‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Producer Was 78

Samm-Art Williams, a Tony-nominated playwright, actor, director and the executive producer of NBC’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, has died. He was 78.

Williams died peacefully in Burgaw, North Carolina on Monday, his cousin Carol Brown confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Mr. Williams’ contributions to American theater and television will live on but he will be greatly missed,” Brown said via statement.

For the theater community, Williams was perhaps best known as the Tony-nominated playwright of Home, which was first directed by Douglas Turner Ward and produced on Broadway by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1980. The show is set to return to Broadway on June 5, with Kenny Leon directing this time.

Williams also wrote stage works such as Welcome To Black River, Friends, and other plays produced in New York, Los Angeles and beyond. In addition to its Tony nod for best Broadway play, Home won the Outer Critics Circle Award, a Drama Desk nomination, the NAACP Image Award and the North Carolina Governor’s Award.

Over the course of his career, Williams received the Guggenheim Fellowship, The National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Playwriting, and other awards for his writing.

On screen, Williams wrote episodes for Cagney and Lacey, The New Mike Hammer, Miami Vice and The Debbie Allen Special. He was nominated for two Emmy awards, as a producer for Frank’s Place (1988) and Motown Returns to the Apollo (1985).

From 1990 to 1993, he served as executive producer of the Will Smith-led Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which remains considered one of the most impactful sitcoms of all time.

Williams was born Jan. 20, 1946 in Philadelphia. He studied at Morgan State University in Baltimore. He had no spouse or children.


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