Imagine The Fresh Prince With No Hilary or Carlton. It Almost Happened…
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the debut episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” an NBC-aired television show that not only helped launch the career of Will Smith but also cultivated a strong Hip-Hop presence in American living rooms throughout its six-year run. In recent years, a nostalgic eye and ear have been tuned into the show, most sadly when actor James Avery (who played Uncle Phil) passed away on the last day of 2013. Many tributes for the 25th anniversary have been more celebratory, including the reports of a reboot. Now, one of the show’s leading stars has shared her story with ABC as she recounts the highs and lows of being part of such a historic piece of pop culture.
Karyn Parsons, better known to fans of the show as Hilary Banks, provided fans with a wonderfully personal recounting of her experience playing her character, beginning with the audition process. Once she landed the role she apparently learned there almost was no Hilary character, based on the sentiments of an executive at the network. “I was also told later on that Brandon Tartikoff, who was the president of NBC at the time, had said, ‘I don’t really understand the sister character, I think we should probably lose that character,” she shares. “Luckily, the team was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait till this actress comes in.’ They meant me.”
Hilary turned out to be an integral role in the show as did Carlton, her brother, played by Alfonso Ribiero. While impossibly hard to imagine now, his character was also allegedly on the chopping block. Parsons divulged that another executive, network VP Warren Littlefield, had a bit of trouble grasping the Carlton character. “There was a period that was really tense,” she says. “They were going to get rid of Carlton. In the writing, the character was changing a lot and it wasn’t really clear who he was…But Alfonso came in there and put his foot in it, and made that character what it was. It’s hard to tell, because he played such a goofy character, but Alf, he’s so sharp and so talented. He crafted that role into what it is today.”
Parsons’ anecdotes go far beyond the characters on the show, as she discusses the relationships between the real-life stars, her first impressions of the cast members, the ensuing family that was built off screen, and what she has been up to since the show. To read her story in its entirety, visit ABC News.