Vivian Banks
Full Name Vivian Smith Banks
Birthday October 21, 1951
Age 39—45
From West Philadelphia
Occupation University Professor
Family Philip Banks (husband)
Carlton Banks (son)
Nicky Banks (son)
Hilary Banks (daughter)
Ashley Banks (daughter)
Eli Smith (father)
Viola Smith (sister)
Janice Smith (sister)
Helen Smith (sister)
Will Smith (nephew)
Bobby Lewis (nephew)
Frank Schaffer, Jr. (nephew)
Fred Wilkes (brother-in-law)
Lester Lewis (ex-brother-in-law)
Frank Schaffer, Sr. (brother-in-law)
Lisa Wilkes (step-niece)
Lou Smith (ex-brother-in-law)
Hattie Banks (mother-in-law)
Joe Banks † (father-in-law)
Actor Janet Hubert (Seasons 1-3)
Daphne Maxwell Reid (Seasons 4-6)
First seen "The Fresh Prince Project"
Last seen "I, Done (Part 2)"

Vivian Smith-Banks is Will Smith's maternal aunt. She is portrayed by Janet Hubert during the first two seasons and the majority of the third, and by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the balance of the series

Character Edit

Vivian was born on October 21, 1951. She is a no-nonsense, vocally talented, forthright, aspiring, understanding, nurturing, trusting, vivacious, independent, valiant, industrious, astute, nice and career-minded woman who plays a part in the show equal to her husband Philip. Vivian shares with Will that she dropped out of high school as a teenager and worked menial jobs, before attending night school in order to get her high school diploma and enter college to work toward her PhD.[1] When she and all her sisters get together, they have a habit of jumping up and down in a happy way (after a couple times, Will starts to join in).

She is the mother of Nicky, Ashley, Carlton and Hillary Banks; the aunt of Will Smith and the wife of Phillip Banks. She has been a retired Doctor then earned her PhD at UCLA in 1971, and in one early episode takes a temporary job as a teacher for a unit in Black History at Bel-Air Academy, the upscale preparatory high school attended by Will and Carlton, and later by Ashley. She has one older sister, Vy (Will's mother), and two younger sisters, Helen and Janice.

Past Edit

Vivan and Philip Banks became engaged on an episode of Soul Train and they married later at an unknown time and place.

Actor change Edit

After Reid took the part in 1993 and baby Nicky was added to the cast, she was reimagined as a homemaker who showed reluctance toward ambitious career moves, such as Philip's political aspirations. The Reid-played Vivian showed a less fiery demeanor than how Hubert portrayed the role. She also supported her children in whatever they wanted, even if it was wrong. An example of this permissive behavior was when she let Hilary make the decision for herself to pose naked in a Playboy pictorial[2], as well as letting Hilary get abruptly married to her news anchor boyfriend Trevor.[3]

Arguably the original Vivian would have disapproved of such attitudes. The change of actor is noted in the series with two humorous quotes from Jazz, breaking the fourth wall. One of them is in the fourth-season premiere, when he remarks: "You know, Mrs. Banks, ever since you had that baby, there's something different about you"; after this, Will stares uneasily into the camera. The other is in the fifth-season premiere when he sees the suddenly grown Nicky and asks: "So, who's playing the wife this year?".

Trivia Edit

  • There has been references in the series about Janet Hubert's replacement by Daphne Maxwell Reid as Vivian. Whenever a member of the family goes through old family photos, Will would occasionally comment who the mannish-looking person is in the photo, to which it is then revealed that the person in question is the Hubert-played Vivian.
  • In a later interview, costume designer Carlo Tang commented that Smith and other cast members would jokingly refer to Hubert's Vivian as Marcus, a fictional bodybuilder

Photos Edit

Notes and references Edit

  1. Love at First Fight
  2. Fresh Prince After Dark
  3. Where There's a Will, There's a Way (Part 1)