The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air is arguably one of if not the greatest sit-com of the ’90s. Fashion, shoes, all of the women who spent time on the show, the NBC show starring Will Smith is part of pop culture history. However, there is no more memorable episode of the Fresh Prince than the May 9, 1994 episode, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse.”
Yes, it’s THAT episode where Will’s dad comes back into his life and it’s the episode where THE scene of the show and arguably the scene that convinced us Smith was a hell of an actor happened.
“How come he don’t want me, man?”
The episode is about Will’s father Lou (Ben Vereen) returning to his son’s life after 14 years. The two plan a cross-country trip together but Uncle Phil (James Avery) being weary of it all. He even warns will that he shouldn’t get his hopes up. Lou abandoned him before, but Will, so caught up in the rush of having his dad back, brushes Uncle Phil aside, bristling with the jabs that Phil is not his real dad and that he’s jealous.
But as we’ve come to say, the best TV father figure came through when his nephew needed him the most — when the warnings came true.
Smith retold the story of that classic scene for the Rap Radar Podcast, saying, “James Avery was relentlessly on me to elevate. Like, James Avery wouldn’t give me a damn inch. Everything I said, everything I did for James Avery was like nope, not good enough.” Avery demanded “absolute committed perfection” from his young co-star, so when it came time to shoot the scene together, “I’m messing up the lines because I want it so bad,” Smith recalled. But Avery eventually calmed Smith down by telling him, “It’s already in there, you know what it is. Look at me, use me. Don’t act around me, act with me.”
It worked. Most people were crying in the audience watching the scene, same for Karyn Parsons who if you listen closely can be heard crying off-screen. When the two embraced, Avery whispered in Smiths’ ear: “Now that’s f*cking acting right there.”
Yes, we’re getting old — and yes, that scene STILL triggers eye sweat.