is currently in the works.
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ premiered on NBC in September 1990
The idea for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air first came from music manager Benny Medina, who pitched a story based on his life in Los Angeles to Grammy legend Quincy Jones. To better explore topics and dynamics in the Black community that were rarely touched upon in TV at the time, Medina reworked the show to be about an upper middle class Black family, in a similar vein as the Huxtable family on The Cosby Show. Jones liked the idea and helped arrange a meeting with NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff.
Will Smith was reluctant to do ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
In the late 1980s, Will Smith had built a rap career in Philadelphia under the moniker The Fresh Prince. However, Smith had failed to pay taxes and was in a financially tough spot, and his girlfriend at the time encouraged him to make an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. It was at the show taping where Smith crossed paths with Medina by chance.
When Medina approached Smith with the idea for the show, Smith was reluctant to take on the role. He had never acted before, and wasn’t sure if he was any good at it. Medina invited him to a party at Quincy Jones’ house to meet with Jones and Tartikoff, and after an on-the-spot audition, Smith’s contract for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was drawn up in a limo outside.
‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was a career highlight for its entire cast
In addition to being Will Smith’s first acting role, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air put many cast members on the map in terms of widespread recognition. James Avery, who played beloved character Uncle Phil, had had many one-off appearances in TV shows and movies throughout the ’80s, but The Fresh Prince was his biggest role that he had ever landed, and to this day remains his most popular character.
Other members of the Banks family also had budding TV careers prior to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Janet Hubert-Whitten and Karyn Parsons (who played Aunt Vivian and Hilary, respectively) had made various guest appearances on shows like 21 Jump Street and Hunter.
Prior to taking on the iconic role of Carlton, Alfonso Ribeiro starred in the NBC sitcom Silver Spoons in the mid-1980s. At the same time, Tatyana Ali frequently appeared on episodes of Sesame Street when she was just six years old.
‘Bel-Air’ is a dramatic take on the classic sitcom
The show’s recently-announced reboot Bel-Air will be a drama instead of the sitcom that fans are familiar with. All of the show’s creators and original producers, including Quincy Jones, Benny Medina, and Smith himself are on board with the project.
Will Smith won’t be reprising his role as the show’s main character, and it’s safe to say that the rest of the original Fresh Prince cast isn’t interested in playing older versions of themselves. They’ve each enjoyed successful careers in TV following their years on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and some, like America’s Funniest Home Videos host Alfonso Ribeiro, might even be too busy to take part in the project.
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