He played a teen from a rough neighborhood in West Philadelphia. He got in one little fight and his mom got scared, saying, “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.”
“Fresh Prince” is now streaming on HBO Max, and I spent the last few days watching dozens of episodes from the six seasons it ran. I was surprised by how well the show has held up after all these years, and how funny it still is.
I also found myself wondering about the Banks family mansion where the exteriors were filmed. I learned that it’s a real house in L.A., but the traditional white house with the pillars around the front door is located in Brentwood, not Bel-Air.
On Instagram this week, Will Smith announced that in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary, he joined forces with Airbnb to rent out a wing of the “Fresh Prince” house for five nights this fall, writing, “YOOOO!! Y’all think we should rent out the @freshprince house?? We’re making it happen with the squad at @airbnb!! #FreshPrince30th”
In addition to that news, HBO Max announced that it’s reuniting the cast for an anniversary special later this fall. What better time to look back at the Banks’ family home from the show and revisit the sets they designed for it?
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” House and the Sets Designed for It
The Fresh Prince house was built in 1937. Realtor.com describes its architectural style as
The address of the Banks’ house on the show is 805 St. Cloud Road in Bel Air.
It’s actually at 251 N. Bristol Avenue in Brentwood. On Google Streetview you
can see little more than the front gates. In the opening credits of the pilot episode,
they briefly showed those same gates as Will Smith drove through them for the first time:
In future episodes, the clip with the gates was cut from the opening and he arrived straight at the house:
I pulled up to the house about seven or eight,
and I yelled to the cabby “Yo homes, smell ya later.”
Looked at my kingdom, I was finally there,
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air.
The sets were built on a soundstage at Columbia/Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood.
The Living Room
The formal living room was where much of the action took place in the first season.
By the second season they had a new, larger family room set that replaced it.
The Upstairs Landing and Bedrooms
Will’s bedroom on the day he moved in:
Geoffrey the butler was not amused by all of the newcomer’s rapping and dancing in the house.
Will later moved into the poolhouse with Carlton.
The Dining Room
The Family Room:
Starting with Season Two, the Banks family began hanging out in the larger,
more casual family room, a new set that was open to the kitchen.
The concept of the show was inspired by writer and producer Benny Medina’s life:
Medina was born in East Los Angeles of Dominican parents into a poor family. The death of his mother and abandonment by his father resulted in him being placed into a number of foster homes.
A wealthy white teenager befriended him, and his family allowed him to live in a refurbished garage behind their property in Beverly Hills. Medina then attended Beverly Hills High and was a successful student.
Medina’s experiences of transferring to this wealthy environment is the loose basis for the 1990 Will Smith show “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
In the final episode, the Banks family sells the house to The Jeffersons in a very funny cameo.
Here’s how the family room set looked in the last shot of the series after they moved out:
The kitchen during the first season of the show was much smaller:
When the second season premiered, the kitchen had a new look:
Will accidentally burned down the kitchen in the final season:
Oops. And worse luck, it was on the day of an important dinner party his Uncle Phil was planning.
But don’t worry, the kitchen was rebuilt two episodes later, with a few minor changes.
They took the opportunity to update it a bit and add some color.
As I watched the show again all these years later, I was struck by how many of the stories revolved around the relationship between Will and his Uncle Philip. In the final season Will recognizes this and thanks him for being the father figure he needed.
Philip Banks was ranked among TV Guide’s list of the “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” in 2004.
Sadly, actor James Avery died in 2013.
In one of the final scenes of the series, the family sits around the kitchen together for the last time.
Will said, “When I first got here, you were my relatives, but now I feel like we’re family.”
The back of the house shows the same pool you can see on Airbnb today:
The Poolhouse Where Will and Carlton Lived:
The pool shown in the shots of the poolhouse where Will and Carlton lived together in later seasons
is different from the one behind the real house, leading me to believe it was in another location.
In the final episode, as Will and Carlton are packing up to move, they stop for a dance break.
There was a lot of dancing, singing, rapping, and music in this show.
Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton, came up with his now-famous dance on the show, which went on to become a popular meme and GIF.
He says he was inspired by Eddie Murphy’s white-boy dance and Courteney Cox in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” video.
According to Zillow the real “Fresh Prince” house has 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, and 6,400 square feet.
They had a number of exterior shots that they used throughout the series:
Lindsay at Iamnotastalker has the scoop on a lookalike house used in a Christmas ep:
The Airbnb article about the limited-time “Fresh Prince” house rental explains, in Will Smith’s voice:
Ready for the freshest staycation ever? If this place looks familiar that’s because it’s just as fly as it was when I first rolled up the driveway. I’m back. And this time, I’m handing you the keys so you’ll have my wing of the mansion all to yourself – but my sneaker collection is off limits, aight?
It’s your crib for the night, so feel free to act like you own the place. My wing of the mansion includes my bedroom (great for naps), a full bathroom (great for spitting bars in the shower), pool area (great for dips), an outdoor lounge, and the dining room (great for eating obviously). And you gotta do it like my guy DJ Jazzy Jeff so don’t forget your sunglasses!
To celebrate the feeling of family and community that was so memorable from my time in this home, Airbnb will make a one-time donation to a local organization in my hometown, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, a program that supports youth, including those in greatest need, by offering development and skill-building programs, recreational activities and empowerment tools.
You can now watch all 148 episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” on HBO Max, which is also hosting a 30th anniversary cast reunion in November.
Per the press release, the special will be “a funny and heartfelt night full of music, dancing, and more special surprise guests,” including Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Tatyana Ali (Ashley), Karyn Parsons (Hilary), Joseph Marcell (the butler Geoffrey), Daphne Reid (the “new” Aunt Viv), and Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton).
Not only that, but Smith announced that he sat down with Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv, who was fired after three seasons on the show and replaced with Reid.
In other “Fresh Prince” news, Peacock ordered a reboot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — but this version will be a drama, not a comedy:
“Set in modern-day, Bel-Air is a serialized one-hour dramatic adaptation of the ’90s sitcom starring Smith. The show will lean into the series’ original premise, following Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air, but in a more serious and gritty way.”
To see how the “Fresh Prince” house looks today: Airbnb.
Visit my TV Houses page to see more faves I’ve featured, listed A-Z,
including the ones from “Full House,” “Friends,” and “The Brady Bunch.”