Will Smith Ended ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Because of ‘Good Times’ Star John Amos
In the final two seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith was already becoming a movie star. Bad Boys opened in 1995 during the fifth season, and Smith had completed Independence Day to open the summer of 1996 when he decided to end the show. And it was ultimately his decision. In Smith’s new autobiography, Will, he explains how Good Times star John Amos convinced him to wrap up Fresh Prince.
Will Smith saw the writing on the wall for ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
With The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, rapper Smith proved he could also be a successful actor. That wasn’t yet a given after his rap career with DJ Jazzy Jeff. But, by season 5, Smith had proven himself on television and would soon dominate movies also. That was the point when the show began to wear thin, Smith said.
“The storylines were becoming increasingly hokey and it was difficult to maintain the ‘Freshness,'” Entertainment Weekly reported from Smith’s book. “Anyone who has ever been on a sitcom can tell you the episode in which their show jumped the shark. Ours was season 5, episode 15, ‘Bullets Over Bel-Air,’ the one in which I got shot and Carlton started carrying a gun.”
Smith made two movies during Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hiatuses, but he wanted to make movies year round.
“I had successfully fulfilled a promise to myself that I would never get caught in a cycle of deterioration without having the next thing on tap,” Smith wrote. “The show could easily sustain another season; this was my family; I loved them. But a movie career was now a viable option; I was at a crossroads.”
John Amos was the deciding factor for ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
Amos guest starred on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as Will’s stepfather. Amos was also sitcom royalty from Good Times, so he and Smith had a heart to heart.
“[Amos said,] ‘None of these execs, or producers, or businesspeople, give a s*** about your family,” Smith wrote. “Do not let them f*** 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 thought about ‘Good Times’ too
Good Times was bittersweet for Amos. Jimmie Walker became the breakout star of the show, but Amos criticized his character, J.J., as a caricature with his catch phrase, “dy-no-mite.” Walker was more popular so the producers of Good Times unceremoniously had Amos’s character, James Evans, die.
“I had remembered even as a child being jarred by James Evans’s death on Good Times,” Smith wrote. “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 s— was undignified. I even sensed John’s pain, that maybe he had failed his TV family.”
Then, Smith broke the news to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast. He had decided.
“The next week, I gathered my cast together,” Smith wrote. “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.”