According to Will Smith in an interview, the reason for his character being named "Will Smith" was that, during the creation of the show, he and Alfonso Ribeiro were brainstorming names for their characters. Alfonso remarked that Will had to be careful in naming his character, as people would refer to him in public by that name for the rest of his life, and suggested that he name the character "Will Smith".
As it required on-location shooting, only one shot of Jazz being thrown out of the house was done (with only a few exceptions). Therefore, to avoid continuity errors, it is made sure that Jazz is always wearing the same shirt in episodes where he's thrown out.
Tatyana Ali is said to have been very doubtful of Will Smith's acting potential during the earliest episodes of the show, saying that he constantly messed up his lines. Because of this, there was slight tension between them while on set.
Will Smith's character name in the show is actually different than in real life. In the show, he is "William" Smith, in real life he's "Willard" Smith. This is referred to when one of Will's girlfriend's father calls him Williard as a joke.
The part of Aunt Vivian Banks was portrayed by two different actresses during the series run. 'Janet Hubert-Whitten' portrayed the original Vivian during seasons 1-3, but growing problems between Will Smith, the producers, and Hubert-Whitten caused her to depart in 1994. The producers offered Hubert-Whitten a 12/25 contract for season four, but she declined. Daphne Maxwell Reid replaced her in the role from 1994-1996, seasons 4-6.
Despite portraying himself as "Will Smith" on the show as being a charismatic, self-confident playboy, Will Smith has admitted to behaving nothing like the title character he played. Smith said that he was, in reality, a shy, awkward teen who was very insecure about approaching and dating girls.
May have been the first TV series saved from cancellation by pleas from TV-station managers. The show aired its 1990-1994 episodes in syndication after the fourth season while running the fifth season on network. At the end of that season, NBC wanted to pull the plug because the new episodes were getting a mediocre 8.6 rating. But the reruns were drawing a 7.4, extremely good for an ad-hoc collection of shows you've seen three or four times, and the managers of the local stations thought they might have one of those "phenom" series where people religiously watch their favorite episodes and a lot of them. To avoid over-running the shows they already had (about a hundred, already run three times), the station managers agreed to buy the fifth and sixth seasons at a greatly inflated price (adding 50 more shows to their libraries and helping avoid burning out the audiences) - meaning NBC would NOT lose money by picking up the show after all.
According to Alfonso Ribeiro, the whole cast was like one big family, except for Janet Hubert, who was difficult to work with and toxic to be around, and really killed the mood on set. James Avery corroborated. He recalled that constantly had to remind Hubert-Whitten that the show was The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, not "Philip and Vivian of Bel-Air."
During the fall of 1991-92 season, NBC gained two hit television shows to anchor their Monday night line-up ("Blossom" aired after "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"). To gain popularity between the two shows, Will Smith appeared in an episode as himself under the rap persona of The Fresh Prince. Several episodes later, Karyn Parsons showed up in an episode of "Blossom", as Hilary Banks. Parsons also appeared in the Patti LaBelle sitcom, "Out All Night" as her Fresh Prince character.
Jada Pinkett Smith tried out for the role of Lisa but was denied because of the height difference between her and Will Smith and due to a lack of chemistry between the two. Ironically, this is where the two first met and they would get married three years later.
During the earlier seasons of the show (particularly the first few episodes), Will Smith was placed under scrutiny as he was constantly being ridiculed and dismissed for his lack of acting skills. Executives at NBC noticed this and nearly fired him. However, the creators and producers of the sitcom saw strong potential in Smith, successfully convincing NBC to keep him on the show.
The third, fourth and fifth season finales were written to be a respectable farewell in case they didn't get another season. The sixth season finale was written with the full knowledge it would not continue.
Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons and James Avery are the only cast members to appear in every episode. (Karyn Parsons didn't have any new scenes in the episode "Love in an Elevator," but she appeared in flashback scenes, so she technically was absent from that episode only, although she did appear).
The show was actually cancelled during its fourth season, with "The Philadelphia Story" serving as the finale. The overwhelming response, with viewers writing in by the truckload to NBC and Will Smith, convinced the network to go back on this decision, allowing it to run for what became two more seasons.
The character of Vivian Banks was originally named Wendy Banks. The name was changed when Debbie Allen was brought in to direct the pilot episode. Debbie Allen's mother and daughter are both named Vivian, and she changed the character's name when Janet Hubert reminded her of her mother.
Real-life game show host Bob Eubanks appeared in an episode as a game show host on the fictitious game show titled 'Double Trouble' where Will, Carlton, and Jazz were all contestants trying to win a Corvette.
In the UK, the show was exclusively aired in 1991 on BBC Two up until the Summer 2004, originally in the DEF II programming block. The channel edited some of the episodes so that, like the pilot, the titles would comes before the beginning of the episode; this was indicated by the lack of credits in the first scene.
According to the episode "Lucky Charm", Carlton and Will are younger than what they are in real life. The character of Will was born on July 3, 1973, which would make him 17, and the character of Carlton was born on August 4, 1974, which would make him 15 when the eposode first aired. In reality, Will was born on September 25, 1968, making him 23 when the episode aired, and Alfonso was born on September 21, 1971, so Carlton would be 20 years old.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The show was originally canceled by NBC after the fourth season, with the series finale being the episode where Will moves back to Philadelphia. However, fan reaction and letters written to Will Smith and NBC persuaded them to renew the show and it ended up continuing for two more seasons.