Will Smith Once Borrowed $10K From a Drug Dealer Friend to Pay His Overdue Taxes

Will Smith initially rose to stardom as a rapper but found himself broke and behind on taxes when he moved to Los Angeles and landed his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air acting gig. Smith admitted he was majorly in debt to the IRS and borrowed money from a drug dealer friend.

Will Smith smiling at the UK premiere of 'King Richard'
Will Smith | Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Will Smith said he ‘didn’t pay taxes’ and was in debt

Smith appeared on an episode of Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk with Dr. Ramani Durvasula to discuss the end of his feud with Janet Hubert, who played the original Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He touched on where he was at that time in his life.

Smith admitted he had been unkind to his former co-star and explained why. “I felt threatened,” he said. “At that point in my career, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air really saved my life. I had a few years in the music business, but I had lost all of my money, I didn’t pay taxes, I was in debt to the IRS, I had just flopped an album, you know, and The Fresh Prince represented life.”

Smith added, “So, on the little boy in me level, with Janet, I needed Mommy to think I was great, and then once I realized that she didn’t, my dragon woke up.”

Smith borrowed $10K from a drug dealer friend

In a November 2021 interview with Idris Elba, Smith discussed his memoir Will and revealed that he relied on a friend to pay back his overdue taxes.

Smith shared how he had failed to pay his taxes because he was broke. He had to “sell everything,” moved to LA, and borrowed $10,000 from a drug dealer friend.

“I’m not sure what the government is like with taxes in the U.K., but in the U.S. they take it seriously,” Smith said in a video posted on Metro. “So Uncle Sam wanted his money. I didn’t forget — I just didn’t pay.”

He continued, “I knew whatever my new life was going to be, I could feel it was going to be in Los Angeles. So I borrowed $10,000 from a friend of mine who was a purveyor of neighborhood pharmaceuticals.”

Smith added, “I borrowed $10,000 and I moved to Los Angeles and one time we were doing shows and I was trying to drum up some cash, so we were in Detroit and we were doing a show. I had met a guy named Benny Medina. You remember Arsenio Hall? I started to go there because everybody was on Arsenio Hall.”

How Will Smith landed the ‘Fresh Prince’ gig

Meeting Medina, who was “the real-life Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” was a blessing for Smith. Medina pitched the idea for the show to Smith and connected him with Quincy Jones.

Quincy Jones basically steamrolled me through the whole process without ever really auditioning me,” Smith explained during The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion on HBO Max.

“The only kind of audition I had was Quincy’s birthday, the show was an idea,” Smith shared. “Benny Medina had pitched me the idea. I was making music. They were like, ‘Come to Quincy’s house, we have this idea for a TV show.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll go to Quincy’s.’”

Jones wanted Smith to audition on the spot since the head of NBC was in attendance but Smith was hesitant and wanted a couple of weeks to prepare. Smith shared the story in a YouTube video and recalled how he asked Jones to schedule the meeting in a week.

The producer made a point that changed Smith’s mind. “The head of NBC is out there. I’ll get him to schedule for next week and then you know what’s gonna happen? Something’s gonna come up and then he’s gonna have to reschedule,” Jones told him.

“Or you can take 10 minutes right now and you can change your life forever,” Smith recalled the producer telling him.

Smith prepared in 10 minutes, auditioned at the party — and the rest is history.

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