Will Smith Reveals Key Advice That Convinced Him To End The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

will sad on couch on the fresh prince of bel-air
(Image credit: HBO Max)

The decision to end a successful television show is rarely an easy one in most cases. And if you’re the star of the show, I’d imagine the decision becomes even more complicated. Will Smith starred in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for all six seasons of the NBC sitcom — 148 episodes — alongside James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons and more. Smith, whose character shared the same name (and freshness quotient) as the actor, recently published a new memoir, Will, in which he opened up about the decision to close out the popular '90s series and revealed the legendary actor who gave him the fateful, F-bomb-y advice.

Good Times icon John Amos made a guest appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for three episodes in Season 5 as Fred Wilkes, who eventually married Will’s mother. The father-son relationship seemed to move off-screen, in a way, as well. Will Smith said that during a break in one of the episode's rehearsals, the two actors took a walk, during which Amos doled out the advice that would change Smith’s life. He recalled what Amos told him that day in his memoir Will (via EW):

None of these execs, or producers, or businesspeople, give a shit about your family. Do not let them fuck off all of your hard work and passion. It is your responsibility to make sure these people get to leave this show with some dignity.

Will Smith knew that was very much a lesson John Amos had learned the hard way. Among Amos’ numerous roles was his 61-episode role as James Evans on the aforementioned Good Times, which famously ended when Amos was involved in a contract dispute at the end of Season 3. James was killed off of the CBS sitcom in a car accident, which one one of the more controversial sitcom moments of the era. 

The multi-hyphenate entertainer said he remembered watching that play out on Good Times, and it was a sobering reminder to take care of yourself and your family — biological or otherwise — and maintain control of your own fate, since there are no guarantees in Hollywood. In Will, Will Smith said John Amos’ words gave him what he needed to make the decision to end The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he moved quickly.

I had remembered even as a child being jarred by James Evans's death on Good Times. As a kid, I wouldn't have used the word 'dignity,' but in retrospect there was a sense of disrespect that my heart sensed. As a fan, I felt insulted and abused by the narrative. John's character was unceremoniously killed off, and almost twenty years later the man himself spoke the word that fit the hole in my heart. The whole shit was undignified. I even sensed John's pain, that maybe he had failed his TV family. The next week, I gathered my cast together. I told everyone that season six would be our final season and that they should take the year to make whatever plans or preparations they felt necessary. I promised them that we would go out with style and grace.

Steady employment and a successful television show certainly aren't things to take for granted, especially when they but Will Smith was lucky to have people around him like John Amos to help him read the writing on the wall and make decisions that would hopefully benefit him and his co-stars in the long run. Smith’s new memoir Will is available now, and you can soon catch him as Venus and Serena Williams’ dad in King Richard

John Amos, for his part, is still going strong at 81, with multiple projects in the works. He appeared in Coming to America 2 earlier this year, and if you want to go back and watch the two talents on the small screen again, all seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are currently available for streaming on HBO Max.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.