“I wasn’t unprofessional, I just stopped talking to lớn everybody because I didn’t know who to lớn trust,” said Janet Hubert, who played the original Aunt Vivian

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The stars of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" gathered for a reunion special for HBO Max.Courtesy of Will Smith
Almost 25 years after “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” signed off of NBC, the sitcom’s stars sat down on a meticulously recreated Banks family living room set khổng lồ film a reunion special for HBO Max.

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Much of the special was devoted lớn walking the fans of the show through the process of making the show (from Tuesday and Wednesday rehearsals, to lớn tape nights on Fridays), as well as sharing fond memories from their time working together (and featuring a surprise appearance by Ross Bagley, who played Nicky). In doing so, both in the roundtable setting & individual interview-style talking heads, the group was able to reflect on their experience, as well as the legacy of the show overall.


“The idea that we, as a đen show on TV — one of three at the time — there weren’t really us in the writers’ room,” said Alfonso Ribeiro. “As an actor, you never had a voice — you never had a voice in the room. You were a puppet who was told what khổng lồ do, ‘Say this line, move over here."”

But by having a black family on-screen, millions of audience members around the world tuned in & saw themselves reflected — or tuned in and saw a black family that was just like their own family.

“Yes it’s fun khổng lồ watch, but the idea of it translates khổng lồ so many different places,” said Will Smith.

Here are the top 7 things learned from HBO Max’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion:

Smith admits to being a line-mimicker

A few years ago a popular thread on Reddit discussed Smith’s apparent mouthing of other performers’ dialogue in scenes in the hit 1990s sitcom. When asked for early memories of the show, it was the first thing Karyn Parsons, who played Will’s cousin Hilary Banks, called out. Saying she was so nervous during preparation and production for the pilot that she was “praying for an earthquake,” she added that what ended up making her more nervous on the show’s tape night was Smith silently repeating her lines back to lớn her on-set, something he had been doing during rehearsals.

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To explain, Smith said, “When we were on the phối of the pilot that was my first time really doing dialogue.” “So you did everybody’s dialogue?” Parsons interjected. The answer was yes, he learned everybody’s dialogue và his strong memorization skills are visible if you go back & look at those early episodes, now in streaming.

Janet Hubert left over a ‘bad deal’ but felt ‘banished’ by Smith

The first actor khổng lồ play Aunt Vivian sat down with Smith khổng lồ discuss why she left the show, sharing that during the third season (her last), she was pregnant but her home life was “not good at all” & she was “no longer laughing, smiling, joking” because of it.


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“I lost everything — reputation, everything,” she continued. “Those words, calling a black woman ‘difficult’ in Hollywood is the kiss of death. It’s hard enough being a dark-skinned đen woman in this business.”

Ribeiro auditioned in a track suit

Carlton Banks was a notoriously preppy character. An affluent teenager attending private school in the ritzy Bel-Air sub-section of Los Angeles, he was known for button-down collared shirts và sweaters (often knotted around his neck). But Ribeiro auditioned for the role wearing an Adidas track suit, a fact by which, when faced with the old footage during the reunion, he seemed baffled.

“I know I didn’t go there wearing a sweatsuit believing I was going to get that character,” he said. Maybe in his callback he spruced things up because of course he was hired and the rest, as they say, was history.


Daphne Maxwell Reid turned down the role of Aunt Viv at first. Reid, who joined the series in 1993 after Hubert departed, shared that when her team first called her to lớn tell her about “this new sitcom with a rapper” she said, “Pass.”

She didn’t audition in 1990, but when the show premiered, she said, “Oh damn, that’s cute.” Three seasons later when the show was looking for a new Aunt Viv, this time she said yes.

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Show night rituals featured a lot of music

The reunion featured some behind-the-scenes footage inside Smith’s dressing room where the cast said music would be “booming” on tape nights.


“You’d just start following lượt thích the Piped Piper,” said Parsons. The tiệc nhỏ vibe was something that brought everyone together & got them pumped khổng lồ perform, but they also brought it down with inspiration speeches at times, too. The vibe extended to the live studio audience, too, who “would come to the taping like they were going to a club,” Smith recalled.

To keep the energy up for all involved, there was a basket on mix full of tambourines, sticks & other items that could be used to hype up the crowd. Smith himself would grab a microphone & get everyone’s hands in the air, as well.

“It felt like it was a show — it wasn’t a TV show, it was a show,” Ribeiro said.

Black culture was not depicted as a monolith — nor a stereotype

The show started when Smith’s self-titled character went to lớn live with his well-off aunt and uncle in California, which already showcased a đen family in a unique way. But within that family, no two characters were entirely alike, even if many of their circumstances were similar (and privileged).


Jeffrey Allen Townes aka DJ Jazzy Jeff looked back on the scene in which his character was testifying in court and at-first didn’t want to lớn put his hands down because the trắng bailiff had a gun, noting that they focused on stories “that had a truth” lớn them.

Similarly, they looked back on the time Will and Carlton were pulled over, which gave Carlton a glimpse into how some police see black men. “What we’d always vì with ‘The Fresh Prince,’ there would be very powerful ideas under the jokes, under the comedy,” Smith said.

Sometimes the actors were able to influence these elements of the show — or at least specific lines of dialogue, as Reid recalled telling the writers at a table read that Tatyana Ali had a line that would make “her chiến bại her teeth” if she actually said it to lớn her father in a đen family.

James Avery taught a masterclass in acting, and in life

“I learned that what we vị is not for us, it’s not about us; we are here to lớn bring dignity, lớn represent, to expand, to lớn push forward, and I learned that here, at his feet,” Ali said of working with Avery, the patriarch of the Banks family and “heart of the show,” per the cast.


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“He introduced me to black art in ways that I wouldn’t have gotten that education anywhere else,” Ali said. Smith added that Avery “pushed me so hard. His thing was, ‘I am in such a unique position, & that responsibility, you must elevate your craft. You have to lớn represent and you are paving a way."”

During the scene in which Will goes off on not needing his father but then ends up breaking down & asking his uncle why the man doesn’t want him, Smith also shared that he flubbed the line at first, Avery reset him by telling him to lớn “use me,” & then at the over of the take when they were embracing, Avery whispered in his ear, “Now that’s acting.”