On the 30th anniversary of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” stars are recalling their time onset of the ’90s classic. One such star is Tyra Banks.
Banks appeared on season four as Jackie Ames, Will Smith’s ex-girlfriend from Philly. As a well-known runway model at the time, Banks wasn’t exactly accomplished in the acting industry. Her role on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was her first on television.
Her inexperience led to a disaster of an audition, yet she somehow still managed to snag the part. Coincidence? Certainly not.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Banks recalls “feeling dumb” at her audition for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” It seems that no one prepped her for the meeting, and she accidentally showed up dressed in character.
So I, like, put on, like, basketball shorts and, like, a big, huge T-shirt, you know, just kind of like a basketball girl. I walked in kind of around the way, no makeup.
Little did Banks know that this isn’t how things are done in Hollywood.
And then in the audition room, there’s, like, a line of chairs and there’s all of these actresses. And I swear everybody had on a little black dress and black heels and just looking gorgeous and face done, and I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re not supposed to dress like the character, you’re supposed to, like, be pretty and then they put the character on you later.’ I was sitting there feeling so dumb.
Despite being incredibly uncomfortable, she somehow managed to get a callback. You can see Banks’ first appearance on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in this clip:
Despite bombing at her audition, Banks was asked to meet with casting directors again later that day. This time she was accompanied by Smith, and read lines with the actor, all while still wearing her basketball getup. There’s a good chance that her supermodel status helped her get the role.
Show creators were likely looking for a familiar face to add to the cast and improve show ratings. Janet Hubert-Whitten, who was the first actress to play Vivian Banks, had also left the show at this time. Producers may have been looking for a way to distract fans from the change in the main cast. As the face of Cover Girl and one of the first black supermodels, Banks was the ideal choice.
Watch Tyra Banks and Will Smith recreate some of their favorite scenes from the show in this hilarious clip:
These decisions proved to be a success as season four of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” went on to be a fan favorite. There’s no word yet on whether or not Banks will appear in the reunion special set to air on HBO Max .