Will Smith Calls Out This Fresh Prince Episode for Jumping the Shark

Will Smith reveals the moment he knew it was time to end The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Check out the surprising details, from his new memoir, Will.

By Jillian Fabiano Nov 09, 2021 7:29 PMTags
Watch: Will Smith Gives Tour of the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" Mansion

The prince of Bel-Air is now the king of tell-alls.

From wanting to date his co-star Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks), to making the decision to end The Fresh Prince of Bel–Air, Will Smith shares shocking secrets from his life and career in his new memoir, Will.

The hit sitcom, starring Smith, Parsons, Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Daphne Reid and James Avery, premiered in 1990 and aired until 1996, when we said goodbye to the beloved Banks family. In his memoir, Smith explains that there was good reason for the show to end after six seasons. "The storylines were becoming increasingly hokey and it was difficult to maintain the 'Freshness,'" the actor writes in his book. "Anyone who has ever been on a sitcom can tell you the episode in which their show jumped the shark." 

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Cast, Then and Now

"Ours was season 5, episode 15, 'Bullets Over Bel-Air,'" he continued, "the one in which I got shot and Carlton started carrying a gun. I had successfully fulfilled a promise to myself that I would never get caught in a cycle of deterioration without having the next thing on tap. The show could easily sustain another season, this was my family, I loved them. But a movie career was now a viable option, I was at a crossroads."

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The Grammy-winning rapper turned actor had a difficult decision to face: would he continue past season six, the last season the cast was on contract for? 

Hollywood legend and Fresh Prince guest star John Amos, who was killed off due to a contract dispute, brought some clarity to the situation, telling Smith, "None of these execs, or producers, or businesspeople, give a s--- about your family. Do not let them f--- off all of your hard work and passion. It is your responsibility to make sure these people get to leave this show with some dignity."

Smith took Amos' advice to heart, recalling his character's death on Good Times. 

"I had remembered even as a child being jarred by James Evans's death on Good Times. As a kid, I wouldn't have used the word 'dignity,' but in retrospect there was a sense of disrespect that my heart sensed. As a fan, I felt insulted and abused by the narrative. John's character was unceremoniously killed off, and almost twenty years later the man himself spoke the word that fit the hole in my heart. The whole s--- was undignified."

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Smith continues, "I even sensed John's pain, that maybe he had failed his TV family. The next week, I gathered my cast together. I told everyone that season six would be our final season and that they should take the year to make whatever plans or preparations they felt necessary. I promised them that we would go out with style and grace."

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