It Was Based On A Real Person...Kinda (This One You Probably Already Knew)
The Fresh Prince of the title was Will Smith's stage name as one-half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. They had several jokey hit songs in their day and even won a couple of Grammys. Smith had not acted before, but NBC saw potential in his comic mugging in several music videos. So a show was created. Jazzy Jeff wasn't forgotten however as he appeared on Fresh Prince as Will's old Philly friend.
The Theme Song Was Co-Written By a Music Legend
That silly opening theme song, which recalls The Beverly Hillbillies' theme, was actually a collaboration between Will Smith and legendary record producer and musician Quincy Jones. Jones -- an executive producer on the series -- wrote the music while Smith wrote the jokey lyrics. You can see Quincy at the wheel of the taxi in the opening credit sequence.
The Show Saved Will Smith From Financial Ruin
Apparently, Smith's entrance into TV acting came with a financial gun to his head -- a gun wielded by the Internal Revenue Service. Smith's music career had led only to bankruptcy. It was then that Smith agreed to develop a show with NBC. For the first 3 seasons of 'Fresh Prince', 70 per cent of Smith's salary went to the IRS.
Carlton Can Really Dance....Really!
As the uptight cousin Carlton, actor Alfonso Ribeiro became famous for his enthusiastic and hilarious "Carlton Dance". Truth is, Ribeiro was an accomplished dancer who had even appeared as a Michael Jackson impersonator in a famous 1984 Pepsi commercial. Carlton finally got to display his dancing chops in a 1994 Fresh Prince episode in which the cast appeared on Soul Train. He was quite impressive.
There Were Two Aunt Vivs
Much like the two Darrens of Bewitched, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air featured two actresses in the role of Aunt Vivian. In the first 3 seasons, it was actress Janet Hubert. She left under mysterious circumstances. Some say it was due to her violating her contract by getting pregnant. But many have also alleged friction between her and Will Smith. Hubert has confirmed the friction, but also claims she left because the show didn't offer her more than 10 episodes a year. She has not returned for any 'Fresh Prince' reunions. She was replaced for the final three seasons by actress Daphne Maxwell Green, though few viewers noticed.
Everyone Did Fresh Prince!
The sitcom was known for its celebrity cameos featuring famous people from the sports, music, and movie worlds. Among those appearing as themselves or in roles were William Shatner, Boyz II Men, Don Cheadle, Regis Philbin, Donald Trump, Hugh Hefner, Milton Berle, Richard Roundtree, Queen Latifah, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Bo Jackson, Heavy D, and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Chris Rock Guest Starred In A Dress!
The strangest guest star role had to be Chris Rock's dual part as a famous comic (no stretch there) and his sister. The joke in this final season episode was that Will agreed to take the comic's sister out on the town only to discover she was...well....rather scary. Chris Rock in a wig and a dress is simply not pretty.
Geoffrey The Butler Was In Fact A Butler
The proper English butler Geoffrey (Joseph Marcell, pictured left) took a lot of abuse from Will and the family on this show. Yet, Geoffrey rarely lost his cool. That was sort of the joke. What you may not know, however, was that Geoffrey had a last name that reflected his lot in life - Butler. Less appropriate was his middle name of Barbara.
The Fresh Prince Of No Emmy Love
It's not a total surprise that The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air never won an Emmy for Best Comedy. The show was always more popular than it was critically-acclaimed. The big surprise is that, beyond a lighting nomination in 1996, the show received no Emmy nominations. None. Not one for Will Smith (who carried the show on his back) or the supporting cast, or the writers or directors or even a darn guest star. Just that one lighting nomination.
The Fresh Prince Came Back From The Dead
Season Four was supposed to be the final season of Fresh Prince. NBC had cancelled it officially, and the final episode saw Will moving back to Philadelphia to live with his mom. But fan protests seemed to change the network's mind. So, for the jokey opening of Season Five, an NBC official was seen kidnapping Will and forcing him back to Bel-Air. Awkward plot line solved. The show would continue for two more seasons, at which point Smith decided he wanted to pursue a movie career. The show ended with the entire family moving out of Bel-Air and on with their lives.