Will Smith Used to Play His Own Music to Hype Up ‘Fresh Prince’ Cast 



    Will Smith, Elizabeth Harnois Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
    Harry Langdon/Getty Images/SGranitz/WireImage

    Will Smith knew what music would get the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast hyped up for live shows … his own.

    During the Monday, March 4, episode of the “Pod Meets World” podcast, Elizabeth Harnois opened up about her experience guest starring on The Fresh Prince in 1993. While Harnois said Smith, 55, was “a really sweet person,” she recalled one particular pre-show ritual that took her by surprise.

    “One of my biggest memories about doing Fresh Prince and working with Will Smith was he knew he was coming up and becoming a star,” the 44-year-old actress explained. “Before each show, he would bring everybody into his dressing room and the way he hyped everybody up for the show, is we [would all be] crammed in like sardines and he would play his music so loud and jump up and down. And everybody had to jump up and down. That’s how they got hype.”

    The recollection immediately spurred follow-up questions from “Pod Meets World” cohosts Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle, who asked if Harnois meant Smith — who has also had a successful rap career — would play “his own Will Smith songs” in the room, to which Harnois confirmed “yes.”

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    “That’s kind of brilliant,” Friedle admitted, while Strong quipped he was going to start the tradition himself.

    The Fresh Prince ran on NBC from 1990 to 1996 and starred Smith in the self-titled role as a teen who’s mom sends him to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Bel-Air. Harnois appeared on a season 3 episode as Steffi, a young neighbor trying to use the family’s swimming pool.

    While the backstage moment with Smith was unexpected, Harnois admitted it wasn’t unique. She claimed while dating Matthew Lawrence as a teen, his older brother, Joey Lawrence, would also play his own music while driving around in the car.

    “Joey Lawrence was trying to do his own music. And we were all in this giant Escalade and he was blasting his own music in the car,” she recalled of one particular instance. “And my friend and I are sitting in the back seat just, like … We had only had a couple dates.”

    Harnois noted that she has “friends who are musicians” and knows the car can often be the best play to listen to music “when you are mixing and finalizing [how a song] sounds,” but her experience with the Lawrence brothers “wasn’t that.”

    Despite the awkwardness, Harnois insisted she has “no negative feelings” about either experience. “It was just very funny,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa, this is a level of self-love and self-hype I’ve never seen before.’”

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    Harnois began acting at the age of 5, starring in movies like Adventures in Wonderland and One Magic Christmas before her landing the role on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In 1996, she made an appearance as Missy Robinson on Boy Meets World alongside Strong, Fishel and Friedle in the season 3 episode, “The Last Temptation of Cory.”

    “I remember being a little bit intimidated, like, ‘Oh this cast is going to be so cool and be in their own little cliques and everything,’” Harnois said of her nerves before appearing ABC sitcom. Her fears, however, were quickly silenced. “Kids can be mean and act kids can be bratty and mean but you guys were nothing like that,” she said. “You guys were great.”

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    Harnois teamed back up with Friedle in 1998 for the Disney movie My Date With the President’s Daughter before being cast on One Tree Hill the following year as Shelly, a “Clean Teen” promoting abstinence and the love interest of Lee Norris, another BMW alum. She has since gone on to guest-star on shows like Cold Case, Dirt, Without a Trace and 90210, before landing a costarring on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for four seasons from 2011 to 2015.

    Smith, for his part, went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for his work on Fresh Prince before skyrocketing to fame with major movie blockbusters such as Independence Day, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, I am Legend and more. In 2001, he was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his film Ali, and again in 2006 for The Pursuit of Happyness. Musically, Smith released five studio albums alongside DJ “Jazzy” Jeff before pursuing a solo career, earning a total of four Grammy nominations for his rap performances.

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