You may not know the name Alfonso Ribeiro, but I’m betting you do know the name of Carlton Banks, the young man who channeled Tom Jones on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for six years. Alfonso Ribeiro was Carlton Banks on the ever-popular TV show. On Satuday night, Jan. 5, Alfonso took time out of his busy schedule to speak with Examiner.com just outside the The Pool After Dark at the phenomenal Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.
When Alfonso Ribeiro was introduced for interviews, my first thought was, “My God, he looks exactly like he did 15 years ago!” I told him that, too. He giggled and said, “I like to say that black don’t crack!”
Since Alfonso Ribeiro was a child actor, starring in shows like “Silver Spoons” and dancing with Michael Jackson, I asked him what he felt was the best part of his childhood. “The whole Michael Jackson experience. My dad and I would hang out with Michael until two in the morning. I was 12 and thought I was something else.”
Building on that, I asked Alfonso what advice he would give to children and teens today who want to be stars. He thought for a moment and said, “If you can imagine yourself doing anything else, do that.” He said you have to put everything you've got into show business or you will always be second place and “second place is first loser.”
We then talked about “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and how young children all the way up to those considerably older still watch and love the show. What’s the eternal appeal? Alfonso said that “Fresh Prince” was one of the last of the “real family entertainment shows.” He said those shows are timeless, with an ageless appeal and that there was a character for everybody. The humor was really good and very clean. You didn’t have to be afraid to let your kids watch and the show portrayed good family values.
I asked Alfonso about James Avery, my personal favorite on “Fresh Prince.” James Avery played Carlton’s dad, Judge Philip Banks. Alfonso told me that Avery is doing well and came to Alfonso’s wedding in October.
Our conversation then turned to racing. Alfonso Ribeiro was really into car racing for a while, so I wanted to know if he still raced. “Not anymore.” He said he still gets into the occasional race car for “play,” but he hung up his helmet 10 years ago when his daughter was born.
I wasn’t going to, but I just had to ask him if he really liked Tom Jones. I got a very quick and definite, “No! That was strictly a character thing for Carlton.” He later said, with a big grin on his face, that Tom Jones owes him a check because there’s an entire generation who only knows of Tom Jones because of Carlton Banks.
Would he do the Carlton dance for us? No, he doesn’t do it often these days. I found out later, though, that he did it in the wee hours in the club. I’m sure the place went wild!
Our time was growing short as there were more people waiting to talk to Alfonso Ribeiro, so I skipped to the future. What does the future hold for Alfonso? Right now, he’s directing a show for the Disney Channel called “Shake it up!” which stars two young, up-and-coming actresses, Bella Thorne and Zendaya, which he loves.
Is directing his goal, then? “For now, yes. I would like to do one thing and be the best, but I’ll settle for doing 15 things really, really good.”
We were right outside the club so shortly thereafter, he disappeared inside. He might not like Tom Jones, but he sure loves Michael Jackson and he still can sing! Alfonso Ribeiro did not disappoint and jumped right up on stage with the band for a rousing cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He was definitely ready to party!
It was a very enjoyable experience getting to know a little bit more about Alfonso Ribeiro. He was warm, friendly and a gentleman to the max. I look forward to meeting him again at the next successful juncture in his career.