Almost 25 years after signing “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to NBC, the sitcom stars have sat down in a meticulously recreated Banks family living room to film a special for HBO Max.
Much of the special was devoted to accompanying fans of the show through the process of making the show (from rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday to recording nights on Friday), as well as sharing fond memories of their time. time working together (and with a surprise appearance by Ross Bagley, who played Nicky). In doing so, both as part of the roundtable and one-on-one talking heads, the group was able to reflect on their experience, as well as the show’s legacy as a whole.
“The idea that we, as a black show on TV – one of three at the time – weren’t really in the writers room,” Alfonso Ribeiro said. “As an actor, you never had a voice – you never had a voice in the play. You were a puppet who was told what to do: “Say this sentence, come on here.” “
But by having a black family on screen, millions of viewers around the world connected and saw themselves reflected – or watched and saw a black family that was like their own family.
“Yeah, it’s fun to watch, but the idea translates into so many different places,” said Will Smith.
Here are the Top 7 things learned from HBO Max’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion:
Smith admits to being a line impersonator
A few years ago, a popular thread on Reddit discussed the actor’s apparent appetizer from other performers’ dialogue in scenes from the hit 1990s sitcom. When asked about the earliest memories of the show was the first thing Karyn Parsons, who played Will’s cousin Hilary Banks, called out. Saying that she was so nervous during the preparation and production of the pilot that she was “praying for an earthquake,” she added that which ended up making her more nervous during the recording night of the show was Smith silently rehearsing his lines on his set, something he had done during rehearsals. To explain, Smith said, “When we were on the pilot set, it was the first time I actually had a dialogue.” “So you talked to everyone?” Parsons intervened. The answer was yes, he learned everyone’s dialogue and his strong memorization skills can be seen if you go back and watch those early episodes, now streaming.
Janet Hubert left a ‘bad deal’ but felt ‘banned’ by Smith
The first actor to play Aunt Vivian sat down with Smith to discuss why she left the show, explaining that in season three (her last) she was pregnant but her life at home did not was ‘not good at all’ and she ‘wasn’t laughing, smiling, joking’ anymore because of it. She took umbrage that her exit from the show was marked as her dismissal, saying she was offered and rejected a “bad deal”: she was not allowed to work elsewhere when she was working. on the show. “It meant my salary had been cut, I had a new baby and a husband without work. So I said no, I wouldn’t take their offer. Although she was “deeply hurt” that they said they were going to recast rather than renegotiate, she felt trapped and like she couldn’t say anything. “I was unprofessional on set, I just stopped talking to everyone because I didn’t know who to trust,” she said, adding that she was told it was It was Smith who had “banished” her. After leaving the show, Hubert said her family and Hollywood had “disowned” her. “I lost everything – the reputation, everything,” she continued. “These words, to call a black woman ‘difficult’ in Hollywood, is the kiss of death. It’s hard enough being a dark-skinned black woman in this business.
Ribeiro auditioned in tracksuit
Carlton Banks was a notoriously preppy character. An affluent teenager attending a private school in the chic Bel-Air sub-section of Los Angeles, he was known for his button-down shirts and sweaters (often tied around the neck). But Ribeiro auditioned for the role wearing an Adidas tracksuit, a fact by which, faced with the old footage at the meeting, he seemed baffled. “I know I didn’t go with a tracksuit on thinking I was going to have this character,” he said. Maybe in his recall he made it better because of course he got hired and the rest, as they say, was history.
Daphne Maxwell Reid initially turned down the role of Aunt Viv
Reid, who joined the show in 1993 after Hubert left, said that when her team first called her to tell her about a “new sitcom with a rapper,” she said, “Pass “. She didn’t audition in 1990, but at the show’s premiere she said, “Oh damn, that’s cute.” Three seasons later, when the show was looking for a new Aunt Viv, this time she said yes.
The nightly rituals of the show included a lot of music
The reunion featured behind-the-scenes footage inside Smith’s dressing room where the cast said the music would be “booming” on recording nights. “You’d just start to follow like the Piped Piper,” Parsons said. The party vibe brought everyone together and motivated them to perform, but they also sometimes toned it down with inspirational speeches. The vibe also spread to the live studio audience, who “would come to the recording like they were going to a club,” Smith recalls. To save energy for everyone involved, there was a basket on the set filled with tambourines, sticks, and other items that could be used for hype. Smith himself would grab a microphone and put everyone’s hand up. “It was like it was a show – it wasn’t a TV show, it was a show,” Ribeiro said.
Black culture was not portrayed as a monolith – nor as a stereotype
The show began when Smith’s eponymous character moved to live with his well-off aunt and uncle in California, who already featured a black family in a unique way. But within this family, no character was entirely alike, even though many of their circumstances were similar (and privileged). Parsons recalled a particularly emotional moment for her when the writers and producers wanted to “see a change” in Hilary to become a “strong black woman,” and she realized she didn’t want that. “I felt there were people who were just flawed and saw things differently, and you can see them a lot too,” she explained. Jeffrey Allen Townes aka DJ Jazzy Jeff looked back at the scene in which his character was testifying in court and at first didn’t want to lower his hands because the White Usher had a gun, noting that they were focusing on stories “that had a truth” for them. Likewise, they looked back on when Will and Carlton were arrested, which gave Carlton a glimpse of how some police see black men. “What we would always do with ‘The Fresh Prince’, there would be some really powerful ideas under the jokes, under the comedy,” Smith said. Sometimes the actors were able to influence these elements of the series – or at least specific lines of dialogue, as Reid recalls telling writers at a reading table that Tatyana Ali had a line that would “lose her teeth.” If she actually said to her father in a black family.
James Avery taught a masterclass in theater and in life
“I learned that what we do is not for us, it is not for us; we are here to bring dignity, to represent, to enlarge, to move forward, and I have learned that here at his feet, ”Ali said of his work with Avery, the Patriarch of the Banks family and“ heart of the show ”, by the cast. Avery passed away in 2013, but because his influence and importance was so great, the cast dedicated a special section of the reunion to remember him – and his love of jazz. “He introduced me to black art in a way that I wouldn’t have had that education anywhere else,” Ali said. Smith added that Avery “pushed me so hard. His thing was, “I’m in such a unique position, and this responsibility, you have to elevate your art. You have to represent and you lead the way. During the scene where Will walks by without needing his father but ends up cracking up and asking his uncle why the man doesn’t want him, Smith also shared that he initially has Avery. reset telling her to “use me,” then at the end of the take when they were kissing, Avery whispered in her ear, “Now it’s playing.”
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