How Janet Hubert ‘nailed’ her ‘Fresh Prince’ audition

Janet Hubert was the first actress to play Vivian Banks on the hit ’90s series “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — but she says she wasn’t the obvious choice for the role, as she didn’t go into the audition looking like a typical sitcom mom.

“It is a blessing to be known as the original Aunt Vivian… it does warm my heart,” she tells Page Six. “I mean, yes, I created her — I gave her the bones. [But] they wanted a whole different look than what was me.”

Says Hubert of auditioning for the role, “So I didn’t even try to go and look like somebody’s mom. And everybody kept saying, ‘Who are you auditioning for?’ I would say, ‘the mother,’ and they said, ‘Really?’

“I said, ‘Oh my God! I’m getting a migraine, ’cause I was like you ain’t getting this job.’ So I could care less — so I went in and I just nailed it.”

When she landed the part, “they said it was not what you did with the lines, it’s what you did in between the lines. Sometimes it’s all the nuances of characters.” She adds, “So you can walk in and change their mind because they don’t know what they want until you walk in.”

Janet Hubert played the role of 'aunt Vivian" on the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for 3 seasons, from 1990-1993.
Janet Hubert played the role of ‘aunt Vivian” on the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air for 3 seasons, from 1990-1993.
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Hubert also remembers auditioning for parts earlier in her career and dealing with racial biases in Hollywood.

“I grew up in the ’70s. I was in the business in the ’70s and college in the ’70s and the ’80s… I remember auditioning for certain jobs where they would say, ‘Well she’s really great, but she’s so dark.’” However, “it never destroyed me because I felt that my black is my beauty.”

Hubert, 66, was on “Fresh Prince” for three seasons from 1990-1993 and left the show with the stigma of allegedly being difficult on set and clashing with the cast and series lead Will Smith. Hubert then referred to Smith as egotistical in her 2009 memoir “Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom.” 

She was replaced on the show by Daphne Maxwell Reid.

Janet Hubert and Will Smith on the set of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" in the early 90's.
Janet Hubert and Will Smith on the set of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in the early 90’s.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The Chicago native reunited with Smith at a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” reunion Nov. 19 on HBO Max — and she was able to speak to Smith one-on-one in a pre-taped conversation in which she shared what she went through career-wise post “Bel-Air.”

The original cast of the NBC hit "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."
The original cast of the NBC hit “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Hubert now stars in the Lifetime movie “Single Black Female” — an adaptation of the 1992 cult hit “Single White Female” — with Raven Goodwin and Amber Riley, directed by Shari Carpenter.

Janet Hubert
Janet Hubert got to address her tension with Will Smith in 2021.
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The star told us, “There’s a show for everyone, there’s a place for everyone. You have to make them see you. I remember auditioning for ‘The Wiz,’ and getting cut three times… Then lo and behold the person who cut me turned out to be the very same choreographer that choreographed [a] dance number on ‘The Fresh Prince.’

“He said to me, ‘the reason I cut you was because you were not ready, baby. Those girls were gonna eat you alive. So I was all of like 21, 22 at the time, and had no kind of experience… You can change their minds, and if you can’t change their minds, then be gone.”