Actor Alfonso Ribeiro is beloved for his portrayal of Carlton Banks on the ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It made him a household name, but it came with a price. Ribeiro is experiencing a career resurgence in recent years, but there was a time the calls stopped coming in completely. Let’s take a look at his career and how he was able to come back from the dreaded typecasting nightmare that plagues many actors in Hollywood.
Alfonso Ribeiro Began His Career At 8
While most people met Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks in 1990, others recall him as a dancing kid who appeared in several projects throughout the ’80s. Ribeiro is from the Riverdale area of The Bronx, NY, and was born to Afro-Trinidadian parents. He got his start at 8 years old in the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid.
From there, he got his big break as a dancing kid in Michael Jackson’s iconic 1984 Pepsi commercial. This led to him being cast in the television series Silver Spoons. His Pepsi gig made him popular amongst dancers, and in 1985 he scored a major MTV commercial promoting his project titled Alfonso’s Breakin’ & Poppin’ Back. This was followed by a rap record in 1986 called “Timebomb,” released on Prism Records. In a 2009 interview with LAist, Alfonso reveals that he did not have a normal childhood and missed out on high school games and dances. However, he would not trade it for anything in the world and has always loved show business.
Alfonso Ribeiro’s Time On Fresh Prince
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a landmark show for several reasons. It helped rapper Will Smith transition into acting, an evolution that would eventually help him become of the biggest movie stars on the planet. The series also worked wonders for Alfonso Ribeiro, who was able to transition from the dancing kid on MTV to a comedic actor. Ironically, Carlton would become famous for dancing, but nothing anywhere near as good at what Alfonso was known for. Instead, the quirky “Carlton Dance” became a signature for the character and show.
Despite how iconic the dance is now, Alfonso reminded fans in 2018 that The Fresh Prince was actually not as massive while on the air as people might remember. At its best, the series only hit 14 in the television rankings. Fresh Prince owes its icon status to syndication, which helped cement it as a television staple in the years after it wrapped.
Alfonso Ribeiro’s Life After Fresh Prince
While Will Smith was able to step out of Fresh Prince into a massive film career, his cast members were not so lucky. The ’90s were particularly unkind to actors who found too much success with one role, eventually relegating them to identical characters or simply not hiring them at all. Other characters of Fresh Prince also struggled somewhat to secure stability in the entertainment industry including Janet Hubert, Karyn Parson, James Avery, and Ross Bagley who played Nicky Banks.
In the years following The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Alfonso kept work coming in even if it was not as popular. He jumped into voice acting for such properties as Spider-Man, Extreme Ghostbusters, and Scooby-Doo. In addition to this, he returned to the sitcom space with roles in In The House, One on One, and Big Time Rush. The medium that seemed to work best for Ribeiro was the hosting and reality space. People seemed to enjoy getting to know the man behind the Carlton dance, and he would do well on programs like The Weakest Link, Celebrity Duets, and GSN’s Catch 21, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy the child star. In a previous interview with Atlanta Black Star, Alfonso Ribeiro called out the fans and told them they have the power to stop actors from being Typecast.
Alfonso Ribeiro Credits Dancing With The Stars For Saving His Career
A real shift came for Alfonso Ribeiro when he joined Dancing With The Stars in 2014. The program seemed an obvious fit for the child dance star turned television star. He wowed audiences and went on to win the mirror ball trophy. His season was so well received that ABC approached Ribeiro following the win to discuss his career goals and how they could work together. They collectively settled on him becoming the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, which he’s been doing now since 2015.
Alfonso Ribeiro Believes He Was Punished For Doing Carlton Role
In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel earlier this month, Alfonso revealed some of his frustrations with the character of Carlton Banks. While the actor loved and appreciated the role, he felt punished at points in his career for doing it “too well.”
Ribeiro says that opportunities presented to him following Fresh Prince were either identical to Carlton or just non-existent. “You do the job so well that they essentially tell you that you can’t do it anymore because we can’t see you as anything else, is a very difficult thing to deal with.” Alfonso says that not a day goes by without people asking him to do “The Carlton Dance,” which he usually refuses. “I’m a Black guy that is not dancing for you!” he tells fans.
Alfonso also revealed with Ebony magazine he hates when fans call him, Carlton. “I’d rather people learn my name“, Alfonso stated. Although the actor does not get upset when fans call him Carlton, he says his mother named him Alfonso and he would prefer if people referred to him as an individual and not a character from 20 years ago.