MCU Star Don Cheadle Almost Scored a ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Spinoff Show

Don Cheadle is a multi-talented star who has appeared in many of the most critically-acclaimed films of the past several decades. Cheadle is one of the few actors in Hollywood who has earned rave reviews for not only his work in independent films but in big-budget Marvel movies as well. Still, there was a time when Cheadle’s career could have looked very different, with audiences knowing him best as “Ice Tray” rather than “War Machine.”

Don Cheadle smiling, looking off to the side, sitting in front of a blue background
Don Cheadle | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

How did Don Cheadle get started in acting?

Don Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1964. Cheadle’s family moved frequently when he was young, eventually settling in Colorado, where Cheadle ultimately graduated from high school. He was artistic, even as a young man, and was involved in theatre, music, and other student activities. Cheadle graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 1989, and immediately got to work on his film and television career.

Cheadle landed a variety of small parts in television and films in the late eighties, including the movie Colors. He also appeared in a few music videos, showing off his dancing abilities. Still, Cheadle didn’t manage to really make an impression on audiences until 1990, when he was cast in the hit television series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Don Cheadle could have had a ‘Fresh Prince’ spinoff series

In 1990, Don Cheadle appeared in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Will Smith. At the time, the series was one of the most popular shows on television, skyrocketing young Smith to stardom. Cheadle’s episode was titled “Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy,” and the actor portrayed the character Ice Tray, a good friend of Will and Hilary’s boyfriend.

As it turns out, Cheadle made quite an impression on showrunners. According to CinemaBlend, he later revealed that, in fact, he came very close to landing his own spinoff show: “You come to a table read Monday. Tuesday, rehearse. Wednesday, rehearse. Thursday, do it in front of a live audience. So by that Thursday, the producers said, ‘We actually want to do a spinoff around your character.’ And we shot a whole pilot. Didn’t get picked up.” The filmed pilot for the spinoff has, unfortunately, not been released, so fans have not gotten the opportunity to see Cheadle strut his stuff. Still, it wasn’t all downhill for Cheadle after that — he has gone on to enjoy a very lucrative film career

Don Cheadle’s impressive film career

Don Cheadle’s film career took off in the late nineties, and he quickly became one of the industry’s most well-respected voices. A few of his high-profile film roles in the late nineties include parts in movies such as Boogie Nights, Devil in a Blue Dress, and Out of Sight. In 2004, Cheadle appeared in the film Hotel Rwanda, a part that earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Many fans know him best as Marty Kaan in the hugely popular series House of Lies.

However, Cheadle’s most enduring legacy might be his role in the MCU. He replaced Terrence Howard as Rhodey/War Machine in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since appeared in six additional Marvel films, including the wildly popular Avengers: Endgame. Although his Marvel contract is reportedly up, fans loved his portrayal of War Machine, and it is possible that future films could include appearances from the acclaimed star. All in all, it is unlikely that Cheadle truly regrets not getting his own Fresh Prince spinoff — but it is fun to imagine the possibilities!