the fresh prince of bel-air
‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reunion: Aunt Viv says to expect ‘many surprises’
‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ reunion full of love, laughs — and Aunt Viv
The ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ mansion just went up on Airbnb
Will Smith finally buries hatchet with ‘First Aunt Viv’ Janet Hubert
These sitcom vets are striking a pose.
Janet Hubert (“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), Anna Maria Horsford (“Amen”) and Jackée Harry (“227”) will appear together — for the first time ever — in a surprise collision of comedy queens for the Sunday, May 16, episode of the FX drama “Pose.”
In Sunday’s episode, airing at 10 p.m., an HIV-positive Pray Tell (Billy Porter) ventures back home to western Pennsylvania — after more than two decades away — for an emotional reconnection with his estranged mother Charlene (played by Horsford) and his aunts, Bible-thumping Latrice (Hubert) and a more supportive Jada (Harry). Hubert told The Post that, after getting cast, all three actresses were shocked to discover that series star Porter still felt a lingering connection to their early sitcom work.
“He said, ‘You all had a part of my life. You all had a part of my world, you were all part of my world going through all of what I’ve been through. You all held a spot in my life,’ ” Hubert recalled of the verbal group-hug they got from Porter. “And we were so touched … We were on a Zoom read, and we were crying because he was so sincere in saying, ‘You all held a place for me’ at a time where he needed something.”
Horsford went even further about broader, meaningful connections made with audiences.
“You realize that your energy, and the words, and everything you do, it goes into all of these different homes and these different places, and you don’t need to have a clue,” Horsford added to The Post about their longtime fan base. “It’s what you’re supposed to do, because we, as entertainers, heal sometimes.”
Since their sitcom glory days, the trio has been busy: Hubert has finally — and quite publicly — reconciled with her former “Fresh Prince” nemesis Will Smith, while Horsford has kept a place in her heart for her late “Amen” co-star Sherman Hemsley. Meanwhile, Harry has ditched comedy for drama in recent years.
With the trio’s get-together this weekend, here’s how else they have been connecting with viewers and colleagues alike.
Janet Hubert: “I call myself Joan of Dark”
“Fresh Prince” alum Hubert has a sense of humor about her long-standing feud with series star Smith — as well as fans’ reaction to it.
“I call myself Joan of Dark,” the actress told The Post. “I’d been beaten to a pulp. I did not know that there was that much love for me.”
She said she was shocked by the outpouring of support from devotees after a much-anticipated “Fresh Prince” cast reunion on HBO Max last November, in which she and Smith met for the first time in more than 25 years — and subsequently buried the hatchet.
“Yeah, it felt like Jesus forgave Judas, didn’t it?” she said with a laugh, regarding the well-wishes she received from fans.
“I was, like, wow. The thing went worldwide. I had no idea that so many people cared so much,” she said. “I really didn’t know.”
Hubert played Aunt Viv for the first three seasons of the 1990-96 sitcom before departing the show in 1993 and getting replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid. Unbeknownst to the cast, she was in an unhappy, abusive marriage, she said, which she kept bottled up and led to her own change in demeanor. “I was no longer laughing, smiling, joking,” she said during the reunion. That led to on-set friction, most notably with Smith, who offered this mea culpa: “I can see how I made the set very difficult for Janet.”
During the special, Hubert said she “lost everything,” including her “reputation” because of what happened. “And I understand you were able to move forward, but you know those words calling a black woman ‘difficult’ in Hollywood is the kiss of death. It’s the kiss of death, and it’s hard enough being a dark-skinned black woman in this business.”
But Hubert told The Post that she is in a solid place now and happy to ignore any and all drama that tends to permeate Los Angeles.
“At 65, yeah, I’m good,” said Hubert, who lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, Larry Kraft. “My years of caring about all of the bulls – – t of Hollywood — I never did.”
She even seems almost celebratory about her laid-back East Coast, away from the glare of Tinseltown.
“I love being back here. I love where the sun rises, where people speak their minds and tell you to go ‘F’ yourself. We just don’t do that. We don’t do the star thing. I love it,” she said. “I cut my own grass. I take out my garbage.
“It’s a regular life, you know? I love it — easy,” she added. “I do what I want now, and I don’t take roles that I don’t want to do.”
Speaking of new work, next up for Hubert will be a recurring role in Season 4 of Tracy Morgan’s TBS comedy “The Last O.G.” — which, in a timely twist, also stars her new “Pose” BFF, Horsford.
Anna Maria Horsford: “This is gonna stand for something”
Joining this particular episode of “Pose” meant more to Horsford — who played preacher’s daughter Thelma Frye opposite Hemsley as opinionated Deacon Ernest Frye — than just landing another acting gig.
“Let me tell you what this show did to me. It brought up so many memories,” said Horsford, now 73, who witnessed firsthand the devastation of the early days of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and ’90s, as depicted in “Pose.”
“I personally have lost more than a hundred friends,” she added. “It was a very hard time — and doing ‘Pose’ brought all of that back. And that’s why it was really hard for me, without telling everybody, ‘Oh, I lost this one. I lost [that one].’ It’s still in your heart. Totally personal. Totally personal. And you become the witness to all of their lives.”
However, even though the 1986 to 1991 sitcom “Amen” aired on a parallel track as AIDS devastated the performing community Horsford knew, she said working on the show was “the best time” and she managed to stay in touch with other cast members over the years, including Hemsley (whom she called “very bashful”), Clifton Davis, Roz Ryan and Barbara Montgomery.
She said she even maintained a daughterly connection to Hemsley — who died in 2012 at age 74 — right up to his funeral.
“I remember I went to the undertaker, and I said, ‘I want to give my father the best burial,’ ” she recalled. “You know, people believe what they see on TV. People believe what they see, and he gave me the respect as a daughter — as his daughter.”
Now, with her “Pose” episode, Horsford hopes that this show also will have its own effect on future generations.
“I was glad that I got a chance to do this, because this is gonna stand for something years from now, you know?” she said.
Jackée Harry: “I was too young and sexy to be anybody’s MOTHER!”
Harry is pretty much the ultimate sitcom queen of the trio.
The 64-year-old funny gal appeared or starred in a string of comedies including “Amen,” “Sister, Sister,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and, of course, “227,” which launched her fan-fave trademark drawl — “Maaaarrrry” — when her character, Sandra Clark, greeted her brassy neighbor, Mary Jenkins, played by Marla Gibbs.
Interestingly, she was not initially psyched about playing the adoptive-mother role in one of her biggest hits, the 1994 to 1999 sitcom “Sister, Sister” — which starred real-life twins Tia and Tamera Mowry.
“I absolutely did NOT want to play Lisa Landry – I was too young and sexy to be anybody’s MOTHER!” Harry tweeted earlier this month. “But my sister eventually convinced me to take the part and I’m glad I did because it helped me realize how fulfilling it is to mentor younger women.”
She also echoed the earlier sentiments shared by Hubert and Horsford about connecting with fans over a television or streaming service.
“It goes to show that when somebody connects with you and allows you to teach them (in person or even through the television screen), what they’re really giving you is the opportunity to show them that they’re not alone,” she wrote.
And these days the Emmy-winning Harry, who early in her career appeared in dozens of episodes of the daytime drama “Another World” in the mid-1980s, has been checking out her more dramatic side with projects such as “Pose,” the 2019 Lifetime film “Pride & Prejudice: Atlanta” and — in a return to her soap-star roots — a gig on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives.”
“I’ve been waiting a long time to sink my teeth into some drama. It made me feel like all the years I’ve been putting in as an actor have come to fruition,” Harry told The Post in 2019.
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