It’s one of the most memorable moments in the show’s history.
There are hundreds of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air moments that can be classified as iconic, but one of the hit show’s more emotional scenes happened on season four’s 24th episode. It was there that Will’s father, Lou (played by Ben Vereen), returns after abandoning his son 14 years prior, only to build his son up with false promises before walking out on him yet again.
Believe it or not, it’s been 25 years since that episode aired on May 9, 1994, and Fresh Prince fans worldwide are revisiting the television moment that left them in tears. Last year, Smith sat down with TIDAL’s Rap Radar Podcast and talked about how he worked on the scene with his castmates, revealing that he had to dig deep in order to make the exchange believable. It was the late James Avery, also known as Uncle Phil, who helped him work through his frustrations and deliver the scene we all see today.
“So we’re doing that scene and I’m having a hard time,” Smith explains. “‘Cause we were rehearsing and everything so…and then it comes to the moment and we’re in the scene together, right. So I’m doing it, I’m messing up the lines ’cause I want it so bad and I’m in front of the audience and I’m doing it and I’m furious and he holds on to me and he says, ‘Hey, relax. Relax. It’s already in there. You know what it is…Look at me. Use me. Don’t act around me. Act with me.’ So he’s talking me through it and everything. I get it together. So I do the scene and then he hugs me at the end. While he’s hugging me he whispers in my ear. He says, ‘That’s f*cking acting right there.'”
Smith mentions that while working with Avery he was a young man constantly looking for Avery’s favor. The rapper-actor held Avery in such high regard and used that in the scene. “It makes me teary right now because it was like I was using…I was using him. I wanted him to want me. I wanted him to approve of me. So actually in that scene with him I was transferring that energy onto James Avery.”
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