Will Smith and the Banks are back.
The actor shared the trailer for the upcoming Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion, which debuts Nov. 19 on HBO Max, writing that the cast of the show “made me the man I am today.” He added that he couldn’t let the 30th anniversary of the series, which premiered Sept. 10, 1990 and ran until 1996, “go by without marking the occasion.”
In the two-minute, 23-second trailer —with the show theme song “Yo Home to Bel-Air” playing, of course — the final cast was back together on the set: Smith, Daphne Maxwell Reid (Aunt Viv), 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.
“How crazy is it walking in here?” Smith said as he greets everyone.
Then Ribeiro appeared at the top of the stairs and everyone, Smith included, howled with laughter — and laughter remained a theme throughout, with some tears, too.
As the cast sat in the living room set, Smith told his former co-stars, with whom he has remained close through the years thanks to many reunions, “I have always been able to recognize chemistry.” That led into flashbacks of Smith and Ribeiro’s funny moments and Ali talking about how they were “playmates” on-screen and off.
That was evident a moment later when Smith said, “Nobody ever asked me if I could act,” because he was a rapper with Jazz (aka DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince) when he was plucked for the starring role of the show playing the fictionalized version of himself, and Ribeiro shot back, “And you couldn’t!”
Amid happy tears, they also reminisced about Avery and how he was “the heart of the show,” per Ali. Smith called him a “six-foot-four Shakespearian beast — and I wanted him to think I was good.” He recalled a scene were he cried in Avery’s arms, and the Banks patriarch whispered in his ear — not heard in the episode — “‘now that’s acting.”
They discussed the cultural impact of the show, with Ali saying how it meant “Black excellence to people. The excellence was the way that we loved each other.”
Though it almost wasn’t what it became, various stars revealed. For instances, Jazz talked about turning down Smith’s requests to be on the show at first. However, he ultimately had a recurring role through all five seasons. And Reid talked about being asked to audition for Aunt Viv after the original actress, Janet Hubert, was fired.
“They said, ‘Oh, we want you to audition for this new sitcom with a rapper,’” she remembered. “I said, Uh, pass!”
And, as reported, Hubert was there for the reunion — despite a long-running rift with Smith. He surprised the group with her being there, saying, “I couldn’t celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without Janet,” and there were gasps and “wows.”
The reunion — directed by Marcus Raboy with Rikki Hughes as showrunner — streams on HBO Max on Nov. 19 with Smith adding in the trailer, “Happy Thanksgiving. Yes, you’re welcome, Will.”
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