Carlton Was Going To Be 'Cool' On The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Until Will Smith Weighed In

Alfonso Ribeiro has been a pretty ubiquitous part of pop culture for the last four decades, going back to his time as a child actor in the sitcom "Silver Spoons." These days, he's still gracing our living rooms pretty consistently, whether it's as the host of "America's Funniest Videos," or when he won season 19 of "Dancing with the Stars" in 2014 before later becoming a host on that show. It's not a big surprise that he proved himself so adept at dancing. He got his first big break as a kid in a 1986 Pepsi commercial alongside Michael Jackson, after all. And of course, there's The Carlton: the dance he made so famous on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" that he eventually took the makers of "Fortnite" to court when they copied it for a celebration within the game.

He's always had a knack for physical comedy — something even "Ted Lasso" was only too eager to celebrate — and allowing himself to look like a huge dork on the screen, which is what made him the perfect foil for Will Smith in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." Whereas Will was a cool, incredibly hip kid from the mean streets of West Philadelphia, Carlton was a stuffed shirt, country club nerd with a Tom Jones fixation. The chemistry between Ribeiro and Smith, and the evolution of the relationship between Will and Carlton over the course of the series, was part of what made it such an enduring classic that's still regarded as one of the best sitcoms of all-time.

Which is why it's simultaneously bizarre and fascinating to think that, at one point, NBC tried to push the show's creators to make Carlton "cool."

It's not unusual ... for the star of a show to put his foot down

It's hard to fathom how the dynamic between Will and Carlton would have looked, had they opted to follow the network's directive and made Carlton as cool as his cousin Will. There would have been no yin to Will's yang. Show co-creator Susan Borowitz talked to TIME for the show's 25th anniversary in 2015, noting that no one other than the executives at NBC wanted it to happen, either. According to Borowitz, it was Will Smith who eventually convinced the network to let Carlton be a dork:

"The network also would listen to Will. NBC wanted us to make Carlton [Alfonso Ribeiro] cool, and we said, 'No, he's a great foil,' and won on that because Will weighed in and said, 'Absolutely not, this is what makes the comedy.'"

That wasn't the only time Smith used his creative weight for decisions that influenced the lasting appeal of the series, either. When the network wanted to cast the late, great Ron Glass — who at the time was best known for "Barney Miller" but these days is perhaps most famous for playing Shepherd Book in "Firefly" — as Geoffrey, the family's butler, Smith more or less demanded they go in a different direction. While Glass was a known commodity, Joseph Marcell was an unknown in the U.S. According to Borowitz, Smith told NBC he liked "the British guy with the big nose." And that was that.

Fortunately for us, Smith was able to help shape the show into an all-time great not just with his charisma on the screen, but also his pull with NBC behind the scenes. Ultimately, when it comes to comedy, "Fresh Prince" helped prove that sometimes, network executives just don't understand.