The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion will include the original Aunt Viv.
Janet Hubert, who originated the role of Will Smith’s aunt Vivian Banks on the iconic ‘90s show, but was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid midway through the show’s six-season run — will be part of upcoming the HBO Max special.
Smith shared the news on Thursday, which marked the 30-year anniversary of the TV show’s debut. “We’re doin’ something for y’all,” he wrote on Instagram, “a for real Banks Family Reunion is comin’ soon.”
The first photo showed the final cast together — Smith, Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton), Karyn Parsons (Hilary), Tatyana M. Ali (Ashley), Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey) and DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeff) — with the exception of James Avery (Uncle Phil), who died in 2013. A second photo showed Smith sitting next to Hubert and they both actually appear to be … smiling? Kinda?
Hubert also shared the photo on her fan Instagram page, writing, “Reunited and it feels so good.” Some of her hashtags included “free at last” and “God spoke to me.”
This is not a reunion that anyone would have predicted. Hubert’s firing and subsequent replacement was highly publicized at the time. While it was initially spun as a dispute between Hubert and network execs, Smith gave an interview soon after saying Hubert was fired for bringing her problems to work, and that she resented him being the show’s star. Gulp.
That led to decades of drama between Hubert and Smith — with Hubert not holding back. One of the lowlights in the long-running feud was Hubert slamming Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, for announcing a boycott of the 2016 Oscars because of a lack of diversity. She claimed she once asked Smith to help the rest of the cast get a raise after Fresh Prince’s early success, thinking his influence would help, and he allegedly told her, “My deal is my deal, and y’alls deal is y’alls deal.”
Despite that, Smith didn’t hold a grudge and when asked who the best Aunt Viv was the following year, he said they were “both fantastic” and called Hubert a “brilliant” actress, despite her ousting.
That didn’t smooth things over. In 2017, there was an informal Fresh Prince reunion and Hubert went off about it on social media. She said she would be shopping her memoir to tell the real story of what happened behind the scenes on the show.
But now decades later, it seems like they are putting it all in the past and moving closer to really being the loving TV family the world fell in love with.