The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was broadcast from 1990 to 1996, and featured the catchiest opening theme of its era. When you look at the acclaim its star Will Smith has achieved in the field of acting -25 feature films so far- it’s hard to believe he was ever a greenhorn. But going into the sitcom in 1990, no one could predict what would happen in the future. Here's a little of what did happen then:
1. Will Smith only agreed to star in the show because he was in serious debt to the IRS.
Smith gained widespread fame as the rapper The Fresh Prince, and with that fame came a significant jump in income. Unfortunately, Smith didn't manage his money wisely or pay enough in income taxes, and he owed the government a whopping $2.8 million. The IRS seized most of his belongings, including his income. The Fresh Prince almost declared bankruptcy—until producer Quincy Jones picked him to star in a new series, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was born.
2. And he had to pay up.
The IRS forced Smith to pay them 70 percent of his salary over the first three seasons.
3. He was almost a total novice.
Smith only had one other TV production under his belt—as a t-shirt salesman on an ABC after school special—when he accepted a role on The Fresh Prince, and is embarrassed by his earliest performances on the show. He had never been formally trained as an actor, and—in some cases—his lack of experience was painfully obvious. "I was trying so hard," he said. "I would memorize the entire script, then I'd be lipping everybody's lines while they were talking. When I watch those episodes, it's disgusting. My performances were horrible."
There are a lot more great tidbits in the list of 20 Things You Might Not Know About The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at mental_floss, such as Geoffrey’s full name, the inspiration for the Carlton dance, and the show’s various guest stars.