Will Smith‘s long-awaited and much-hyped memoir Shall was released on November 9 and contains many memories, musings and confessions of the star with multiple hyphens. As reported by Weekly entertainment, the project that turned Smith from rapper to TV lead, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is discussed in detail in the book. The now 53-year-old talks about the moment he knew the show had to end, the advice behind his character’s name and the castmate he once unsuccessfully asked. Read on to find out which fellow actor Will Smith wanted to date early in his career and why it didn’t work out.
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Karyn Parsons was cast fair prince as Hilary Banks, Will’s status-obsessed and volatile older cousin. She had had a few minor roles in TV shows and movies before the sitcom premiered in 1990, but Hilary was her first major role. Smith notes in the book, per THATthat Parsons”beat a slew of big Hollywood hitters” who were also up for the part.
She was 24 to Smith’s 22 the year the show aired. And she was married to a soap actor from 1987 to 1990 Randy Brooks.
While Will and Hilary have a hostile, loving family relationship, Smith clearly thought differently about Parsons in real life — at least in the early days.
he writes in Wsick that Parsons “was smart enough to say ‘hell no’ to me when I was trying to explain that we weren’t really cousins, so it would be good if we went out.” He continues: “‘I swear it won’t ruin our working relationship.’ She knew better that – good talk, KP”
Parson’s well-motivated rejection didn’t negatively affect that working relationship, and it appears the two have remained friends since the show as well.
In a 2019 interview with Red Carpet News, Parsons said of her former co-star, “He’s got charisma like crazy, right? He’s just incredibly charismatic, so smart, very smart and quick-witted and funny. He just is. People always say, ‘How are you?’ It’s exactly what you see. That guy? That’s Will.”
In ShallSmith addresses his first and last attempt at Method acting (living as a character, even off-screen) in his first major film, 1993’s Six degrees of separation. He learned that the acting method wasn’t for him when he found himself getting way too absorbed in the role, to the point where he “fell in love” with co-star Stockard Channing. While nothing happened between the actors and Channing may not even have been aware at the time, his feelings did affect his marriage to the first wife. Sheree Zampinowho had just given birth to their son, Trey.
“After the film wrapped, Sheree and Trey and I moved back to LA. Our marriage had a rough start,” Smith writes in an excerpt published by People. “I found myself desperate to see and speak to Stockard.”
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Smith and wife of 23 years Jada Pinkett Smith could have been a couple on and off screen – only she didn’t score the fair prince role she auditioned for. The future couple first met in 1994 when Jada came up with the role of Will’s girlfriend Lisa, eventually played by Nia Long. As for why she didn’t get it? Producers reportedly thought she was too short at 5’0″ to pair with a 6’2″ Smith.
In the book, Smith co-stars Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks, credit for his character’s name.
“Take it from me,” he remembers Ribeiro’s statement. “‘Give your character your name, Will Smith. Because people will call you that for the rest of your life.'”
And he credits another actor for helping him understand when it was time to leave the show and invest more fully in his burgeoning film career. He writes about a conversation he had with John Amos, who played Lisa’s father Fred in some episodes of fair prince. At that point, Smith was already debating whether to pull the plug: He’d seen a season 5 storyline about Will being shot just as the show “jumped the shark,” or he’d run out of ideas. And they came on season 6 – the last one the cast was hired for. Amos’s character James was murdered during his show Good times due to a contract dispute, and Amos told Smith he wouldn’t want him to have the same unfinished business or abrupt exit.
“‘None of these executives, producers or businessmen care about your family,'” Smith recalled. “‘Don’t let them ruin all your hard work and passion. It’s your responsibility to make sure these people can leave this show with some dignity.'”
With that in mind, Smith decided to end the show on his own terms. He told the cast ahead of season 6 so that they would have the year to think about what they wanted to do next. In 2020, the cast celebrated the 30th anniversary of the show’s premiere with an HBO Max reunion special.
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