Best known for his role as Will Smith’s brainy cousin Carlton Banks on the 90s TV comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” actor Alfonso Ribeiro has stayed relevant in the entertainment industry by acting, directing and hosting a number of other projects over the last 17 years (Yes, it’s been that long since “Fresh Prince” ended).
In his most recent endeavor, Ribeiro is the host of the new ABC Family game show “Spell-Mageddon.” The show challenges contestants to spell words while under duress. This includes contestants going through obstacle courses, getting dumped into ice-cold water, and even experiencing a few volts surging through their bodies by way of electric dog collars strapped to their legs.
During an interview with me, Ribeiro, 41, talked about how important the actually spelling is to “Spell-Mageddon” and how well his “Fresh Prince” character would do on a show like this.
“Spell-Mageddon” airs on ABC Family Thursdays at 8 pm CT.
What do you think it is about these spelling competitions that are intriguing to so many people?
I think that people are fascinated with spelling bees. In real spelling bees where we have no idea what a word means, these young kids are able to know what the words are, understand the meaning, the country of origin, all of those types of things. I think it’s quite fascinating.
How is the spelling portion of the show different than something like Scripps?
I think most of those spelling bees are with kids. Our show is very different. We have adults doing it. What we do on our show that’s a little different is obviously we’re not taking words that people have never heard of. We’re taking words that people absolutely have heard and use on a daily basis and should know the spelling, but our distractions are what really take us in a very different way than those spelling bees.
Talk about some of those distractions. What are we going to see on the show?
We’ve got one game where we have a dunk tank and we’ve got these kick balls and we’re launching these kick balls into a bull’s-eye. Every time it hits the bull’s-eye our contestants get dunked into ice-cold water. We fill the dunk tank up with ice. Then we fill it up with water. We let it sit for 15 minutes so that it melts enough that it’s really just mostly super, super, super cold water. Then, we dunk them into this tank while making them spell. The reactions are hysterical.
Do you think people are going to watch the show for the spelling since it’s a little more lowbrow?
I disagree with the lowbrow aspect of that. Obviously, [real] spelling bees are maybe super-brow versus being an everyday show [like “Spell-Mageddon”]. I don’t think it’s lowbrow in any way because we’re not spelling “cat.” We’re not spelling “dog.” We’re spelling “psychedelic,” “psychology.” We’re spelling words that some people have a hard time spelling if they’re not good at spelling. It’s still difficult in many ways. The distractions are what really kind of keep the fun of the show going.
What other game shows that have aired in your lifetime would you like to take a stab at?
To be honest, mine would be the dancing and the singing stuff. Those are the things that I enjoy more than anything. The “Jeopardy” stuff is not really where I’m at. I like to use my talents in some way versus my brain. I think there are people out there who are smarter than me. So I let them do those types of game shows. I certainly enjoyed “The Price Is Right” growing up. I don’t do much shopping anymore. I’m fortunate enough my wife loves to do the shopping, so I would probably have a hard time with the prices now. The singing and the dancing shows were certainly shows that I’ve enjoyed. I did a show called “Celebrity Duets.” I actually won $100,000 for my charity. Those are the shows I enjoy.
How do you think Carlton Banks would do on a show like “Spell-Mageddon?”
I think Carlton Banks would win “Spell-Mageddon.” Obviously, he was super smart. He was still relatively athletic. He was unwavering in his convictions. I think Carlton would’ve done very well on the show.