Cover Story | Everyone’s been talking about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion. It dropped on November 19th and I was excited to see the cast back together. The show premiered in 1990 and ran for six seasons before ending in 1996. The show was successful during its time and over the years has become a classic. People can debate about the best 90’s shows for another 10 years and The Fresh Prince will always be in the mix.
The reunion was touching, and it highlighted what was special about each of the characters and why we fell in love with them 30 years ago. One of the more special moments of the show was the reunion between Will (Will Smith) and OG Aunt Viv (Janet Hubert). It reminded me of a conversation between Jason G. and myself on the In Living Culture Podcast about Hubert, her replacement (Daphne Maxwell Reid) and the different roles their characters played in the show.
Both actresses played the same character technically, but after season 3, when Hubert was replaced, the change was obvious to everyone (including Jazz in the episode. Beyond the physical differences between the actresses, the role of Aunt Vivian in the show changed as well. Personally, I preferred Hubert’s portrayal. She exuded strength and her character was written like that. My favorite scene from her was at the police station after Will and Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) were arrested. The way she defended her son and nephew (and was willing to take it past words if needed) made me want to claim her as a part of my family.
Reid’s role seemed more subdued. How she was written may have played a part in that, but her approach was also different. She was a caring mother/aunt but lacked the edge of her predecessor. While the original had a “take charge” attitude, Reid had a more supportive nature. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Simply stated, it means if you found yourself in an unsavory predicament you would call Hubert to come help and Reid to find help. As individuals and as a culture we experience both. In a roundabout way, it showed some of the range of Black women.
In the reunion, both Aunt Viv’s met with Will for the first time in over 25 years on a recreated set of the show. Will had spoken with her prior, but this was the first time everyone had shared a moment. It was like a family finally coming together after years of division.
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