Don Cheadle Is Still Proud of the Theme Song He Sang on the Failed ‘Fresh Prince’ Spin-off
An actor’s one-off guest appearance in a beloved sitcom is usually one of two things: They’re either 1) a character actor with a lengthy resume and knack for scene-stealing; or 2) testing the waters with a network and auditioning for another project. Don Cheadle’s 1991 outing in a rather emotionally brilliant episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was very much the latter.
While Cheadle played Ice Tray, one of Will’s rambunctious friends from Philly in the Season One episode “Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy,” he was tapped by Fresh Prince co-creators Andy and Susan Borowitz to play another lovable jokester in their spin-off series In the House. The pilot, which premiered on July 1, 1991, was set to air immediately following Fresh Prince, presumably using the successful sitcom to bolster ratings. However, In the House was never picked up by NBC and has since only been preserved by a kind man on YouTube.
The logline for the pilot reads, “A recent college grad (Don Cheadle) rolls back to the Motor City with dreams and schemes of the entrepreneurial fast lane, but his dad (Bruce A. Young) wants to steer him onto a more sensible road to business success.” Despite never going to series, the pilot featured all the fixings of a hit: slightly hamfisted life lessons, a recurring bit set up within the first two minutes, countless one-liners and Loretta Devine’s enchanting vocal range.
Not only was Cheadle set to lead the spin-off, but he also had his hand in writing the show’s theme song, a moment in his career he recalled recently while chatting with Franklin Leonard in a recent episode of Vanity Fair’s A List. Cheadle’s involvement in the creation of the theme song shouldn’t come as a shock — Cheadle, who starred and directed in the Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, always thought he’d have a career in jazz music, even going as far as to say that playing jazz gives him more joy than acting. But as Cheadle’s acting career took off, music was put “in the sidecar.”
Interestingly enough, although In the House never saw the light of day, Cheadle still found his first big break via spin-off — managing the Golden Palace, the hotel at the center of the short-lived Golden Girls spin-off.
Its theme song, however, sounded nothing like him.