When Joseph Marcell auditioned for his memorable television role as Geoffrey, the Banks family’s prim-and-proper butler on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” it was the first time he met his future costar Will Smith. The two would be reading lines together during the audition, and Smith suggested that they do a quick practice run beforehand. What happened next, Marcell tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, was magic.
“We went over the lines ― it was the first scene, when he arrives from Philadelphia,” Marcell recalls.
As a classically trained Shakespearean actor, Marcell had a particular approach to his work, and he hadn’t planned on treating his “Fresh Prince” audition any differently. “Up until this point, my outlook in my job has been very, kind of, staid and boring, really,” Marcell explains. “I learn it, I follow the instruction. We do not ‘improve’ on it. We do not improvise. We do not ‘make it better.’”
Smith, however, had a different approach, which Marcell learned quickly when his partner went off-script and ad-libbed additional lines during their practice performance.
“[I said,] ‘I’m sorry, that’s not in the script. Is... is that what you’re going to say?’” Marcell recalls asking Smith. “[He said,] ‘Oh, don’t worry man... This is our moment!’”
But Marcell wasn’t actually worried at all.
“I thought, ‘How interesting, because I have some ideas myself!’” he laughs. “That was magic. Just pure magic.”
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