It’s been 32 years since The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came into our lives – feel old yet? Will Smith’s sitcom about a young man from Philadelphia who moves to Bel-Air to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle is still a firm favorite today.
But fans will remember that Will’s Aunt Viv was recast during the run of the show. So what happened to cause the shake-up?
As we mark the show’s anniversary today (September 10), let’s take a look at what was going on behind the scenes.
What happened to Aunt Viv?
The role of Vivian Banks was originally portrayed by actress Janet Hubert, with Daphne Reid taking over from season four.
It’s been said in the past that Hubert was let go from the show after expressing that she felt unappreciated and wanted a bigger role on the series.
Producers decided to recast her role and Reid was brought in instead after auditions were held.
The actress beat more than 200 other women to the part after she struck a “chemical cord” with James Avery, who played her husband Philip Banks.
Reid once said in an interview with MadameNoire that she didn’t have any concerns about taking the role from Hubert.
She told the magazine: “I did not feel anything about ‘replacing’ the original Aunt Viv. All actors are ‘replaceable’ according to the choices of the creators and producers of the project.”
What Will Smith said about it
TV Line reports that Smith said in a 1993 radio interview: “I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show.
“She said once, ‘I’ve been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes and gets a show.
“To her, I’m the Anti-Christ.”
What Janet Hubert said about it
Hubert said in a 1993 interview that she’d been blindsided by the recasting of her character.
She told The Los Angeles Times: “I was hurt and disappointed. I’d worked hard and I never saw that coming.”
In the years following, she retained a less-than-favorable opinion of the show’s star Smith.
She went as far at to tell TMZ in 2011 that she would never “do anything with an a*****e like Will Smith” again.
However, it appeared they had mended the feud by 2020 when she appeared alongside Smith for an HBO Max reunion special.
It was then that she set the record straight, saying she was never fired from the show.
Hubert said that in reality, she had rejected a salary cut and a contract that would mean she couldn’t work elsewhere.
Entertainment Tonight reports she said: “They offered this really bad deal in the third season. They said, ‘You’ve got two months and two weeks of work and you cannot work anywhere else’.
“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 did not accept their offer. I was never fired.”
She added she was “deeply hurt” when producers told her they were going to recast her role.
At the reunion, Smith admitted he had made things difficult for Hubert during their time working together.
He apologized and told her: “You’re still my Aunt Viv.”