LGBTQ - Will Smith reportedly nixed a guest appearance by RuPaul on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The revelations come courtesy of a new book by journalist Thea Glassman. Freaks, Gleeks, and Dawson’s Creek: How Seven Teen Shows Transformed Television chronicles how shows like My So-Called Life, Dawson’s Creek, The O.C., and Glee reshaped the course of modern television and pop culture. One of the series Glassman examines is Smith’s breakthrough 90s sitcom.
According to People, in the book Fresh Prince of Bel-Air executive producer David Steven Simon recalls bringing up RuPaul’s name while discussing potential guest stars with Smith. At the time, the drag icon was just breaking into the mainstream with his hit 1993 song “Supermodel (You Better Work).”
But according to Simon, Smith rejected the idea of RuPaul appearing on the show—a rarity for the star, who Simon says almost never rejected ideas.
“I remember him saying that would be a really bad idea… and I said, ‘No, listen, hear my story—’” Simon recalls.
According to Simon, Smith refused to back down, insisting that having a drag queen on the show was a “bad idea,” People reports. Simon eventually conceded, and RuPaul never made an appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
“The reason he would say no is because of his image. Period. The End,” Simon says.
Smith famously refused to kiss co-star Anthony Michael Hall in the 1993 film adaptation of John Guare’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play Six Degrees of Separation. In the film, Smith played a queer con man who charms New York society elites (played by Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland). One scene called for Smith’s character to kiss Hall’s, but the star refused, forcing director Fred Schepisi to use a body double instead.
Shortly after the film’s release, Smith expressed regret about the decision. “It was very immature on my part,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 1993. “I was thinking, ‘How are my friends in Philly going to think about this?’ I wasn’t emotionally stable enough to artistically commit to that aspect of the film.”
“This was a valuable lesson for me,” he added. “Either you do it, or you don’t.”
(John Russell is a contributor to LGBTQ Nation where this article was published.)