Aunt Viv was Recast in Season 4, But Why?
We all know the original Aunt Vivian from ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air‘ was abruptly recast mid-series, but many don’t know why. Here’s the drama between Will Smith and Janet Hubert that led to the change.
After binge-watching Fresh Prince on HBO Max recently, I was reminded of how abruptly the woman who portrayed Aunt Viv was replaced.
Aunt Viv, originally played by actress Janet Hubert, was a staple of the series from the very beginning and even had some iconic episodes of her own.
However, tensions were high behind the scenes between Hubert and her costars.
Hubert lasted until the end of Season 3, which followed Aunt Viv throughout her pregnancy with baby Nicky. Then, during the debut of Season 4, Aunt Viv was suddenly a different person — played by Daphne Maxwell Reid.
Besides a not-so-subtle joke made by Will’s friend, Jazz, there was no mention of the recasting at all — not even from Smith.
Hubert, on the other hand, was very outspoken about her firing. The actress insinuated she was fired for being ‘too dark.’
Daphne Maxwell Reid is a light-skinned African American woman, and Hubert felt that the recasting was an obvious case of colorism, which is a real issue in many cultures. Colorism is when someone faces discrimination based on the darkness of their skin.
Hubert explains, “I was a dark-skinned, African-American mother, and Will used to tell the you’re-so-black jokes to the audience before the show.”
She went on to explain how she would feel disrespected when Will would poke fun at her skin tone while warming up the crowd before tapings.
She has a point, right? Well … maybe not.
Apparently, it wasn’t only Smith who had drama with the original Aunt Viv …
Even Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Will’s cousin Carlton, had some negative feelings about the actress as well.
During a 2009 stand up comedy show, Alfonso touched on the Aunt Viv recasting drama. Making sure to censor himself, he says, “At the end of the day … that *bleep* was crazy!”
He goes on to mention the toxic environment created by Hubert, saying the cast was like family, but she made it not that way.
Not one to let things go, Hubert defended herself against Ribeiro’s remarks by calling him ‘Will’s tampon’ … yikes!
Will Smith has remained relatively tight-lipped about the off-screen drama between the two. The only public remark he’s made was on a radio show where he said if it were up to Hubert, it’d be the ‘Aunt Viv of Bel-Air’ show.
Janet also cited other issues that may have led to her firing. She claims she asked for a pay raise at one point — which she was denied. Tensions grew when Smith didn’t stick up for her when she expected him to.
Daphne Maxwell Reid went on to finish the series and was beloved by fans just as much as Janet Hubert.
Left Out of the Cast Reunion?
During Smith’s Snapchat show ‘Will From Home,’ he hosted a Fresh Prince reunion … minus Hubert.
Personally, I loved Hubert as the original Aunt Viv, but I love Maxwell Reid as well. If she truly made it a toxic workplace while on Fresh Prince, perhaps her firing was overdue, even in Season 3.
Check out Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, along with a few other binge-worthy shows, on HBO Max!