Arguably the television show that played most into our collective identity, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air rejuvenated both a career and a city. And it wouldn’t have been possible without producer Jeffrey Pollack, who passed away this week at the age of 54.
Pollack, who started as a producer on Fresh Prince and later co-wrote several episodes and became an executive producer on the show, was found dead in Hermosa Beach, Calif. on Monday morning. The cause of death is not yet known.
Beyond Fresh Prince, Pollack is perhaps best known for his 1994 feature, Above the Rim, starring Tupac Shakur. He also directed 1997’s Booty Call, and started a production company—Handprint Entertainment—with Benny Medina, the inspiration for Will Smith’s character in Fresh Prince. Despite that resume, though, Pollack hadn’t directed a feature since 1999’s Lost & Found.
But, still, Fresh Prince the feather in Pollack’s cap, having run 148 episodes across six seasons and becoming a major pop culture force in the process. Nary a Philadelphian can’t quote the show’s theme song in its entirety (plus some extra verses), and Smith largely still has a career today thanks to the show’s reception. It is, in essence, the germination point for a whole subset of popular culture.
Which is to say, we owe Pollack—not just for helping to create one of the most beloved TV characters of all time, but because without his input, we’d be a Prince-less city. Even if Will Smith never left in the first place.
And that, of course, would be the biggest tragedy of all.