I consider Will Smith being game to sing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song in any and all interviews one of life's greatest blessings. Someday, Smith will be 80 years old and I'll still expect him to rap about the kids starting trouble in his neighborhood. Nearly 28 years after the NBC series debuted in 1990, we finally know who we have to thank for Smith's iconic casting and the years of laughs we've had watching the show. In case you were wondering, we now have a legit explanation of how Will Smith became The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and his ex has a lot to do with it.
On his official YouTube channel (which, yes, is apparently a thing), Smith recently shared the story of how the TV opporunity came into his life, using creative video editing skills to keep viewers even more interested. The actor explained that following his first Grammy win in 1988, his next album with frequent collaborator DJ Jazzy Jeff completely flopped. As Smith says, "it went double plastic."
The professional roadblock led to Smith going broke and dealing with the difficult situation of having no money yet still being recognized as someone famous. Finally, his girlfriend at the time called him out, suggesting that he visit late-night show The Arsenio Hall Show, which had only recently begun airing. Smith's appearance on the show led to an encounter with Benny Medina, who I know as Tyra Banks' buddy who occasionally popped up to critique the women on America's Next Top Model (old-school ANTM, anyone?).
Medina's actual life paralleled the concept of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he pitched the idea as a TV series to Smith. With no acting experience, Smith was skeptical, but that meeting with Medina led to another meeting, but this time Smith met with musician Quincy Jones, who also served as an executive producer on the series.
Smith shared that after telling Jones that he was known in the music world as the Fresh Prince, the famed producer claimed that the name would be the title of their new series. Again, Smith was wary about the job, initially refusing to immediately audition for the role in Jones's living room. Jones (apparently drunk at the time) gave him a pep talk, insisting that official meetings with Fresh Prince's network, NBC, would only get delayed. So, Smith took a leap of faith and auditioned right then and there.
Three months later, Smith was filming the show's pilot episode, and in his video, he calls the moral of the casting story, "Always say yes and listen to your girlfriend." Well, ma'am, wherever you are, thank you for convincing Smith to get off his butt and chase down a random-seeming opportunity.
In a 1990 TODAY Show interview with Smith and Medina, Medina elaborated on why Smith was the perfect fit to bring his fictional self to life, saying:
I think Will has a real, unique ability in terms of acting. I think he's got a real appeal on the screen and mostly because of some of the things he had done originally in his videos and stuff like that.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ultimately ran for six seasons, concluding in 1996. Thanks to countless years of reruns, newer generations have discovered the show, making talk of a possible reboot inevitable in today's time. Earlier this year, TMZ reported that the company that owns the rights to the series was considering a Fresh Prince revival, claiming:
The company that owns the rights to Fresh Prince filed a few trademark applications seeking to lock down rights to 'Fresh Princess' for a television program and virtually every other media platform... No word on whether Will would be involved with a female-focused reboot.
However, Smith refuted these rumors, telling Entertainment Tonight:
Stuff had to go really wrong for there to be a Fresh Prince reunion special... Like, I don't know what would have to happen! Nah man, you can't touch stuff like that. It's so nostalgic for people - I'm not going nowhere near that.
I'm honestly thrilled that Smith will own up to being one of the few stars openly admitting that reboots aren't always a great idea. I'm cool with leaving The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as is, and hearing how Smith landed the role makes the magic of the original show even sweeter.
Besides, even if they tried, I don't think any new edition of this theme song could beat the true version, right?