Interview: Daphne Maxwell Reid Discusses ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion’
Daphne Maxwell Reid is a true television icon and one of the most iconic 90s TV moms for her role in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She joined the cast of the hit series in its third season as Aunt Vivian, following Janet Hubert’s departure from the role. Reid began her successful career in the entertainment industry as a model while she was at Northwestern University. In 1969, she became one of the first African-American women to appear on the cover of Glamour magazine.
Beyond her long list of on-camera roles, Daphne Maxwell Reid is also a well-respected artist, designer, education activist, and author. She has turned her passion for photography into books and calendars filled with vibrant photography from her travels around the world. She recently published her first cookbook, Grace + Soul & Motherwit, filled with forty years of letters, recipes, and stories about her life. Reid is also a talented seamstress with her own custom clothing line called Daphne Style, which features gorgeous silk brocade jackets — which she has worn for a number of her roles.
The internet has been abuzz with HBO Max’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion special and Your Money Geek was fortunate enough to chat with Daphne Maxwell Reid.
Daphne Maxwell Reid Discusses The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion
Maggie Lovitt (ML): During the original run of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you stepped into the role of Aunt Viv during the third season. What was the experience of coming into an existing role like?
Daphne Reid (DR): For me, it was just getting a job. I was happy to have a job. I intended to not mimic what they had before. I was not the same person as she was. And they had selected me based on my audition, because of the way I performed. That’s what I thought they expected.
ML: What has it been like coming back to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air over 20 years later?
DR: Well, we have all been in touch with each other over the years. [There have been] weddings, the birth of babies and, sadly, a funeral. But getting us all together, in the same place, at the same time, was a feat and a joy. It was glorious. Absolutely glorious.
ML: Was it like having a family reunion?
DR: Exactly. Because we are very much like family.
ML: I love that. You have had such an incredible career in the industry. Have there been any other roles aside from Aunt Viv that have kind of stuck with you or stood out to you?
DR: Yes, I’ve had a glorious time playing opposite my husband on shows like Frank’s Place and Snoops. And then a wonderful show he created called Linc’s that was on Showtime for two years. I have had some very memorable and lovely occasions that I call work.
ML: You and I are both based in Virginia and I know that you’ve worked on some of the projects here in the state recently. When you moved to Virginia, did you ever expect that there would be such a thriving film industry here?
DR: I guess you didn’t know that we built a built studio here.
ML: Really? I did not know that.
DR: In 1997, New Millennium Studios, [it was] the first full-service film studio in the state of Virginia.
ML: I had never looked into who started the studio. Well, thank you for doing that here. That’s remarkable.
DR: We created television shows down there in Petersburg. We created feature films. We hosted Spielberg with Lincoln. There was quite a lot going on down there for about 15 years.
ML: And there’s still so much stuff going on. I always joke when I do these interviews that I got into the film industry, because I love good set catering. I always like asking what has been the best meal you’ve ever had on a set?
DR: Oh my gosh. That’s hard to say. Every once in a while, we’d get a really good meal. But it’s usually catered from outside, but not the catering truck. A restaurant or something will come in and serve a dinner or something. But I can’t remember anything specifically that really knocked my socks off.
ML: You also have a cookbook as well, so you like cooking too.
DR: I do and I like collecting recipes because they all have stories. I like telling those stories and how the people who I am talking about are related to me in the different ways that community and family is built.
ML: I know when I was reading through your site, you love traveling. Are some of the recipes in your cookbook inspired from your travels?
DR: Oh yes, but more about the people who I travel with and more of the home-cooked meals, rather than the meals I’ve eaten in restaurants. It’s stories of sharing time with people [and] with their love of creation that I like.
ML: With Daphne Style are there any designers that have inspired the looks that you’ve created?
DR: No, I don’t create a whole lot of looks. I have two things that I sell through Daphne Style. I only do custom work and my forte is Chinese silk brocade jackets. I create them as art pieces to wear, kind of like you would wear designer or statement jewelry. You wear it with whatever you have, jeans or a gown. But it’s the coat that makes the statement, like putting on a piece of statement jewelry.
I create two different styles and then I just fabricate it myself. I [also have] swing coats in linen that have brilliant exteriors; they are rainbow colors outside with very distinctive and sometimes fanciful linings in each of them. I only did them for me until I started doing them for the fashion show that my husband does to raise funds for his institute. I don’t create them to sell to stores, but I have customers who follow me.
ML: They’re absolutely gorgeous.
DR: I’ve been really lucky because the last on-camera things that I’ve done; the [ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air] reunion, as well as the movie that I have coming out next month, I’m wearing the jackets that I made. I’m doing an episode of Swagger here in Richmond and they chose one of my outfits for me to wear. So it’s very nice.
ML: I was actually working on Swagger pre-COVID. Do you have any new designs for Daphne Style coming out in 2021?
DR: Right now, I’m just concentrating on making masks because everyone needs them. I’m taking all of the gorgeous fabrics that I’ve collected over the past fifty years and I’m creating masks that I’m selling online as well.
ML: What’s next for you in 2021?
DR: January. [laughs] I don’t plan that far ahead. I am a person who goes on opportunity and passion for something that might catch my eye. I may continue to peck away at my memoir, which I started this year, and didn’t get very far into. I think I’m only in high school. I have no idea. I would hope that I’d be able to travel again, because that’s what I really love to do. Traveling, taking photographs, and creating books about the photographs. I really am into expressing the artistic side of me, whether it’s for money or just for joy. I’ll just do whatever comes to mind the next day.
You can catch Daphne Maxwell Reid in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion streaming only on HBO Max and be sure to watch her new film, The Business of Christmas, on BET+.