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Alfonso Ribeiro talks importance of 'Fresh Prince' tackling racism

"The storylines always seemed to work because they came from real places," the actor told Kelly Clarkson.
/ Source: TODAY

Sure, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” made us laugh, but the classic sitcom also made us think.

Alfonso Ribeiro, best known for playing Carlton on the comedy, said the series did a good job of addressing important subjects, including racism.

“We touched on, I think because of the setup of the show, with Will coming from West Philadelphia, moving to Bel-Air, the idea of rich and poor, black and white, black and other black, right? Like, the dynamics of it all,” he said Thursday on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”

“And so the storylines always seemed to work because they came from real places. They came from real experiences that we all had to deal with, right?”

Ribeiro singled out on episode in particular in which Carlton and Will were stopped by police while driving.

“And, so, one episode where we’re pulled over by the police, right?” he said. “And the idea that Carlton was just like, 'He pulled us over because we were speeding. It’s not because we were black. He treated us this way because he understood right and wrong.' That’s all he knew.

“And so you could touch on these subjects without really being preachy and really say, ‘This is how it is.’ And I’ve heard Will (Smith) say this many times. It’s like, you know, police brutality didn’t just start. It’s just being filmed.”

Police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement have taken center stage in the last year in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and shooting of Jacob Blake, among others. Ribeiro, who pointed out that his father and grandmother were police officers, said it’s not right to paint all officer as either good or bad.

“I come from law enforcement, but there’s a reality. There are good cops and there are bad cops,” he said. “There are cops that do the right thing and there are cops that don’t do the right thing, just like all people, right?

“We are, in every aspect of life there are mirrors and we are a mirror to every aspect of society, so what was wonderful was being able to say and to show those stories and to have those real conversations. And a lot of those conversations happened on set as we were getting ready to film it.”

Clarkson said people would also talk about these important topics in their homes after watching his show.

“And that was the hope,” he said.