When you think of memorable ‘90s sitcom characters, there are probably plenty that come to mind. This could include charming schemer Zack Morris, clumsy but well-meaning nerd Steve Urkel and sassy maid Fran Fine. Another character who also stands as a symbol of pop culture is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s Carlton Banks, who was perfectly played by Alfonso Ribeiro. The actor would star on the Will Smith-led sitcom for six successful seasons, and he would become incredibly recognizable to TV watchers. However, despite mostly enjoying his time on the show, the actor has revealed that there was a time when he resented his famous role.
It didn’t take long for Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton Banks to become a hit with viewers, as the character’s preppy but lovable personality was fun to watch. But because the character was so specific, Ribeiro admits that landing other roles was difficult:
For me, it’s a career. It’s a life. It’s what I have. It’s what’s going to put food on my family’s table. And somebody says, ‘You can’t do it because we think of you as that guy.’ So there was a lot of resentment for that character and for that time on that show.
Type casting is something that happens frequently in Hollywood, and it was definitely the case for Alfonso Ribeiro during and after his tenure on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Even after the show, he went on to play a similar character on UPN’s In the House.
Aside from the scarcity of acting roles, Ribeiro explained to The Ringer that he also ran into another problem with Carlton. Given the character’s rich upbringing and occasionally snobby nature, he was sometimes referred to as a sellout, something that was explored on the show. Carlton proved to have depth as a character, yet many began to think that Ribeiro had the same personality:
The idea that people look at me and are like, ‘You’re that white kid, you ain’t Black,’ you know, I’m like, ‘Whatever.’ Do you know me? Yeah? Tell me the first thing about me. ‘You like Tom Jones.’ Before the character, I’d never even heard of Tom Jones. I grew up listening to Run-DMC and Afrika Bambaataa.
Alfonso Ribeiro had quite a few hurdles to jump after starring on Fresh Prince but, thankfully, his career has more than turned around in recent years. Not only did he find success as a director, but he’s also become a major TV personality as the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
It’s a shame Alfonso Ribeiro had to go through so much, but it’s good to know he’s turned a corner in his career. And it’s also nice that he still maintains affection for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and his character, Carlton dance and all.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is available to stream on HBO Max.