Here are all the secret revelations that were shared during the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special that aired on HBO Max.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hit the scene 30 years ago but remains to be one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. Starring a young Will Smith, known then as the rapper “Fresh Prince,” the series followed a streetwise young man from West Philadelphia who moves in with relatives in Beverly Hills. In honor of its 30th anniversary, the entire Fresh Prince cast reunited as part of a reunion special on HBO Max. The Banks sat together in their old family living room to discuss their lives on the show and honor the memory of James Avery who passed away in 2013. They share stories from the set and clear the air on several topics, revealing many behind the scenes secrets.
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Here are all of the revelations from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion.
Daphne Reid Originally Didn’t Want to Be in the Show
Probably the heaviest topic discussed among Fresh Prince fans is the recasting of Aunt Viv. For the first three seasons of the show, she was played by Janet Hubert until she was replaced by Daphne Reid. The two actresses had very different takes on the character, with Reid bringing in a softer version of the graceful dominance Hubert carried in earlier seasons. However, there was a chance that Reid could have played Aunt Viv from the very beginning. In the special, she revealed that when the series was doing casting calls in 1999, she was offered the chance to audition but turned it down upon hearing that it involved a rapper.
Alfonso Ribeiro Made Up the “Carlton Dance”
Whenever Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual” started playing, fans knew they were about to see the “Carlton dance,” but it might not have ever existed had Alfonso Ribeiro not gotten the role. During a rehearsal reading, Ribeiro saw “Carlton dances” on his script and made it up on the spot. This isn’t the first time Ribeiro had to explain the dance to fans — he once mentioned it in an interview with Variety: “It was never even intended to be funny; it was just that he was dancing. The dance is ultimately Courteney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video ‘Dancing in the Dark’; that’s the basis.”
The Cast Made Sure Everything Was Authentic
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air revolved around a Black family living in a predominantly white area and it was essential to the cast that their characters were authentic to such a setting. They wanted to be sure that the Banks weren’t being internally white-washed. According to the cast, they were given a whole day to work together and give input on their characters, suggesting changes so that the series could include prominent Black issues and remain ingrained within Black culture, despite the yuppy white society they interacted with.
At one point, Karyn Parsons had to talk the writers out of turning the materialistic Hilary into a strong Black woman trope. Such token characters were becoming increasingly popular, but Parsons thought there was something incredibly real about how flawed Hilary was and managed to talk them out of it.
Will Smith Had a Very Unconventional Audition
A series built around a rapper called “Fresh Prince” seemed odd even to Will Smith when he first heard about it. The premise was based on the life of Benny Medina, who grew up in the projects before being sent to live with his aunt in Beverly Hills. Smith first heard about the show when he was brought to Medina’s house, who was having a birthday party at the time, and given the pitch. Smith mentioned how he was streamlined through the process, not really knowing what was going on. Medina’s houseguests gathered around his living room where Smith was pushed into giving an audition on the spot. That night, a deal memo was made, and within six weeks they had started filming the pilot.
Janet Hubert Was Not Fired
One of the most significant moments of the reunion was the return of Janet Hubert into the Fresh Prince family. After years spent feuding, Hubert and Smith finally buried the hatchet and opened up about what happened on set. After the Season 3, Hubert mysteriously disappeared after both she and her character had given birth. Rumors of her being fired had started to spread, suggesting she was difficult to work with, causing her to be blacklisted in Hollywood.
However, she’s come to set the record straight. She had never been fired. Hubert was trapped in an abusive marriage and her unexpected pregnancy had taken a toll on her. She started coming to work unhappy, which a young Smith did not understand, and he became annoyed with her attitude. Whether this influenced the network or not is never said, but after Season 3 wrapped, NBC approached Hubert with a new contract that would have her working for two months and two weeks and forbade her from working anywhere else. With a new baby and an unemployed husband, she couldn’t afford such a deal. She turned it down and was replaced by Daphne Reid.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special is currently available to stream on HBO Max.
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