Entertainment

The story behind Will Smith's iconic 'hug' scene in 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'


“Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” was a watershed 23 minutes for the situational comedy, which, until that moment, hadn’t fully explored the emotional depths of Smith’s character.


The episode featured the man-hug loved (and memed ) around the world as Uncle Phil (James Avery) doesn’t so much embrace as completely envelop his nephew, who is coming to grips with the loss of his absentee father for a second time.


There had been a lot of interest in an episode about Will’s dad, according to “Fresh Prince” writer David Zuckerman, given that the entire premise of the show was based on Will being sent to live with his rich aunt and uncle because his mother, raising him alone, wants him out of their rough neighborhood.


“We tried to make him not a bad guy — sympathetic,” explained Zuckerman, who wrote “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” with veteran TV writer Bill Boulware after an initially disastrous table read of a different script had cast Will’s father, Lou (to be played by Broadway alum Ben Vereen), as a pool shark who breezes into town.


Episode director Shelley Jensen worked on the series for all six seasons and watched Smith, who started the show at 21, go from novice to supernova.


Fans of the show have long believed that Smith improvised that final scene in which his character builds to an emotional crescendo, loudly proclaiming all the milestones he got through without Lou, but “every word was written by Bill and I,” Zuckerman said.






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