Alfonso Ribeiro On Inventing ‘The Carlton’: ‘It Was Never Intended To Be Funny’

Alfonso Ribeiro has revealed the origin of “The Carlton.”

The “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” actor opened up in the Aug. 18 issue of Variety about the dance that made him famous, and explained why his character’s signature move was nearly an accident.

“I played a character that was as far from myself as possible,” he told the mag of his role on the beloved sitcom. The native New Yorker said Carlton’s preppy tastes and privileged upbringing were a foreign concept to him, and he needed a crash course before approaching the part. 

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“They would have to bring me a CD and some articles for me to read up on what the character liked, because I had never heard of Tom Jones. I didn’t know Barry Manilow,” Alfonso confessed. 

“These weren’t people that I grew up with or experienced as a teenager,” he continued. “I grew up in the Bronx. I was a hip-hop kid.”

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The actor went on to recall the first time Carlton’s love for the Tom Jones hit “It’s Not Unusual” was included in the show. 

“The Carlton Dance was created when it said in the script, ‘Carlton dances,'” Alfonso said. “It was never even intended to be funny, it was just that he was dancing.”

Despite the lack of specific instructions, the “Dancing with the Stars” champ said that instinct told him to try thinking of the silliest thing he could to best illustrate Carlton’s personality. 

“The dance is ultimately Courteney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video ‘Dancing in the Dark,'” Alfonso admitted, referencing the 1984 clip that put the “Friends” star on the map. 

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“That’s the basis,” he continued. “Or in Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’ video, ‘The White Man Dance,’ as he called it. And I said, ‘That is the corniest dance on the planet that I know of, so why don’t I do that?'”

His creative inspiration paid off. Carlton’s cheerful, arm-swinging jive became a pop culture phenomenon and has since remained a favorite ’90s relic. 

Alfonso has continued to brush up on his Carlton skills over the years, busting the classic move during a “DWTS” routine and, most recently, on the golf course with Justin Timberlake in July.

Erin Biglow

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