The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is a 1990s sitcom that stars Will Smith as a fictionalized version of himself. The much-acclaimed show recently completed its 30th anniversary. There are around 148 episodes over six seasons, but one episode titled Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse made many fans emotional. Now the team has revealed the story behind the emotional episode.
Season four, episode 24 of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is remembered highly by the fans. Especially for its infamous hug scene, where Will Smith’s debut lead character expresses his emotions to his uncle. The comedy series is said to reach an emotional depth in the episode, which they did not explore earlier.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse, shows the return of Smith’s father, Lou played by Ben Vereen. Even though he comes back after 14-years of absence, Will Smith did not create a riot but exhibited understanding nature by playing it cool. However, Lou’s comeback was short-lived as he leaves his son for the second time. Will lets him go without any drama.
As Lou goes away, Will cannot control his emotion. He breaks down and cries while he talks to his father-figure uncle Phil, portrayed by James Avery. “How come he don’t want me, man?” says Will with heartbrokenness. Phil grabs Will and hugs him displaying his love. Will Smith’s emotional performance was applauded by many and the scene became memorable.
The iconic episode and hug were not going to happen at all as the writers had penned down a different script. In an interview with The Washington Post, writer David Zuckerman who penned down Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse episode, with writer Bill Boulware, revealed that they initially had a different script. They tried to make Lou “not a bad guy,” sympathetically. Zuckerman said that Will Smith did not like it at all and it was not one of their best moments. The new script then features Lou as a “guy that just wasn’t cut out to be father,” and a troubled trucker.
Episode director Shelley Jensen, who worked on the series for all six seasons stated that the episode transformed Will Smith as an actor and he took acting to another level. He said that it was that specific episode for him as a director that he saw Will connect and make it work. Jensen mentioned that his acting from that moment on improved dramatically. The filmmaker noted that the fatherhood episode was pivotal as Will grew as “a man and as an actor” through the series run.
Ben Veeran recalled that he broke down behind-the-scene due to his interaction with Will Smith, the scene and their performances. He mentioned that when Will called his dad Lou, “oh my God, his whole frame just shrunk” because he realized at that point that he had lost his son. “Whew, that was deep,” said Veeran. The actor stated that everyone on set was all in the moment. He noted that it was almost like time stood still.
In a 2018 podcast interview with Rap Radar, Will Smith said that late James Avery was relentless on him to elevate. “He wouldn’t give me a damn rich,” the actor said. Will mentioned that Avery was a model for him as an actor. He had the “acting power” that Will have wanted. Will Smith recalled that he was messing up with the lines because he wanted it so bad. He stated that James Avery influenced him. “Relax. It’s already in there, you know what it is. Look at me. Use me. Don’t act around me, act with me,” Smith described what Avery said to him while filming. Will Smith noted that while hugging him, Avery whispered in his ear, “that’s f***ing acting right there”. The actor asserted that he wanted James Avery to approve his performance.
Fans speculated that Will Smith improvised the final scene of the episode. In it, he breaks down emotional and loudly tells all of his milestones that he got through without his father, Lou. However, writer David Zuckerman said that he and Bill Boulware wrote “every word” of the scene. He stated that Will’s delivery was “so perfect” that it seemed like it was "in the moment". Zuckerman mentioned that the episode was unexpected. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was not a show that had done serious moments, he asserted. The writer noted that it was the first time the show just went there and stayed there and let it resonate.
Directed Shelley Jensen mentioned that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air audiences were usually fun and loud during a taping. Will Smith himself used to come and cheer up the audiences. But the fatherhood episode was completely different. He mentioned that the mood of the normally “wild show” audiences gave a “being in church” feel.
Get the latest entertainment news from India & around the world. Now follow your favourite television celebs and telly updates. Republic World is your one-stop destination for trending Bollywood news. Tune in today to stay updated with all the latest news and headlines from the world of entertainment.