It’s been almost 25 years since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air left our TVs and in its place, years of afternoon re-runs.
Now the entire Banks family have sat down on the coveted soundstage where it all began, in a sit-down reunion interview hosted by the Will himself, Will Smith.
From how the show was made to the overall legacy of the popular series, cast members including Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey Butler), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks), Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks), Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks) and recurring co-star DJ Jazzy Jeff joined the Fresh Prince, opening up about what it was like to be a part of such a popular series.
Perhaps the most compelling part of the special was Janet Hubert’s return — the original Aunt Viv. After three seasons, the actor quit due to “personal reasons” and Daphne Maxwell Reid took her place for the duration of the series.
Over the years, Hubert had called Smith an “egomaniac” and even blamed the star for her exit. She even said that it was the Aladdin actor who had gotten her replaced.
After 27 years, the pair sat down to hash things out.
Hubert told the star that the reason she actually quit was due to pregnancy and being involved in an “abusive marriage” before insisting that she was not fired.
“When I left the show, I had this new baby and no-one. Family disowned me. Hollywood disowned me. My family said, ‘You’ve ruined our name,'” she said.
“And I wasn’t unprofessional on the set; I just stopped talking to everybody, because I didn’t know who to trust because I had been banished. And they said it was you who banished me.”
The star had three children on her own and told Smith that his words about her made her lose “everything”.
“Those words, calling a black woman ‘difficult’ in Hollywood is the kiss of death. And it’s hard enough for a dark-skinned black woman in this business,” she told him.
Smith, who listened to every word, said: “I could not do a 30-year celebration of this show and not celebrate you, celebrate your contribution to the show, celebrate your contribution to my life.”
During its run, The Fresh Prince was one of three TV shows that featured an African American family, however, Ribeiro — who is still known in pop culture today as the creator of the “Carlton Dance” — said that it didn’t mean the cast had any input in the show.
“The idea that we, as a Black show on TV — one of three at the time — there weren’t really us in the writers’ room,” he said. “As an actor, you never had a voice — you never had a voice in the room. You were a puppet who was told what to do, ‘Say this line, move over here.’”
The cast also paid tribute to their late co-star James Avery — “the heart of the show” — who played Will’s Uncle Phil.
“He pushed me so hard,” Smith said. “His thing was, that I am in such a unique position and that responsibility, you must elevate your craft. You have to represent and you are paving a way and he just wouldn’t give me an inch.”
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special premieres this Thursday only on Stan, the same day as the US – with every iconic episode of the original series also available to stream on Stan from Thursday, November 19.