Will Smith (character)
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character|
|First appearance||"The Fresh Prince Project"|
|Last appearance||"I, Done (Part 2)"|
|Portrayed by||Will Smith|
|Family||Vy Smith-Wilkes (mother)
Lou Smith (father; only seen once)
Phillip Banks (uncle)
Vivian Banks (aunt)
Hilary Banks (cousin)
Carlton Banks (cousin)
Ashley Banks (cousin)
Nicky Banks (cousin)
Helen Smith (aunt)
Janice Smith (aunt)
Fred Wilkes (stepfather)
Lisa Wilkes (former fiance/stepsister)
Concept and characteristics
The character of Will Smith is loosely based on the life of actor Will Smith (although in the show 'Will' is short for William, while in reality it is short for Willard). Smith's charming and mischievous personality earned him the nickname "Prince," which eventually became "Fresh Prince". Smith became a successful rapper, but lost most of his money because of poor budgeting. When NBC signed Smith up for the sitcom, he was almost bankrupt, and it immediately launched his acting career.
As the show's theme song suggests, Will was born and raised in West Philadelphia. He spent most of his time chilling, relaxing, or playing basketball on the playground outside of the school. One day, a couple of guys, including a kid named Omar, visited the basketball court where Will played. These guys were up to no good, as they were just beginning to make trouble in Will's neighborhood. When an errant basketball shot ricocheted off the rim and onto Omar's head, this prompted Omar and his entourage to literally lift and spin Will over his head in retaliation. Because of this one little fight, Will's mother got scared, and she told Will that he would be moving to his aunt and uncle's house in Bel-Air, California. Will pleaded with his mom to stay, but she insisted on sending him out West, although Will at least got to fly first class on his trip, and he got to drink orange juice out of a champagne glass. When he arrived in California, he hailed a cab, and the one that stopped for him had a vanity plate that said "FRESH". Inside, the cab had dice hanging from the rear-view mirror. At first, Will thought that it was rare for a cab to have such features, but then he brushed that thought aside and told the cabbie to take him home, to Bel-Air. The cab pulled up to the Banks' home around 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening of Will's arrival, at which time Will was glad to finally get out of the cab. After paying the driver, Will said to the cabbie, "Smell you later!" As Will looked at the mansion where he would now be living, he knew that he had finally arrived in his "kingdom," to sit on the throne as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Following Will's arrival in Bel-Air, he was a great distance from home and was considered an outsider by many people in his Bel-Air neighborhood. Early on, he had a picture of Malcolm X on his wall. He often disagrees with his cousin Carlton, whom he sees as not quite "black" enough because he doesn't talk in the fashion like other blacks from his perspective. Despite their differences, Will grows extremely close to the Banks family. Will was often depicted as being immature, egotistical, and hedonistic. He was a frequent womanizer who shows more interest in his own personal pleasures than his academic studies, although at times he has shown surprising moments of intelligence and academic success; in fact, he got the highest score on his S.A.T. scores and was offered a scholarship to Princeton but turned it down. Will is, however, good-hearted and never means any malice. He had more negative actions because of his immaturity and lack of foresight, rather than unkindness. In the show, Will's age changes very slowly throughout the series; for the first three seasons, he is said to be 17 and does not turn 18 until the fourth season, and was 19 by season five; however this would eventually contradict the season one episode "Lucky Charm", in which Will says his birthday is July 3, 1973 (given that Will doesn't turn 20? He goes to Vegas on Carlton's 21st. He would have to be twenty one. until the sixth and final season, which aired during the 1995–96 television season). Although he often teases the Banks, especially Carlton and Philip, he cares for them deeply and always tries to make up for what he does wrong. He is closest to Ashley, (who said himself in "Will Gets A Job", that if he had a choice in which of Uncle Phil's children he'd be like it would be Ashley) who admires Will and is more understanding of the different lifestyles they have.
While Smith sometimes perceives Phil as being overprotective of Ashley, he himself also can be; when Ashley asks him about sex, Will became shocked by Ashley's inquiry, which led him and Carlton to go to a clinic to talk to a doctor about how to discuss sex with Ashley. His father, Lou, who had abandoned him at childhood, returns in the episode "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse". His dad promises to take him on the road with him, but later drops Will, which makes him upset. It was by then he realized Philip was the closest to a father he ever had.
Though Will often teases his Uncle Phillip due to his weight and age, he genuinely respects Phillip as a father figure and fiercely defends him when his image or integrity are attacked by outsiders, especially in season 3's "Asses to Ashes". In episode "Bullets Over Bel Air", Will is shot at a bank ATM protecting Carlton from a robber. Carlton then feels that Will could have died because of him. During one of Will's visits back to his old neighborhood, he confronts the old park thug, Omar, to restore his damaged reputation. When Will challenges him, he is startled when a reformed Omar refuses to fight back. Omar shuns Will, and through him Will gradually realizes that his reputation is not important. At the conclusion of the show's run, the Banks family decided to settle in New York, while Will remained in Los Angeles to finish his last year of college. Will eventually has become considered a close member of the Banks family and a better man throughout the series end. Will delivers the last line of dialogue in the series "I am definitely going to miss you, C."
UGO editor Bryan Enk praised Will Smith's role as the character, stating "Rarely has there been a television series so perfectly tailor-made for its star than The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air [...] Fresh Prince fit Will Smith like a glove; it was obviously a showcase for him, but his co-stars were just as good, and Smith never hogged the spotlight (or the camera), allowing each cast member to shine in every episode."
- Bryan Enk (November 17, 2008). "Biography - UGO.com". Retrieved 2012-01-21.
- Season 1, episode 1 The Fresh Prince Project
- "The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air Theme Song (Full)". YouTube. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
- Bryan Enk (November 17, 2008). "10. Becoming the Prince of Bel-Air - UGO.com". Retrieved 2012-01-21.