The decision to end a successful television show is rarely an easy one in most cases. And if you’re the star of the show, I’d imagine the decision becomes even more complicated. Will Smith starred in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for all six seasons of the NBC sitcom — 148 episodes — alongside James Avery, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons and more. Smith, whose character shared the same name (and freshness quotient) as the actor, recently published a new memoir, Will, in which he opened up about the decision to close out the popular ’90s series and revealed the legendary actor who gave him the fateful, F-bomb-y advice.
Good Times icon John Amos made a guest appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for three episodes in Season 5 as Fred Wilkes, who eventually married Will’s mother. The father-son relationship seemed to move off-screen, in a way, as well. Will Smith said that during a break in one of the episode’s rehearsals, the two actors took a walk, during which Amos doled out the advice that would change Smith’s life. He recalled what Amos told him that day in his memoir Will (via EW):
Will Smith knew that was very much a lesson John Amos had learned the hard way. Among Amos’ numerous roles was his 61-episode role as James Evans on the aforementioned Good Times, which famously ended when Amos was involved in a contract dispute at the end of Season 3. James was killed off of the CBS sitcom in a car accident, which one one of the more controversial sitcom moments of the era.
The multi-hyphenate entertainer said he remembered watching that play out on Good Times, and it was a sobering reminder to take care of yourself and your family — biological or otherwise — and maintain control of your own fate, since there are no guarantees in Hollywood. In Will, Will Smith said John Amos’ words gave him what he needed to make the decision to end The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he moved quickly.
Steady employment and a successful television show certainly aren’t things to take for granted, especially when they but Will Smith was lucky to have people around him like John Amos to help him read the writing on the wall and make decisions that would hopefully benefit him and his co-stars in the long run. Smith’s new memoir Will is available now, and you can soon catch him as Venus and Serena Williams’ dad in King Richard.
John Amos, for his part, is still going strong at 81, with multiple projects in the works. He appeared in Coming to America 2 earlier this year, and if you want to go back and watch the two talents on the small screen again, all seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are currently available for streaming on HBO Max.
Mom of two and hard-core ’90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.