The cast walked the fans of the show through the process of making the show – from Tuesday and Wednesday rehearsals to tape nights on Fridays. As well as sharing fond memories from their time working together, the group was able to reflect on their experience, as well as the impact of the show. Doing so both in the roundtable setting and individual interview-style talking heads.
“Yes it’s fun to watch, but the idea of it translates to so many different places,” said Will Smith.
Here are the top 7 things learned from HBO Max’s ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reunion:
1. The real reason the “original Aunt Viv” left.
The first actor to play Aunt Vivian sat down with Smith to 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“. As a result, she was “no longer laughing, smiling, joking” because of it.
She took resentment in the fact that her exit from the show was reported on as her being fired. She stated that she was offered and rejected a “bad deal“: She wasn’t allowed to work anywhere else when working on the show. “So that meant my salary was cut, I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work. So I said no, I would not accept their offer.” Although she was “hurt deeply” that they said they were going to recast rather than renegotiate, she felt trapped and like she couldn’t say anything.
“I wasn’t unprofessional on the set, I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn’t know who to trust,” she said. Also adding that she was told it was Smith who “banished” her.
After leaving the show, Hubert said both her family and Hollywood “disowned” her. “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 Black woman in this business.”
2. Alfonso Ribeiro Auditioned In a Tracksuit.
The character, Carlton Banks was a notoriously preppy character; played by Ribeiro. He is an affluent teenager attending private school in the ritzy Bel-Air sub-section of Los Angeles. He was known for button-down collared shirts and sweaters (often knotted around his neck). But Ribeiro auditioned for the role wearing an Adidas tracksuit. He seemed baffled at that fact when faced with old footage during the reunion.
“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.
3. James Avery taught a masterclass in acting, and in life.
“I learned that what we do is not for us, it’s not about us; we are here to bring dignity, to represent, to expand, to 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“, as the cast called him.
Avery passed away in 2013, but because his influence and importance was so big, the cast devoted a special section of the reunion to remembering him — and his love of jazz.
“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, and that responsibility, you must elevate your craft. You have to represent and you are paving a way.’ “