Will Smith Shut Down A Possible RuPaul Cameo on ‘Fresh Prince’ ‘Because of His Image’
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wasn’t just the greatest sitcom in the history of “Nick at Nite” — it was also the vehicle that propelled an up-and-coming Philadelphia rapper by the name of Will Smith into leading man superstardom, turning his career into a cultural phenomenon that continues to this day. In some ways, the explosive success of the smash hit competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race and its effect on its creator’s public persona mirrors the trajectory-changing power of Fresh Prince. Both Smith and RuPaul were primarily known as music acts before the shows they created turned them into zeitgeist-defining figures.
But that’s pretty much where the comparisons end.
In the book Freaks, Gleeks and Dawson's Creek: How Seven Teen Shows Transformed Television, entertainment journalist Thea Glassman interviewed Fresh Prince executive producer David Steven Simon who told her a story about how he attempted to organize a cameo from RuPaul on the show, but Smith, who held veto power over creative decisions, shut it down point-blank, calling it “a really bad idea.” Presumably, Smith didn’t want someone on his show dressing better than himself.
“Smith didn’t often reject ideas, but he did when Simon pitched a cameo from RuPaul, a drag queen who was making a name for himself with dance tracks like ‘Supermodel (You Better Work),’” Glassman wrote in the book released yesterday. She recalled a conversation with Simon on the topic, writing that the producer told her, “I remember him saying that would be a really bad idea. And I said, ‘No, listen, hear my story...’” The show’s star flatly refused to entertain the idea, according to Simon, who said, “He just kept repeating that it was a bad idea. (I said,) ‘Okay, okay. We don’t need to do it.’”
As for Smith’s reasoning behind the rebuff, Simon postulated, “The reason he would say no is because of (RuPaul’s) image. Period. The end.”
Glassman wrote of Simon’s experience, “Working for the Fresh Prince felt like being in a ‘foxhole,’ Simon remembers, but a very high-end foxhole with unique perks. … After each taping, the writers would pick up a bouquet of flowers to bring home from the arrangements brought daily to the Bankses’ living room (and worth nearly $500).”
Maybe that was the problem — the vivaciously vibrant RuPaul would upstage the show’s flowers.