Photo by: NBC / Contributor
Actress Daphne Maxwell Reid secured the role of the nurturing yet frantic character Aunt Vivian. Although Reid was added to the cast within the third season, it wasn’t Reid’s first time being asked to play the character.
“I remember back in 1989 when we first decided to leave California, I was asked to audition for a little television sitcom with a rapper. And I said, ‘I’m really not interested in doing a sitcom with a rapper who’s not an actor.’ And it turned out to be “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and when I saw it on the air that fall, I said, ‘Oh, this is a cute show. I guess I missed that opportunity,’” Reid said.
During her time on the cast, Reid and the late James Avery, who played “Uncle Phil,”, had an instant spark. After the cast had a televised reunion recently, she reflected on her relationship with the late actor.
“We just had such a wonderful, warm relationship with everybody on that show that they really are family to us now. And since we lost James, it was a blow to all of us,” she said.
When asked about taking over the role of Aunt Vivian, Reid expressed that it wasn’t more than business.
“I did not feel anything about ‘replacing‘ the original Aunt Viv. All actors are ‘replaceable’ according to the choices of the creators and producers of the project. I was delighted to have a job on such a wonderful show. I had to earn my spot, and was thrilled when it came to be. When we all reunited last fall, I was grateful to finally meet Janet.”
While filming the sitcom, both Avery and Reid earned respect not only from the cast but the writers of the show as well.
“We had the permission to give our cultural perspective on how black families raised children and it was something new to television and well done; I think.”
Not only playing matriarch, and patriarch roles, the duo even became mentors to the young actors off-screen, especially Will Smith.
Reid recalled a coachable and memorable moment with Smith and Avery during the taping of the episode “Papa’s Got a Brand-New Excuse.”
“My favorite episode. It makes me cry every time I see it…[Will] didn’t know how he was going to deliver his lines. And he wasn’t pleased on the first couple of shots at it. And James Avery grabbed him and told him something and he delivered that line and fell into James’ arms. And all I know is James said, ‘Now that’s acting.’”
Once the show came to an end, Reid and her husband, actor Tim Reid, decided to build their own production company.
“We built New Millennium Studios on a 54-acre lot and started producing content and television shows for Showtime and doing our own movies…Hosting people like Steven Spielberg, who came and shot some of ‘Lincoln’ there and doing lots of things like that. And we did that for about 15…16 years.”
After a 40-year career run, she is most recognized for starring in other sitcoms such as Simon & Simon, Frank’s Place, and Snoops. Continuing her work, Reid is currently working on upcoming projects, including The Business of Christmas 2, The Trophy Wife, and The Jazz Man’s Blues.
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