Alfonso Ribeiro has had many jobs over his 30-year career in show business, which started back in the 1980s when he danced alongside Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial. From there he was the cool, streetwise Alfonso on Silver Spoons before completely reinventing himself in the ’90s as the hilariously uptight Carlton Banks in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s now showing off his comedy chops as host of ABC Family’s outrageous new game show Spell-Mageddon, which challenges its contestants to spell normal, everyday words while dodging hazards that prove a bit distracting, all in the hopes of getting a $10,000 prize. Think getting dunked in ice-cold water, getting food thrown at you, having slush dumped on your head … not that different from trying to spell while playing Wipeout. Needless to say it’s a lot of fun, maybe even for the people involved.
Spell-Mageddon premieres Wednesday, July 24, at 9pm on ABC Family.
Ribeiro, whose recent reunion with Will Smith on the Graham Norton Show was a viral sensation, took some time to answer our “7 Questions.”
1. You’re at a magazine rack and can pick three titles. Which ones do you choose?
Golf, Golf Digest … anything sports.
2. Your DVR can only carry three shows. Which ones do you want?
Formula One, Indy car racing, and the golf tournament every weekend.
3. What has been your strangest fan encounter?
I had a person walk up to me, say “Oh my God you’re Carlton!” and punch me in my face. And then after I proceeded to whoop his butt, I asked him why did he hit me and he said he got so excited he didn’t know what to do. He just reacted and punched me. And people think being famous is fun.
4. Tell me about a time when you were starstruck.
Probably the first time I met Tom Cruise. It was on a boat with Will [Smith] and his family, and we drove up to another boat to go hang out, and this was back when Tom and Katie were married. I handed Willow off to Tom Cruise and was just like, “OK.”
5. What are three things you must have in your fridge or pantry?
Oatmeal, eggs and orange juice.
6. Many people know you as Carlton from the Fresh Prince, but like many others, I watched you on Silver Spoons. It was weird, because you were the cool, hip kid on Silver Spoons and then you became known as the square. Was that difficult for you to adjust to that perception?
Not at all. That’s what we get paid to do. I think the idea that reality has warped our idea of the work that people do has made it difficult. We’re actors. What we’re asked to do constantly is play different people, and if you play a role based on how you feel about how you want people to think of you, well then you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. There was no adjustment or reaction to that, because it’s what I decided I wanted to be.
7. You’re hosting a spelling show. What do people misspell more, “Alfonso” or “Ribeiro”?
Ribeiro. (laughs) They never get Ribeiro right. The e-i screws up everybody!
Photo: © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Credit: Eric McCandless