Will Smith is one of those guys who we imagine has had the perfect career. Music star. TV legend. Big-time movie man as well.
But, according to a new video from the man himself, his path to success wasn’t as simple as we might think.
In a new YouTube clip, Smith, 49, tells the incredible story of how he landed his role on the iconic ‘90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Smith recounts how in the late 1980s he was on the top of the world after the success of his Grammy-winning, breakout single ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’ (a classic) with his partner DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Then, as so often happens, came the second album, which was… a flop.
Smith had spent all his cash and couldn’t afford to pay his tax bill to the IRS. Broke and with nothing to do (“Being famous and broke is a shitty combination,” Smith said), he took the advice of his girlfriend to appear on the late-night talk show The Arsenio Hall Show, where he met producer and executive Benny Medina.
Medina, whose own story served as the basis for Fresh Prince, pitched an idea for a show (Smith saying, “Yeah, I’m not an actor”).
Smith soon found himself at a party with the show’s producer Quincy Jones and the head of NBC Brandon Tartikoff.
After a boozy introduction, Quincy asked Smith to audition on the spot, something that made him very nervous.
The music mogul told him: “You could wait three weeks. Or you could take 10 minutes right now and you could change your life forever.”
“I was like, ‘Fuck it then,’ Smith said. “Yes, give me 10 minutes.’ I said yes, and I let it rip, and I got to the end, and everybody’s clapping.”
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Soon Quincy ordered that the Fresh Prince contracts be drawn up and the rest is, well, history.
“The moral of the story is always say yes and I guess listen to your girlfriend,” Smith joked.
Here’s the video in full…