'Fresh Prince' Cast: Response to Reunion Special Is 'Like a Big Hug'

One day after the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special dropped on HBO Max, ET’s Kevin Frazier was joined by guest co-host Tatyana Ali on the Entertainment Tonight stage on Thursday’s broadcast, to react to the passionate response from viewers and fans that have flooded social media the past 24 hours. 

Will Smith Shares First Look at 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Cast Reunion

Will Smith Shares First Look at 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' Cast Reunion

“People are reacting with so much love and tears and laughter and sighs and excitement, and I felt all of those when I watched it last night. It came out of nowhere. It was a surprise,” Ali told Kevin. The actress was joined by Fresh Prince co-stars Daphne Maxwell Reid, Karyn Parsons and Joseph Marcell, who appeared over Zoom.

The 75-minute reunion special, which dropped Wednesday, featured laughs, tears and a reconciliation 27 years in the making between Will Smith and Janet Hubert, as the cast came together and celebrated the groundbreaking sitcom’s 30-year anniversary in a recreation of the iconic set. They also emotionally remembered the late James Avery, who died in 2013, in the special.

“[It was] like a big hug,” Reid said of watching the reactions pour in. “It’s been a wonderful way to share a family reunion in this time where we really need family reunions and people are reacting like, ‘Oh thank goodness, a family is going to get together this Thanksgiving!’ Happy to share.”

“A complete emotional roller coaster,” Parsons agreed. “When we did it, when we met, I didn’t expect that. When I saw it, [it] hit me. I was very curious how they were going to put it together and when I saw it, it was a flood all over again — just so much emotion. I have to say, just like you guys were talking about, people’s response to it has touched me, so I am so honored to have been a part of something that has touched people so deeply and has reached people and lasted and carried on generation after generation. I can’t believe that I was a part of something like that and it really makes me feel honored.”

“It really was hard to take. We met each other during the 30 years but when we arrived on that set and saw each other [on the set], it was exhilarating and it moved me. It did, it really moved me because these were the people I grew up with. They grew up with me. I’m a grandad now,” Marcell said. 

Perhaps most inspiring was how emotionally open and candid the Fresh Prince cast was in discussing the sitcom’s ups and downs, including sensitive topics like Hubert’s untimely exit in 1993 and the decades-long rift between her and Smith. 

Tatyana Ali on What to Expect From HBO Max ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Reunion (Exclusive)

Tatyana Ali on What to Expect From HBO Max ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Reunion (Exclusive)

“It just poured out,” Ali said. “There were cameras everywhere and when we get together there is a magic kind of thing that happens that takes place. One thing that was different though for me was we had to retape something — our entrance into the scene and that’s that one part that’s been missing and for that one little moment of that retape, we were acting together. I was like, ‘Guys, we’re acting together and because there’s this feeling that we had when we were shooting the show that, haha, we know something you don’t know! This isn’t real. That was that little moment, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got to feel it all again.'”

Reid and Parsons teared up again in remembering Avery, after watching archival ET footage from the final table read in 1996. 

“I miss him,” Reid, who played his onscreen wife for three seasons, emotionally said as she took a deep breath. Added Parsons, “You’re gonna do it to me again! In watching the show and watching that clip, I can’t get over how much he’s here. He’s here. I feel him.”

“I think that’s absolutely right,” an emotional Ali said. “I think he’s here and when we all come together, we feel him.”

They also discussed Smith and Hubert’s reconciliation, burying the hatchet after nearly three decades following public criticisms of the other by both parties due to bad blood between the two. In the special, they both apologized for their role in perpetuating the feud.

“I learned a lot about Janet’s story that I didn’t know, that I wasn’t privy to. I also just learned a lot about forgiveness and understanding and what that takes — the kind of attention and care that that takes between two people,” Ali said. “I thought that was a really amazing thing to see, especially now when there’s not a whole lot of that in terms of leaders, in terms of the people we look up to or have to look at all the time. I think that that’s something that we’re all gonna have to do and I think it’s a real good example of how to come from two different sides and come together.”

“It represented what the show is about. The show is about a bunch of people loving each other,” Marcell said, with Parsons adding, “One thing that really surprised me was… I felt like it a huge weight came off me that I didn’t even know… This is what we all really needed.”

It was also the first time both Aunt Vivs officially met, and both Hubert and Reid embraced in a long hug.

“I had never ever met her, so that was the first time I met her. I knew she belonged there. She started this,” Reid said, adding that Hubert “needed to be there” because “this was her show.” “She had a wonderful character. She performed beautifully. I watched the show. I couldn’t be her, I could only be me. I had nothing to do with why she wasn’t there. I was really happy to have a job. I will say that. In conversation later, I told her, ‘I have to apologize to you, but I am glad you weren’t on the show so I could be there and I’m sorry.’ Thank you and we miss you… So to clear that whole air for the internet at large, guys, it’s fine. Like whichever Aunt Vivian you want or like both of us. It doesn’t really matter, love the show.”

“I have to say that moment on the set when Janet came to us and the way Will brought her and the way Daphne embraced her and the way all of us embraced her. It was as though a huge weight had dissipated but most of all it represented what the show is about. The show is about a bunch of people… loving each other,” Marcell said. “Love and honesty, and that moment really was magical, absolutely magical.”

Peacock has already given a two-season order for a drama reboot of Fresh Prince, titled Bel-Air, based on filmmaker Morgan Cooper’s dramatic take. Smith is an executive producer.

“I don’t know a lot about it. I know the trailer that came out [in 2019] and I retweeted it actually,” Ali said. “I just found it on my Twitter feed and I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, they get what the show’s about,’ ’cause you see a lot of different things that people will do about the show but they understood the heart of the show. I thought it was an amazing idea to flip it into a drama ’cause that’s what I learned about comedy doing Fresh Prince — that comedy is rooted in reality. It has to be plausible. It has to be real for it to be funny. And the heart of the show, they took it and ran with it for that trailer. Now, with all the resources they’re going to have to make the show, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special is streaming now on HBO Max, as well as the original series. For more on the groundbreaking sitcom, watch ET’s video below.

‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ 30th Anniversary: ET’s Time On-Set of the Sitcom

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