Black Sitcom Battles: Janet Hubert-Whitten vs. Daphne Maxwell Reid
Which actress nailed the role as “Aunt Viv”?
By: Taren Vaughan
Before becoming one of the most dominating Black actors in the movie industry, Will Smith was known as a teenage “Prince” with a high top fade and colorful clothes. Lasting a total of six seasons, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air brought laughter to many households across the nation. As a token of its success, it became one of the longest running African American sitcoms of the ‘90’s. Snagging the lead role, Smith was joined by a number of cast mates who dished out the comic relief episode after episode.
Not quite Clair Huxtable but certainly on her level, the “Aunt Viv” character definitely goes down as one of the most adored TV moms of all time. With a witty personality of her own, “Aunt Viv” was originally played by Actress Janet Hubert-Whitten, who now goes by Janet Hubert. A perfect fit as Hubert appeared to be, things off camera were not as jovial between her and fellow cast members. Breaking her silence a few years ago, Hubert talked about her experiences both on and off set and about Smith’s need to be the sole star of the show, keeping the likes of Actress Countess Vaughn from joining the cast:
“I recall the lovely and incredibly talented Countess Vaughn coming to guest star. Oh my God! The day of table read, she was pee-in-your-pants funny. The writers were howling, we were howling, so I knew she was history – banished into the cornfield. Many years later, after she had her own show, I had to tell her when she asked me why. ‘Miss Janet why did I get cut from the episode,’ she asked. ‘Simply, my darling, you were too good.’”
Despite the rift between her and her “nephew”, many fans of the show took a huge liking to her, never anticipating her sudden departure. After three seasons on the show, Hubert stepped off the scene and was replaced by Actress Daphne Maxwell Reid.
A more low key version of “Aunt Viv”, to much people’s surprise, Reid fit right into the mix. But could she hold a candle to the original?
Switching aunts didn’t impact the longevity or overall success of the show. And neither of the ladies who played the role went past sitcom stardom.
But when it comes down to who played the role the best, which aunt was your fav?