The Show, Cast, And Trivia
This series is about an African-American teenager, Will Smith (Will Smith), nicknamed the “Fresh Prince”, born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After he gets into a fight, his mother (Vernee Watson Johnson), not wanting him to turn out like some of the kids he’s been hanging out with, sends him to live with his wealthy relatives in Bel-Air, California. And though he is at first greatly opposed to living with them, he comes to love them all dearly, and they him. Their responsible natures do, over time, rub off on him, and suprisingly his somewhat easygoing style has an effect on them as well.
Will Smith is a teenager, raised by a single mother in West Philadelphia after his father abandoned them when he was five years old. He gets into the fight at the age of 14, which is when his mother decides to send him to California. Although at times, irresponsible and immature, he is also good-hearted, loving, and intelligent. He becomes close to his cousins, especially Ashley, whom he sometimes feels overprotective of at times, as well as the others. He and his uncle do have their difficulties, but Will ends up regarding him as a father-figure, and someone who truly wants the best for him.
Philip Banks (James Avery) is Will’s uncle by marriage. He is married to Will’s aunt, and they have three children (until Nicky (Ross Bagley) comes along). He is a senior partner in the law firm of Firth, Winn and Meyer, and an upstanding member of the community. And though he is less than thrilled about his nephew coming to live with them at first, he soon grows very fond of Will, and regards him as he would his other children.
Vivian Banks (Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid), is Will’s aunt, and one of his mother’s younger sisters. (The other two being Helen (Jenifer Lewis) and Janice (Charlayne Woodard). She dropped out of high school when she was younger, but returned to night school so that she could get her high school diploma, and go to college and work toward getting her PhD. Along the way she marries Philip, and gives birth to their children, as well as getting a temporary teaching position at the prep school, Bel-Air Academy, where Carlton and Will attend high school.——-The part of Vivian Banks was played by Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid. Each——- actress played the part for 3 seasons apiece, but the character was somewhat changed during that time period. When Hubert-Whitten played the role, ‘Vivian’ is vocally talented, forthright, and career-minded. She also had a role in the show that was equal to the part of her husband. When Reid played the character, the role of ‘Vivian’ is more of a homemaker and not so outspoken or career minded as before.
Hilary Banks (Karyn Parsons) is Philip and Vivian’s oldest child. She is somewhat of an airhead, spoiled, selfish and quite dependent on their butler. She is pretentious and enjoys shopping and money, as well as occasionally being mistaken for Whitney Houston. She does, however, love her family, and despite her shallow personality, has a strong sense of integrity.
Carlton Banks (Alfonso Ribeiro), is the oldest son, and is probably the person with whom Will has the most confrontations. Later though they do become closer, and grow to love each other as brothers. Carlton is preppy, annoying, self-centered, and obsessed with his future, as well as the money that it will bring. He is also very staunchly a conservative Republican, and tends to have a slight problem anytime that gambling is concerned. Plus, he always loses!
Ashley Banks (Tatyana Ali), is the youngest daughter, and therefore manages to get away with certain things easier than everyone else. Unfortunately, she also has the problem of her father being extremely overprotective of her in certain situations. This problem of course is only compounded when Will arrives, though not as much at first due to her age. Later, however, as she starts to mature, Philip and Will, as well as Carlton at times, seem to have their hands full.
Nicky Banks (Ross Bagley) is the last child to come along for Vivian and Philip. He is born late in season 3, and everyone loves and bonds with him.
Geoffrey the Butler (Joseph Marcell) is an Englishmen. He has worked for British aristocrats, as well as the band Led Zeppelin, and was also a sparring butler for Chuck Norris. He attended the University of Oxford, and his favorite television show is Masterpiece Theatre. At first, Geoffrey is more polite and dutiful, however later, he becomes more outspoken and somewhat of a cynic. He becomes Nicky’s godfather, because Vivian realizes that no one else had shown as much devotion to her son as Geoffrey has.
Jazz (Jeffrey A. Townes), is Will’s best friend. He does not live in Bel-Air, but Compton, an inner-city section of California. No one else is very fond of Will’s not-so-bright pal, but Jazz on the other hand is quite fond of one member of the Banks’ family, Hilary. He is constantly trying to put the moves on her, but is usually rejected. He also has a habit of insulting Philip nearly every time that he sees him, and making comments that would have been better off not being voiced. Philip, as well as several others, (including Will), have developed a penchant for throwing him out of the house whenever he expresses himself in a manner they dislike.
This is an extremely funny show, but also manages to convey the difficulties of certain aspects of family living, as well as the generalized problems of life itself. A good cast and of course the acting of Will Smith and you are always guaranteed to have a laugh. I give this show 8 out of 10.
Will Smith-Will Smith
Philip Banks-James Avery
Vivian Banks-Janet Hubert-Whitten and Daphne Maxwell Reid
Carlton Banks-Alfonso Ribeiro
Hilary Banks-Karyn Parsons
Ashley Banks-Tatyana Ali
Jazz-Jeffrey A. Townes
Nicky Banks-Ross Bagley (also played by Gregory Wheeler)
Recurring Cast Years
Lisa Wilkes-Nia Long 1991-1995
Vy Smith-Vernee Watson-Johnson 1990-1995
Aunt Helen-Jenifer Lewis 1991-1996
Jackie Ames-Tyra Banks 1993
Henry Furth-John Petcock 1990-1991
Trevor-Brian Stokes Mitchell 1992-1993
Hattie Banks-Virginia Capers 1990-1995
Nurse Aver-Beverly Jackson 1990-1995
Kellogg Lieberbaum-Michael Weiner 1990-1992
Wemer-Jim Meskimen 1993-1996
Bridesmaid-Johan Johnson 1990-1991
Jonathan Cartwell-Keith Bogart 1990-1991
Tyriq-Perry Moore 1991-1992
Judge Robertson-Sherman Hemsley 1992-1996
Janice-Charlayne Woodard 1991-1993
Headmaster Thorvald-William Cort 1990-1993
Coach Smiley-Dave Florek 1990-1992
Toni-Lisa Fuller 1990-1991
Chadney Hunt-Michael Landes 1990-1991
Edward Fellows III-Jonathan Emerson 1990
Baby V.O.-Tom Williams 1992-1993
Counselor-Darryl Sivad 1993-1995
Fred Wilkes-John Amos 1994-1995
Shauna-Kymberly Newberry 1990-1993
Quincy Jones as himself 1990-1994
Eugene-Tim Russ 1990-1992
Aligaroo #3-Rod Knoll 1990-1991
Margaret Furth-Helen Page Camp 1990
Lester-Felton Perry 1991-1992
Gym Rat 1996-Keith Burke 1992-1996
Garcelle Beauvais as herself 1992-1995
Jamal-Rolandas Hendricks 1993-1996
Bree Walker as herself 1995-1996
Janet-Nicole Bilderback 1995
Keesha-Yunoka Doyle 1995
Candace-Ajai Sanders 1995
Kim Fields as herself 1993-1995
Dick Clark as himself 1994-1996
Mr. Greenspan-Tom Henschel 1992-1994
Dr. Mumford-Richard Roundtree 1990-1996
Little Ashley-Anastasia N. Ali 1990-1994
Lisa-Valerie Jones 1990-1992
Eric-Malcolm-Jamal Warner 1990-1991
Cindy-Tyler Collins 1990
Melinda-Paris Vaughan 1990
Katie-Renee Tenison 1991-1996
Bryan-Brandon Quintin Adams 1991-1994
Fred Lomax, Jr.-Hugh Dane 1991-1992
Dee Dee-Queen Latifah 1991
Frank Schaeffer-Diedrich Bader 1991
Bobby-Ahmad Stoner 1991
Hollenbeck-David H. Sterry 1992-1994
Bob Mercer-Jim Jansen 1992-1996
Dr. Baylor-Macon McCalman 1992
Lindsey Simon-Michole Briana White 1992
Dr. Duane-Duane Martin 1993-1995
Marcus Bixby-Elliott J. Brown 1993
Mr. Gorodetsky-Howard Mann 1993
Jay Leno as himself 1994-1995
Candy-Jeanine Michelle 1994-1995
Gordy Berry-Obba Babatunde 1994
Duane-Branford Marsalis 1994
Jewel Robertson-Karen Malina White 1994
Joel-Jeff Maynard 1995-1996
Arthel Neville as herself 1995-1996
Louise Jefferson-Isabel Sanford 1995-1996
Michelle-Monica Allison 1995
Pat-Marci Brickhouse 1995
Steve-Zachery Ty Bryan 1995
Mr. Wilmore-Christopher Carroll 1995
Sylvia-Elayn J. Taylor 1995
Frank-Allan Wasserman 1996
In 1989, when Will Smith was approached and signed to a contract by NBC, he was in desperate need of the money. During the earlier 80’s he had become both a successful and a popular rapper, but due to his overspending as well as underpaying his income taxes, the IRS had penalized him for the amount of $2.8 million dollars. The agency also garnished his income and seized many of his belongings. Had it not been for the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, Smith would more than likely have gone bankrupt.
The theme song was performed by Will Smith.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith’s future wife, actually auditioned for the role of “Lisa”, Will’s girlfriend on the show, but was told that she was too short.
Philip Banks was ranked #34 on TV Guide’s list of “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time”.
Janet Hubert-Whitten, who played the role jof “Vivian Banks”, for the first 3 season, left the show due to increasing problems between her, Smith and the producers.
The show was actually cancelled after season 4, however, fan reaction and letters written to both NBC and Will Smith, caused them to change their minds and renew it. The show lasted for two more seasons, and not one, but that was also partially due to the fact that TV station managers, agreed to buy the fifth and sixth seasons at a very inflated price, due to how well the show was doing in reruns. Because of this, NBC would not lose money if they picked up the show for a sixth and final season, so they did!
When Smith says the line “Aww come on Uncle Phil, you gonna ruin my rep!”, it is actually a paraphrase of the lines from the song, “Parent’s Just Don’t Understand”, which is a song of Will Smith’s in real life.
Will Smith is the only actor to have 8 films consecutively gross over $100 million dollars in the domestic box office.
Jeff Townes, who played the role of “Jazz”, was actually a childhood friend of Smith’s, as well as a musical partner of his later on.
With the last season of the show, Tatyana Ali started preparing for her musical career debut. Her first album, “Kiss The Sky” was certified gold in 1999.