Tyra Banks discusses feeling 'so dumb' at her audition for 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

Nick Paschal
·Supervising Producer, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

It's been 30 years since Will Smith became royalty on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Back on Sept. 10, 1990, Smith officially crossed over from rapper to actor, and while he still put out music after that, Smith quickly skyrocketed to movie-star status after the success of The Fresh Prince.

In case the early '90s were a little before your time, the show featured Smith, whose character grew up on the streets of Philadelphia and moved to a fancy neighborhood in Los Angeles to live with his aunt and uncle after getting into some trouble back home. The sitcom showcased Smith's affable personality, and became a huge hit that went on for six seasons.

Although, Season 4 was extra super thanks to one of the world's biggest supermodels — Tyra Banks. The role of Smith's ex-girlfriend from Philly was Banks's first acting gig, and she opened up to Yahoo Entertainment about the audition that had her 'feeling so dumb."

THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR -- "Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Part 1 & 2" Episode 1&2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks, Tyra Banks as Jackie Ames, Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way: Part 1 & 2" -- Pictured: (l-r) Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks, Tyra Banks as Jackie Ames, Will Smith as William 'Will' Smith (Photo: NBCU Photo Bank)

Banks said that all she knew about the character was that she was an ex-girlfriend from Philly and she played basketball. "So I, like, put on, like, basketball shorts and, like, a big, huge T-shirt," Banks explained, "You know, just kind of like a basketball girl. I walked in kind of around the way, no makeup."

But when Banks arrived at her audition, she was in for a big surprise. "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."

Even though Banks felt dumb, it didn't matter to the casting director who asked her to come back later for another audition. "So then hours later [I] go back and then Will Smith is in the room," said Banks. "And I read with him, didn't know what the hell I was doing. Just trying to read the thing and just be as natural as possible."

Whatever Banks did, it worked because she got the role of Jackie Ames and appeared as a recurring character throughout Season 4.

If you’re looking for a show to binge and want to check out old episodes of The Fresh Prince, you can find them on HBO Max.

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