Alfonso Ribeiro on the ‘Fresh Prince’ Reunion, ‘DWTS’ Changes & More
Alfonso Ribeiro was part of the comedy that made people laugh 30 years ago, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he’s bringing joy to viewers’ homes as host of America’s Funniest Home Videos. He’s also partnering with candy leader Mars Wrigley to bring Halloween to families this year — virtually, like the audience for AFV.
What wasn’t virtual was the reunion for the comedy series that aired from 1990 to 1996, but it wasn’t as special for the cast as it is for fans. “I know everyone always likes to make whenever we get together a big moment,” Ribeiro tells TV Insider. “But for us, it was the same as how we always get together.”
Here, the actor discusses the reimagining and reunion for Fresh Prince, Dancing With the Stars from a champ’s perspective (after winning Season 19 with pro partner Witney Carson), America’s Funniest Home Videos, and Halloween.
Thirty years later, people are not only still talking about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air but also be looking ahead to a dramatic reimagining of it.
Alfonso Ribeiro: You could never predict what’s going to happen in the future and understand how the world works. When you’re in the bubble of doing your own show and you’re working, all you’re thinking about is exactly what you’re doing, in the moment, so you’re never really thinking about the future, and you’re trying to create the best artistic work that you can at the time. Never could I have imagined this many years later people are still talking about it.
I’m happy for Will and his whole gang for trying to put out this reimagining of it. I’m waiting to see how they take this concept and turn it into a dramatic thing. I’m a comedy guy, so I love the comedy, I love the aspect of the comedy, so it’s very different for me, but it will be interesting, I’m sure.
Where do you think Carlton would be today?
No idea. At the end of the day, it’s a show from the past and wherever he is, I’m sure he’d be happy.
And you have the upcoming reunion on HBO Max, which you’ve taped. What was it like getting everyone back together for it?
It was nice. At the end of the day, I know everyone always likes to make whenever we get together a big moment. I look at it very simply as we always get together. We constantly chat. We’re family. It’ll be interesting and fun. I think it’s going to be a great special. But for us, it was the same as how we always get together. We just enjoy spending time together and loving on each other and I think the world will get to see what we do all the time that’s no different than our normal every day, whenever we do get together.
Everyone’s talking about Will Smith and Janet Hubert sitting down together for the first time in 27 years. What was your reaction? The press release says Will surprised everyone?
I’m happy for the both of them. We’ll see how it plays out on TV. We didn’t get to be part of that. I’m happy for the both of them that they were able to clear the air and get through some really ugly past.
Let’s talk about this Treat Town app, which sounds like something parents should love but kids maybe not so much. How is it going to allow for families to have as usual a Halloween as in the past during these times?
What I love is what Mars Wrigley came up with. This new app, Treat Town, is really going to give families the option to be able to create a wonderful Halloween month really because whether you’re going to go out and do your actual trick-or-treating or whether you’re going to stay home and not trick-or-treat, this app gives families the ability to communicate, be in contact with each other, and still go out and trick-or-treat. You’re just going to do it virtually.
In the app, you can go see family, friends, and get candy credits. Then you can actually go to the store and get your candy and so you can get M&Ms, Snickers, Twix, Skittles, all of these are going to be available on this app and families can communicate with each other and have a great time. It’s a great new way to deal with this incredibly difficult time. The other thing that’s very cool is if you don’t want to keep the candy, you will be able to donate your credit to the Boys & Girls Club of America as a cash donation.
I’m definitely going to do mine. My kids, Halloween is our favorite holiday, and we typically go trick-or-treating and make a big deal of it. We get our costumes together and we go out and do all that we need to do. This Halloween we’re going to do it the safe way for ourselves and we’re going to get on this app and do our trick-or-treating with our family and friends. We’re going to get all the candy that we need.
You’re a Dancing With the Stars champion. What do you remember most about your time on that show and what do you think it takes to win?
My favorite time on that show ultimately was the relationships that were forged. Keo and Witney and Em and Sasha and Val and Maks and Mark Ballas, these are all really good friends of ours now and we hang out all the time. The wonderful thing is we actually host everyone at our house for a Thanksgiving feast for all the ones who don’t have a family to go to.
What it takes to win is determination. Obviously there’s an ability that has to be there. You’ve gotta be able to dance and learn the dances, but it’s determination. It’s staying in it. It’s working extra hard. When I did it, I would work five hours a day in the rehearsal studio and then I would go home and I would rehearse by myself an extra two hours plus every day, and so I think that’s the only way. The only way is just to outwork everyone else.
Have you been watching this season? Any thoughts on the format as they adjust to not having a live audience?
Yeah, of course I’ve watched every episode so far, and it’s going to be a battle. I think there are some really good ones there that in the end, we’ll see who takes it.
They’re doing what they have to do, and I think that’s admirable for all of them. The ending format, where the judges have to pick who they want to keep, I actually would go over to the U.K. and I would guest judge for Bruno [Tonioli] on Strictly [Come Dancing], and that’s what they do over there. The first time I did it was two years ago, and the minute I came back, I said, “Guys, this is what the show needs.” It needs to no longer have the audience have complete control over who goes home, so that you can keep the better dancer on the show longer. Obviously if you keep ending up in the bottom two, eventually you’re going to go home. But you keep the quality of the dancing better. I love the fact that they made that change.
You’ve also had to make adjustments on America’s Funniest Home Videos. What can fans expect this season?
What we’ve done is ultimately we have a Zoom audience. It’s been really, really cool because I still get the feeling of having that audience. It’s the same technology that is being used for the NBA. So it’s been really cool to be able to shoot. We’ve shot eight episodes already. We’ve got the audience there. It feels really wonderful to have them be part of it still, and it’s the same old show and we’re still going to have that audience. They’re just not in that space with me. It works. I think it’s going to be a really wonderful season, and I’m excited for people to see [it]. The energy’s great. And because of COVID, we’re getting a lot more videos than normally, so the videos are going to be great for us.
America’s Funniest Home Videos, Season Premiere, Sunday, October 18, 7/6, ABC
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special, Coming Soon, HBO Max