Even though Avery and Smith do indeed have strong on-screen chemistry, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air become so culturally relevant by addressing timely issues through sequences involving Will and Carlton. As Ribeiro acknowledges in the HBO Max special, he mostly plays the comedic “straight man” in contrast to Smith’s “stooge” during the series, which makes their shared dramatic moments so impactful. Whether it’s Carlton deciding to buy a gun or Will passing out in a graveyard after driving while intoxicated, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air always found a way to complement the comedy with powerful commentaries about the darkest aspects of American culture.
When discussing the chemistry amongst The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cast members, Smith notes that he and Avery were originally the narrative focus, given their different perspectives, with Will being a street-savvy kid from Philadelphia and Uncle Phil being a wealthy man living in a posh Los Angeles neighborhood. It soon became apparent, however, that the dynamic between Will and Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) had more comedic potential:
“The initial focus of the show was going to be Will/Uncle Phil collisions. We started to see the dynamics between the other characters. And Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv were holding the base, and Will and Carlton being able to run wild.”