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WITH AN EYE ON ... : Opposites do attract: Look at Alfonso Ribeiro and 'Fresh Prince's' cousin

June 20, 1993|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Make no bones about it. Alfonso Ribeiro loathes Carleton Banks, the stodgy character he plays on NBC's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

"I don't like him at all," he says. "I don't like what he stands for. I don't like who he is.

"We're totally different," he continues, "There are things that we are alike on: he's intelligent and he plays golf and tennis. That's it."

But Ribeiro admits it's a lot of fun playing Carleton, the money-driven, uptight yuppie cousin to Will Smith's colorfully hip lead character.

"I'm not just the straight man (on "Fresh Prince") either," he says. "I end up doing the wild, stupid stuff too. We're switching roles on a constant basis, which actually makes for a great relationship. Things aren't just one way. It allows the audience to have more fun."

Unlike Carleton, Ribeiro, 21, says his childhood was "not at all normal." A child prodigy, he was a singer who had never danced before getting the starring role in the Broadway hit "The Tap Dance Kid."

"I went to the audition and they taught me to dance," says Ribeiro, who garnered national attention when he co-starred and danced in a high-profile Pepsi commercial with Michael Jackson. The commercial led to a lead role on "Silver Spoons."

Ribeiro works out every day and likes to bowl, go to the movies and play pool. He says he wants to do it all, but he doesn't seem to have much spare time.

During lunch breaks on "Fresh Prince," for instance, he works on his music. He says Smith will be producing an album for him and the two are writing together.

"I'm definitely getting into the music part again," he says enthusiastically. "I've been doing it since I was 10."

Ribeiro says he'd like to move into movies and hopes to find a script soon. He's also interested in all aspects of production.

"I believe that it's not very lucrative for a lot of black actors, and I'm one of the lucky few who gets to work, but I figure how long does that last? So I'm looking behind the scenes, where it lasts. I want to show the public my vision, what I see."

Ribeiro credits his mother and father, who is his manager, with his success.

"In this business, for child actors, the difference is if you have good parents," he says. "It allows you to stay settled and levelheaded. In this business, you can change so quickly. There are people I used to know who were great people and now their egos are the size of the Empire State Building. There's no place for that around me."

Ribeiro knows what has meaning to him. "What's important to me now is my family, my sanity and who I am. I don't want anyone to say Alfonso has an ego. I want them to say I am a nice guy. I just want to be liked and I want people to enjoy what I do."

"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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