Exactly 30 years ago to the day, on September 10 1990, Will Smith officially crossed over from rapper to actor as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered on NBC.
The show itself was (and still is) a smash hit, and throughout the years, it featured some guest appearances from big names and new stars alike.
Tyra Banks began her acting career 27 years ago, playing the part of Smith’s ex-girlfriend from back in Philadelphia. Looking back at her time on the series, Banks ended up revealing to Yahoo Entertainment that even though she got the part in the end, the audition for the role got off to a rocky start.
The supermodel explained that all she knew about the character going into it was that she was Smith’s ex-girlfriend from Philly and she played basketball. So, when she showed up to audition, Banks showed up dressed like she was ready for a pick-up game. Every other girl in the room, who were competing for the same part, all chose a very different route, rocking a black dress and some heels.
”I was sitting there feeling so dumb,” Banks admitted.
Tyra talks about why she went to the audition dressed more casually, saying, “So I, like, put on, like, basketball shorts and, like, a big, huge T-shirt. You know, just kind of like a basketball girl. I walked in kind of around the way, no makeup.”
Then, when Banks arrived, she was in for a big surprise.
“And then in the audition room, there‘s, like, a line of chairs and there’s all of these actresses,” she continued. “And I swear everybody had on a little black dress and black heels and just looking gorgeous and face done, and I’m like, ’Oh, you’re not supposed to dress like the character, you’re supposed to, like, be pretty and then they put the character on you later.’ I was sitting there feeling so dumb.”
While Banks felt uncomfortable at the time, she clearly had the right idea about the whole situation. After the audition, the casting director asked her to come back later for another audition.
“So then hours later, [I] go back and then Will Smith is in the room,” said explained. ”And I read with him, didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Just trying to read the thing and just be as natural as possible.”
Casual clothing and all, Tyra nailed the audition, and--as you probably already know--she got the role of Jackie Ames and appeared as a recurring character throughout Season 4.
Old episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are available for streaming right now on HBO Max.