Lou Smith
Lou Smith
Age 57 - 60
Occupation Trucker
Family Will Smith
(biological son)
Romances Viola Smith
Actor Ben Vereen
Only seen Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse
Lou Smith is a guest character in Season 4 of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. He is portrayed by Ben Vereen.


Lou is the biological father of Will Smith and ex-husband of Vy.

Lou abandoned his family (Will and Viola "Vy" Smith) when Will was four-years old, and explains his motives for leaving by saying such excuses as "he wasn't ready to be a father," that "he was scared to accept the responsibility" and that he "felt trapped." Sometime during the 14-year period that he was absent from Will's life, he became a trucker.

Lou drops in unannounced at the Peacock café where Will and Carlton work. After an awkward conversation between the two of them, Will invites Lou to the Banks' residence, but when he arrives, the family, especially Philip, gives him the cold shoulder (with the exception of Carlton and Hilary, who are excited to see their long lost uncle and Ashley who's meeting him for the first time since she was a baby). Lou also meets Nicky for the first time ever. Will and his father go to a carnival where Lou explains to him he wasn't ready to be a father and asks for Will's forgiveness. Will decides to forgive Lou, and after he impresses Will with his skills at a basketball carnival game, Will calls him "Dad" for the first time.

When they return to the house, Lou announces that Will is joining him for the summer on a nationwide trip in Lou's truck. Philip objects to this, not buying into Lou's supposed change of heart and insults Lou by subtly telling him that he wasn't part of their family. After Lou leaves the mansion to wait in the pool house, Will calls out Philip for insulting Lou, which finally causes Philip to blow up. Philip tells Will that Lou was still the same guy who selfishly walked out on him 14 years ago and is only seeing Will for his own selfish intentions. Will remains convinced that Lou has indeed changed and stands by his decision to go with him. When Philip continues to object, Will explodes as well, screaming, "WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK?! YOU'RE NOT MY FATHER!"

Horrified and hurt by Will's words, Philip begins wondering if he's a good father to his own children. The next day, Philip is still upset over what Will said, believing that, because Lou had re-entered Will's life, he no longer cared about everything that Philip had done for him, accusing him of being selfish. Vivian makes Philip realize that he was being selfish by trying to prevent Will from re-connecting with Lou. Philip speaks with Will and the two of them make amends. Will assures Philip that he appreciates everything he has done for him but the trip with Lou was something he needed to do for himself. Philip gives Will his blessing to take the trip and wishes him luck. Will reminds Phillip that the trip is only for the summer and he'd return to Bel-Air after it was done.

After a while, the family is still waiting for Lou to return. Lou eventually shows up, telling them he has a shipment that needs to go to Maine in 72 hours and there isn't enough space for Will as he's picking up an extra driver, even refusing an offer from Philip to fly Will to Maine to meet up with him, as, according to him, this job could lead to another big one and he needed to "stay flexible". Vivian expresses concern for Will's reaction, that it would crush him. Lou acknowledges this, and to that, he requests that they tell for him instead. At the request of a provoked Philip, Vivian leaves the room but not before telling Lou to stay out of Will's life if he walks out on him again.

An irate Philip bluntly reminds him of his responsibility to as a father; that Will isn't some come-and-go object that he can use whenever he feels like it and that Lou is supposed to be there for Will, not the other way around. Lou reacts defensively; that he didn't want this job opportunity to happen and uses the same excuse on Philip as to why he left Will to begin with. However, Philip tells him to stop the excuse, because fatherhood scared him too but he never let that cause him to leave his family and explains that being there for them is what a man does. But an annoyed Lou refuses to listen, admitting that Philip is a better man than himself. Just as Lou is about to duck out, Will walks in with his bags packed, forcing Lou to to tell Will that their trip is not going to happen because of his job. Although he promises it will be "on hold for a couple of weeks" and that he will give Will a call "next week to iron out the details", Will knows he is just trying to weasel out easy and is never going to do any of those things. When Lou says goodbye to Will, Will closes the bridge by addressing him as "Lou" instead of "Dad". In a state of awkwardness, Lou leaves. 

Will is in denial about any feelings of hurt and betrayal, claiming he doesn't need Lou. He starts by talking about all the times he never needed his father but then goes into an angry rant talking about how he would continue to succeed in life without him and would also go on to be a better father to his own children when he had them, saying that "there's not a damn thing he could ever teach me about how to love my kids!". Will then finally reveals how broken he feels about Lou leaving him again when he says, "How come he don't want me, man?", before completely breaking down and sobbing uncontrollably in his uncle's arms. This solidifies the fact that Philip, despite his often indifferent attitude and penchant for being made fun of, is Will's real father figure.

Will intended to give a gift to Lou which never was awarded, ironically a small statue showing a carving of a man having his arms on the shoulder of a child, symbolic of a father always being there for his kids. Although not shown, it's presumed that Will gave the statue to Phil.


  • Though he is alluded to frequently within the series, he makes only one appearance on the show, in the episode "Papa's Got a Brand New Excuse".
  • According to Lou, he hasn't seen his nephew Carlton since he was 3 years old, which was about 1 year before he abandoned Vy and Will in Philadelphia.
  • According to Will, when he was 5 years old, he'd constantly stay up every night asking his mother Vy when Lou would return home, unaware that Lou had abandoned them (and would continue to be unaware of it for a couple of years).
  • In his first and only appearance, it's shown Lou had truly little (if any) care for his family as he was willing to abandon his son twice, even when he was warned never to come back if he did.
  • Although Lou never reappeared after this, Will was so hurt by the incident that he developed a deep resentment towards his father whenever he was mentioned. In "Get A Job", he gets into a heated argument with Carlton, who insulted Will by comparing him to his father. Shaking with anger, he calmly but clearly stated, "I am nothing like my father".
  • In an earlier episode before Lou's appearance, when Phil suffers a heart attack and Carlton is in denial, Will confronts Carlton to go visit Phil in the hospital. Will wins the argument using reverse psychology by reminding Carlton he has a father who is always there for his children when Will asks Carlton "Do you know where my father is"? When Carlton answers in the negative, Will rebuts "Neither do I".
  • In the finale episode, Will states that Uncle Phil is the only father he ever had and Philip says, "You are my son, end of story."