Will Smith just gave millennials and xennials their Christmas present early with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion on HBO Max. While the highly anticipated Friends reunion is still up in the air, I’m content with waiting because 2020 just saw its best reunion and no one can tell me otherwise.
Smith left no stone unturned as he brought together Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks), Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks), DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jazz), Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey Butler) and Ross Bagley (Nicky Banks). The ensemble went into depth about the chemistry between each other and the characters, as well as the influential fashion and heartfelt lessons the show highlighted every week.
Two minutes in and I can honestly say the tears were already starting to flow. Not just because I’m a sucker for series finales (revisiting those times is always emotional), but also because this reunion did its best to pull at the heartstrings.
With a surprise live viewing party of the reunion on HBO Max Wednesday, Smith pulled off one of the greatest reunions of all time by bringing together his whole Fresh Prince TV family — including the two mothers that were in the middle of one of the most tense character replacements that television has ever seen. Janet Hubert and Daphne Maxwell Reid met for the first time ever, while Smith and Hubert sat down together for the first time in 27 years.
“I couldn’t celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without finding a way to celebrate Janet,” says Smith.
Hubert was the original “OG” Vivian Banks/Aunt Viv. A college professor that was sharp, beautiful and could deliver a line that pierced the soul. The tale of Janet Hubert leaving Fresh Prince is a contract disagreement that was twisted into years worth of misunderstandings toward her being a “difficult” person to work with on the show. As Hubert recalls, once Smith had spoken his unhappiness with her in public, his words heavily affected her career. What Smith and the rest of the world didn’t know was that Hubert was struggling with a challenging home life, including a new baby and out of work/abusive partner. The beauty in this reunion is that it goes much deeper than just a reunion. It’s the healing of a family. As Hubert put it, “it’s time.”
Seeing Hubert and Reid embrace after having faced society and pop culture’s constant comparison to each other without ever meeting was nothing short of beautiful. “I hope other people can take something from it,” says Smith.
The cast also touched on the impact of representing a black family and black culture on screen. After Reid eluded to an incident in a table read where she had to speak out against something that Ali’s character would say to her dad that was presumably disrespectful, the line was scrapped. Reid adds, ”Culturally, we don’t do that.”
Of course, this reunion was missing one of television’s favorite uncles, Phillip Banks a.k.a. James Avery, who passed in 2013. The cast spoke about how impactful Avery was to each of them throughout the years.
“What we do is not for us. It’s not about us. We are here to bring dignity, to represent, to expand and to push forward,” Ali emphasizes in reference to what she learned from Avery.
We all have Quincy Jones and Benny Medina to thank for being the mad geniuses to put a young rapper from Philly in his own television show.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air premiered on Sept 10, 1990 on NBC and ran for 6 full seasons. The entire series can be enjoyed for more generations with streaming on HBO Max and its airings in syndication on select cable networks.
This article was originally published on 11/20/20
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