Oscars 2014: Winning screenplay writer credits 'Fresh Prince'

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Image Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images

Will Smith probably didn’t know it at the time, but he was helping to develop a future Oscar-winning screenwriter while headlining The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Writer John Ridley — who won his first Academy Award on Sunday for adapting¬†12 Years of Slave — credits his long career as a TV comedy writer for helping him transition successfully to the big screen. Ridley, whose small screen credits include Fresh Prince,¬†Martin, The John Larroquette Show and The Wanda Sykes Show, drew upon Solomon Northup’s autobiography to write the screenplay for the Steve McQueen-directed movie that won best picture Sunday.

“I remember the gentleman who gave me my first job, and to stand there [at the Oscars] with Will Smith a moment later!” Ridley said after the show. “I wrote jokes for that guy. It was a wonderful, wonderful beginning and honestly when I think about that, it’s all the more stunning that somehow I ended up here.

“I love TV, I’m still doing TV. TV matters and if it were not for television, when I was working on Martin, working for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, when people were kicking open the doors for people of color, I would not have ended up here. I am so thankful for that time, and I’m so thankful to be here.”


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