In Some Much-Needed Uplifting News, Will Smith and Original Aunt Viv Reconcile

Aunt Viv reunites
(Instagram/willsmith)

Kids who took a lot of sick days in the 90s have some pretty vivid memories of The Banks’s, their second family up in Bel-Air. The Fresh Prince was iconic, not only because it helped launch superstar Will Smith to fame, but because it was a classic in its own right. It put a new spin on the family sitcom genre, and addressed serious issues that other shows steered away from.

There’s been a surprising amount of news about the 30-year-old show recently, from a dramatic reboot to a highly-anticipated 30th anniversary reunion. The original cast was set to return for the reunion special, with a couple exceptions. James Avery (Uncle Phil) tragically passed away in 2013 from complications after open-heart surgery.

The other cast member nobody expected to see was the original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, who was replaced three seasons into the show. Hubert claimed that Will Smith was to blame for her removal from the show, and went on to say some, uh, less than kind things about the actor for how he treated her.

Nearly a decade ago, in an interview with TMZ, Hubert adamantly expressed that she would never participate in a reunion for the show. She still harbored resentment towards Smith for whatever happened all those years ago, and seemed ready to put the whole thing behind her.

In the uplifting surprise we all needed (nobody likes to see their family fight), Hubert appeared in HBO Max’s reunion special. Smith explained, “As a family, we have our things that we talk about and then we have our things that we don’t talk about. We never really, together, publicly talk about Janet. And what happened. And, for me, it felt like I couldn’t celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without finding a way to celebrate Janet.”

Regardless of what happened between them, Will Smith felt that the Fresh Prince family wasn’t complete without his original Aunt Viv. The heartwarming reunion showed Will Smith and Janet Hubert embrace, a hug that replaced 30 years of resentment and pain with support and understanding.

Hubert explained that she had been in an abusive relationship, which led to her getting pregnant during the third season of the show. With decades of life experience under his belt, Smith realized he’d approached the situation without the compassion it deserved.

After reuniting with Hubert, Smith took time to reflect and spoke to the camera about some realizations he’d made. Smith explained, “I wasn’t perceptive, and now that I’ve had three kids I’ve learned some things that I did not know at the time and I would do things very differently. But I can see where I made the set very difficult for Janet.”

After leaving the show (not because she was fired, but because she refused to accept an unfair deal), Hubert faced several difficult years. Being a Black female actress was difficult in the 90s, but after a star like Will Smith claimed she was hard to work with, it made pursuing her dream nearly impossible.

“And it’s hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business,” Hubert explained, “But I felt that it was necessary for us to finally move forward. And I’m sorry that I have blasted you to pieces.”

With all cards on the table, finally, the actors were able to put their difficult past behind them. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s 30th-anniversary reunion (which premiered a day early, another unanticipated gift) became far more than a chance for the cast to catch up – it became an opportunity for two important cast members to heal.

As if our hearts weren’t full enough, Smith offered the verbal equivalent of a peace treaty. He turned to his former co-star and said, “You’re still my Aunt Viv.”

Be Thankful for the Fresh Prince Reunion Trailer

Fresh Prince Reunion Trailer
(YouTube/Will Smith)

We may not be getting a lot of the big movies we thought we were going to get in 2020, but we have been getting plenty of TV. We’re also getting plenty of reboots and reunions.

Friends has a reunion coming at some point, The West Wing did a special live reading episode on HBO Max, and now the Fresh Prince cast is back together for their own special on HBO’s streaming service, and we finally have a trailer.

The project was announced months ago, shortly after Smith hosted a virtual reunion, and began filming on the 30th anniversary of the show’s original premiere on NBC. It includes the entire cast, even, as teased on Instagram, a reconciliation with the woman who played the first Aunt Viv.

What else is in store? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Here’s the official synopsis for the reunion:

30 years later, we’re bringing the Banks family back together! Join Will and Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro and DJ Jazzy Jeff, for a funny and heartfelt night full of music and dancing in honor of the show that ran for six seasons and 148 episodes. Streaming November 19 on @HBO Max.

Just in time for Thanksgiving! Here’s the trailer:

Robin Williams’ Kids Give Award To Will Smith’s Family in Memory of Their Dad

Will Smith's family receives award in memory of Robin Williams
(YouTube/Will Smith)

Both personally and professionally, Robin Williams led an incredible life. He made us laugh with his over-the-top stand-up comedy, his hilarious impressions, and his unparalleled humor. Robin Williams was a giver, famously using his talent and time to help people facing life’s many challenges. One story that stands out as emblematic of Williams’s character is how he came to the aid of Christopher Reeve after the horseback riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Instead of approaching the situation delicately or with any sort of pity, Williams approached it with humor.

Reeve recalled in his 1996 book “Still Me,” “Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist and that he had to examine me immediately. My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged.”

That fake proctologist who insisted that Reeve flip over for his exam was, of course, Robin Williams – and unsurprisingly, Williams was the first one able to make the former Superman actor laugh during a time when laughter felt impossible. Robin Williams filled that role for so many who needed it, providing joy when it felt out of reach. While providing levity and hope to those around him, tragically, Williams was struggling with his own mental and physical issues that ultimately led to his death in 2014.

Williams’s incredible kids, Zachary, Cody, and Zelda, have carried on their dad’s legacy by recognizing others who have brought laughter to the world. Every year, the Robin Williams Legacy of Laughter Award is presented to someone in the entertainment industry who makes a positive impact. The Legacy of Laugher Award (LOL Award, was that intentional?) partners with Glenn Close’s nonprofit Bring Change to Mind, which aims to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

This year’s recipient of the LOL Award was the Smith Family, making them the fourth ever recipients. Will, Jada, and their kids Trey, Willow, and Jaden (via FaceTime) graciously accepted the honor on Monday.

“This year, we wanted to honor the entire Smith family, as individuals and as a whole, for their longstanding contributions to the world,” Zak said. “You’ve held groundbreaking, open discussions about important topics like family, career, and mental health in a world that often expects silence from its most visible citizens.”

Zak continued, “Your charitable acts are many and varied, from feeding the homeless, helping inner-city youth programs, fighting AIDS in South Africa, and bringing safe water to those who need it most. And while doing all that, you still manage to entertain millions with your talents through your films, through your talk show, through music, laughter, and your clear and vibrant family bond.”

As with other recipients of the award, the Smith family embodies some of Robin Williams’s best and brightest characteristics. From their charitable nature to their humor and love for each other, this all-star family is truly deserving of the recognition.

In case you weren’t tearing up yet, Zak references his dad’s connection with Smith after both played the genie in Aladdin. “From one genie family to another,” Zak says, “thanks for sharing your phenomenal cosmic powers with the world.”

Fresh Prince Reunion Photos Feature the Original Aunt Viv

Will With Original Aunt Viv
(Instagram/willsmith)

90s kids rejoice! Not only was it recently announced a dramatic reboot of Will Smith’s iconic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sitcom would be coming to Peacock next year, but we’re also getting a reunion special for the show’s 30th anniversary.

In fact, the special began filming yesterday, to coincide with the anniversary of the show’s actual launch, and Smith posted a slideshow of two photos to his Instagram. The first one shows the gang all back together, and the second one contains a bit of a surprise.

“Today is exactly 30 YEARS since The @FreshPrince of Bel-Air debuted!” Smith wrote on Instagram. “So we’re doin’ something for y’all… a for real Banks Family Reunion is comin’ soon to @HBOmax! RIP James. #FreshPrince30th”

As you can see in that second image, the original Aunt Viv is back! Sort of.

You may recall that the original Aunt Viv was replaced by a different actress a few years into the show’s run. Janet Hubert played the first Aunt Viv, and when she was ousted, she said some less than kind things about the show and the star at the center of it.

EW recapped the drama, reminding us that Hubert had previously slammed Smith for being an “egomaniac” and causing her to be fired from the show. Smith responded by claiming that Hubert wanted the show to be “The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air,” so things weren’t exactly friendly…

Apparently, time heals all wounds, as one of Smith’s photos shows him sitting and smiling with Hubert.

According to EW, Hubert is not participating in the full reunion with the rest of the cast, but she did have an “emotional reunion and a candid conversation” that will be part of the HBO Max special.

The streaming service describes the reunion a funny and heartfelt night full of music, dancing, and special surprise guests, in honor of the series that ran for six seasons and 148 episodes.” The reunion will air later this fall.

Fresh Prince Cast Is Reuniting for Unscripted Special on HBO Max

Fresh Prince Reunion HBO
(NBC)

Will Smith has had an interesting year. It started with Bad Boys For Life, the successful third entry in the Bad Boys series that helped make Smith a movie star. In the early days of the pandemic, Smith put together a Zoom-type of reunion with his Fresh Prince pals via his social channels.

Then last month, news broke that Smith’s production company was working with a clever filmmaker behind a viral trailer to reboot Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the classic 90s sitcom that confirmed Smith as a gifted actor, into an hour-long drama.

And now Smith is prepping to film an unscripted reunion of Fresh Prince for HBO Max, with the entire remaining cast of the show, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Variety has the story of the special, which will start filming as early as September 10th for release around Thanksgiving.

Joining the Fresh Prince will be all of his costars: series regulars Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro, and even Smith’s musical partner in crime, DJ Jazzy Jeff. Missing from the episode will obviously, and unfortunately, be James Avery, the late actor who played Will’s beloved Uncle Phil.

After an iconic 150-episode run from 1990-1996, Smith left the sitcom that made him a household name to dominate Hollywood with a string of blockbusters that include the first Bad Boys, Men in Black, and Independence Day.

Lately, it seems the superstar is embracing the roles that made him famous, from Mike Lowery to the Fresh Prince, and if this reunion does half as well as January’s buddy cop reunion, it might be time for Smith to put out another album and keep riding the wave.

Fresh Prince Rebooting as Drama Thanks to Viral Gritty Trailer

Fresh Prince Gets a Gritty Upgrade
(YouTube/Sun Squared Media)

A year ago, we shared a trailer for a fake reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Unlike most fan-made trailers that reimagine and/or update beloved shows and movies, this trailer was made by a bona fide filmmaker, and the finished product was slick, professional, and provocative. It took the characters and basic fish-out-of-water set-up of the classic 90s sitcom that made Will Smith a household name and helped him crossover from the music industry into dramatic roles. The “gritty reboot” is old hat, but Cooper’s version was far more legitimate than most, and it got people thinking.

That thinking has coalesced into something real, and now Cooper’s vision is coming true. THR broke the news that Cooper was co-writing the script to a series reboot, and this time the Fresh Prince will be a drama.

Apparently, this project has been in the works since the four-minute trailer went viral last March and Smith caught wind of it. Suitably impressed, he got his production company involved, and now the show is in development.

THR describes the new series as “an hourlong dramatic retelling of the beloved ’90s sitcom that leans into the original premise of Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air. With a reimagined vision, Bel-Air will dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions, and biases of what it means to be a Black man in America today, while still delivering the swagger and fun nods to the original show.”

Cooper is both co-writing and serving as executive producer, and as a filmmaker and Fresh Prince superfan, he struck gold.

Stay tuned for more news as the project develops, and check out the trailer that started the whole thing:

Reunited Fresh Prince Cast Gets Emotional Watching Clips of Late James Avery

Cast's Emotional Reaction to James Avery
(Twitter/KissMySnap)

The other day, Will Smith posted a special two-part episode of his Snapchat show, Will At Home. He’s been using the show to keep people, including himself, entertained during this interminable quarantine, and he had a special surprise for his fans: a cast reunion of the show that kickstarted his Hollywood career.

Smith recruited nearly the entire cast of his classic 90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, including the Fresh Prince himself, Alfonso Riberio (Carlton Banks), Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), and Karyn Parson (Hilary Banks). Joseph Marcell, who played Geoffrey the butler, Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks), and Smith’s musical partner in crime, DJ Jazzy Jeff.

There was one notable exception, however, and that was James Avery, who played Uncle Phil. You may remember him from the show’s most iconic scene, in which Uncle Phil embraces Will to comfort him after his father leaves again, which had its own 25-year anniversary in 2018.

Avery died of complications following heart surgery in 2013, at the age of 68, and the cast clearly remembers him fondly. On the Will At Home reunion, the actors took a moment to reminisce about their beloved costar. A montage of memorable moments featuring Avery as Uncle Phil played as the cast watched on their computers, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

You can tell how much the cast loves and misses the late actor, and how meaningful this moment was. Especially the end of the clip, which features Avery hugging each one of them.

Check out the clip, and the cast members’ reactions to it:

Will Smith Hosts a Virtual Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion

Fresh Prince Virtual Reunion
(Instagram/willsmith)

With movies and TV suspending production during the pandemic (with the exception of animated shows), many in Hollywood find themselves with a lot of free time. John Krasinski started a YouTube show to help fill his and to help others survive, and he’s not alone. Will Smith created “Will From Home” on Snapchat to keep us, and himself, entertained.

The other day, Smith had a bit of a surprise for followers of his show, especially if they were fans of his other show, the classic 90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

The cast virtually reunited on Snapchat, including the Fresh Prince himself, Alfonso Riberio (Carlton Banks), Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), and Karyn Parson (Hilary Banks). Joseph Marcell, who played Geoffrey the butler, Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian Banks), and even Smith’s old musical partner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, popped by during the two-part reunion to reminisce about the good old days.

Jazzy Jeff admits to being annoyed at a particular fan request: “I got really, really annoyed that everybody wanted to do the handshake. You would see in people eyes when they were about to do the handshake and I would just grab their hand and hold it. Besides that, I’m good.”

We also got a fun tidbit of FP trivia regarding Will’s character’s name:

Notably absent from the reunion was James Avery, aka Uncle Phil, who passed away in 2013. But the cast paid an emotional tribute to him.

Will Smith’s Production Company Making Fresh Prince Spin-off

Fresh Prince Spin-Off
(NBC)

It was only a matter of time. For decades, Hollywood has been plumbing old successes in an attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle, and over the past ten years, the reliance on the tried-and-true has been more rampant than ever. Existing IP (intellectual property) – whether books, comic books, outdated TV shows or movies – has become the basis for more and more “new” content. With streaming services multiplying like Gremlins, the need for programming to fill their slates is devouring everything in its sight.

No stone is being left unturned in the hunt for new shows, including remakes and reboots and reimaginings. The latest example? The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

That’s right, there’s a new show about our favorite former-West Philadelphian on the way, and as of now, it’s being classified as neither a remake nor a reboot but as a spin-off. And get this? The Fresh Prince himself is going to be involved.

The project is actually being launched via Will Smith’s own production company, Westbrook, and while the extent of the superstar actor’s involvement remains unclear, at the very least it has his blessing. For fans of the original show – that launched Smith’s acting career – that’s definitely a good thing.

Again, details on the new version are few and far between – the entire scoop is from one sentence in a Hollywood Reporter story on Smith, and neither casting nor plot nor platform is known – but remember that slick trailer for a gritty reboot of the series that filmmaker Morgan Cooper put together last year? Apparently Smith has met with the director!

No one knows for sure what they discussed, but after years of putting the kibosh on any Fresh Prince reboot rumors, suddenly Smith has changed his tune, and that may be good news for fans of the classic series. Especially if the tune to the theme song doesn’t change.

Will Smith Turned Down The Matrix, But You Can Still Watch Him As Neo

Will Smith as Neo Deepfake
(YouTube/Sham00K)

Thanks to the terrifying technology behind deepfakes, people in videos can be replaced with just about anyone. Sure, some examples are fun and goofy, but others are simply unnerving.

Take this video featuring Will Smith (or his face, at least) standing in for Keanu Reeves as Neo in the 1999 action hit, The Matrix.

So, there it is. How are you feeling? Was Keanu’s California-accented voice emanating from Smith’s lips disturbing? Did his floppy mop of ’90s hair send shivers down to your very soul?

The clips are products of YouTuber Sham00k, who is known for his work creating frighteningly realistic deepfakes. Simply slapping Smith’s face on top Keanu’s, it’s hard to find many flaws, but the performance is totally off for it to be believable.

Back in the 90s, Smith was known for his quippy one-liners from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and films like Bad Boys and Men in Black. He was the last person you’d expect to play the role of the pensive and often confused Neo, which is what makes it so interesting that he was nearly cast for the role.

Warner Bros. Studios actually preferred Smith over Reeves and offered him the role outright, but a meeting with the Wachowskis left him more skeptical than excited. Smith elaborated more on his YouTube channel:

Long story short, he turned down the role of Neo to work on… *sigh* …Wild Wild West.

Obviously, a regretful move, but Smith admits there’s no way he could have improved the final product that the Wachowskis unveiled.

“Keanu was perfect. Lawrence Fishburn was perfect,” Smith explained. “If I had done it—because I’m black—then Morpheus wouldn’t have been black because they were looking at Val Kilmer… I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would have ruined it. So I did y’all a favor.”

I won’t go so far as to say the film would have been ruined had the casting been different, but I will say that Will and Keanu should never trade hairstyles. Humanity’s savior just can’t look like that, you guys.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are Bad Boys For Life

Bad Boys For Life Trailer
(YouTube/Will Smith)

It’s the era of existing IP. Every book, TV show, or movie that ever made a dollar is being put back into service as an adaptation, a remake, or a sequel. The MCU uses comic books, HBO used more than one popular fantasy book series (Game of Thrones and the upcoming His Dark Materials) and Keanu Reeves uses The Matrix.

Now we’re also getting another Bad Boys movie! That’s right, Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett are back, as are original stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, because why should The Matrix be the only 90s blockbuster that gets a new sequel?

Here’s the synopsis:

“Old-school cops Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. Newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department along with Mike and Marcus go up against the ruthless Armando Armas.”

And today they released a trailer for the movie, which debuts in January, and it contains all the profanity, banter, gunplay, and explosions you’d expect from a Bad Boys flick. There’s even a highway chase scene, this time with a helicopter instead of a shitload of bouncing cars like in Bad Boys 2’s legendary sequence.

There’s no Michael Bay behind the camera – this is co-directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah – but they brought back Joey Pants! Bad Boys For Life ain’t messing around.

Check it out:

Fresh Prince’s Banned Freddy Krueger Themed Video From ’88 Has Surfaced [WATCH]

Nightmare on My Street Video
(YouTube/DJJazzyJeffVEVO)

The 80s was a magical time for pop music. It didn’t matter what colorful, quirky, or harebrained idea producers came up with—it would probably work.

This is the only explanation for the infamous music video that recently resurfaced on YouTube featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s performance of “A Nightmare on My Street.”

Yes, that is Will Smith in his rap persona, The Fresh Prince, before the hit TV show.

Yes, that is a Thriller-esque version of Freddy Krueger, complete with leather jacket and high-tops.

Yes, this is probably the most 1988 thing you will ever see.

“A Nightmare on My Street” comes from the hit album He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper and blends a ridiculously dated beat with the six-tone Nightmare on Elm Street theme music. The mix definitely has fun and eerie quality but it’s hard to be too creeped out when you’re getting hit with total cheese lines like:

So the gang and I thought that it would be groovy,
If we summoned up the posse and done rushed the movies

The track actually made it to No. 15 on the Billboard Top 100 and the video was a common sight on MTV, but when it didn’t land a spot on the soundtrack for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, New Line Cinema wouldn’t give them the licensing to use Freddy’s likeness or the Nightmare theme song. This resulted in the video being pulled from just about everywhere.

The song essentially faded away into history, with this proper version only recently being uploaded to YouTube by DJ Jazzy Jeff himself.

Will Smith has yet to comment on whether or not he’s happy about the video’s resurgence, but either way, this campy jam is 100% my new ringtone.

Gritty Upgrade Of “Fresh Prince” Has Fans Doing the Carlton Dance

Fresh Prince Gets a Gritty Upgrade
(YouTube/Sun Squared Media)

So many shows and movies getting the remake and reboot treatment these days, it can be fun to imagine what might come next. And if you have enough free time, and good creative skills, you can even mock-up your own version of what your favorite potential reboot might look like.

That’s what one enterprising fan did for the classic 90s sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” which launched global megastar and future blue-in-the-face star of Aladdin Will Smith’s acting career.

Of course, this being woke AF 2019, some tweaks will have to be made to accommodate the character’s journey from West Philadelphia to an exclusive California zip-code.

The description of the trailer for a 2019 update of the Fresh Prince says: “What would happen if Will Smith made The Fresh Prince today? Bel-Air, a story of a kid from Philly whose life got turned upside-down…in 2019.”

Come for the title, stay for the shockingly high production values, and get verklempt over how good this damn looks!

“Like most 90’s kids, I grew up watching Fresh Prince. Even as a kid, I always thought there was more to the story… so I decided to make this. S/O to incredible team who worked on this!” tweeted the creator of the trailer, director and cinematographer Morgan Cooper.

Clearly, Cooper, has a lot of talent and a great team behind him. More than that, he’s got a vision, and that vision takes a fun fish-out-of-water family sitcom and turns it into a gritty, realistic take on growing up in violence and being transplanted into a world of privilege.

The gang is all there, the Fresh Prince himself, Uncle Phil, Carlton – we even get a snippet of his iconic dance, and the Banks sisters. The original Ashley, Tatyana Ali, even weighed in about the trailer.

The response online has been quite robust, causing many to dream that this gritty new take of a classic 90s sitcom may actually come to fruition in the only place that makes sense:

Let’s do this!