“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” may have cast Will Smith as its leading star, but actor and co-star Alfonso Ribeiro is equally responsible for creating iconic moments on the show.
Ribeiro, who played the preppy Carlton Banks to Smith’s character Will, recently told “Looper” one of his fondest memories from the show was when he did the unexpected and took the cast and audience by surprise during season 5.
“The end of the episode Carlton runs through the audience and runs through the different sets. And he gets down on his knees and he pulls himself across the floor and he’s screaming the whole time,” Ribeiro recalled.
The dramatic antics were a result of Carlton believing a prank he pulled on Will had resulted in his cousin killing love interest Lisa. Overcome with shock, Carlton takes off, causing everyone to burst into hysterical laughter.
“No one knew that we were going to do that, the other cast members. I went to the director, Shelley Hanson, and I said, ‘I want to do something and have some fun. It’s the end of the show. Let’s just be silly,’” Ribeiro explained. “And I told him what I was going to do. I just said, ‘Hey, put your camera here, put the camera here. And let’s just go.’ And so the show came to the end and I did it. And I never thought that it would ever be aired on TV.”
The “America’s Funniest Videos” host believes the moment not only helped make for a long-lasting laugh, but also gave him a new perspective on his character. “It was like, ‘Oh, we can have some fun and laugh and the audience can laugh with us.’”
Clips of the episode that aired in 1994 still garner fan comments to this day.
“Alfonso was great for doing this, but credit to the producers for leaving it in the final cut of the episode,” reads a comment on YouTube.
Another person wrote, “It might have been Will Smith’s show in a sense but Alfonso made me laugh more times than I can remember. This one had me laughing so hard, I was literally in tears.”
Though the show ended in 1996, Ribeiro has never been able to shake his former character’s signature moves, the Carlton dance, from his repertoire. “When you do a role like Carlton and people love the role and you do the job so well that they essentially tell you that you can’t do it anymore because we can’t see you as anything else, is a very difficult thing to deal with,” he told Atlanta Black Star in an interview last month.
And while Ribeiro says the onus is mostly on the actor to prove they can portray an array of characters, fan support does help them avoid the pitfalls of typecasting.
“Really, if you’re a fan of somebody on a show, and they do something else, make it a priority to go watch whatever it is they’re doing even though it’s not what you’re used to seeing them do,” Ribeiro said.