The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air always tied a message into the laughter. Whether it be the promotion of education with Will Smith wearing HBCU sweatshirts or dealing with issues Black people face as a community, between the punchlines and antics, lied a truth.
One of the most memorable episodes is the one when Will and Carlton (Alfonso Ribiero) were racially profiled by police as the duo drove to Palm Springs. Carlton’s socioeconomic class privilege had him naively believing the police would assist him with directions while Smith’s West Philly upbringing tells him it can go left rather quickly.
“Listen to me, Carlton, when he comes up keep your hands on the wheel,” instructed Will during the traffic stop. Thinking Will has no idea what he is talking about, Carlton ignores the warning and tries to greet the approaching officer with an handshake. The officer ignores the salutation and tells Carlton to keep his hands on the wheel.
Eventually the pair is jailed on car theft charges and Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil have to come to their aid. On a recent appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Carlton details the episode. “The storylines always seemed to work because they came from real places. They came from real experiences that we all had to deal with, right?”
“The idea that Carlton was just like, ‘He pulled us over because we were speeding. It’s not because we were Black. He treated us this way because he understood right and wrong.’ That’s all he knew,” said Ribiero. “And so you could touch on these subjects without really being preachy and really say, ‘This is how it is.’”
“In every aspect of life there are mirrors, and we are a mirror to every aspect of society, so what was wonderful was being able to say and to show those stories and to have those real conversations. And a lot of those conversations happened on set as we were getting ready to film it,” he added.