Vivian Banks
Main Info
Full Name Vivian Smith Banks
Occupation University Teacher
Age 50
Birth October 21, 1951
Family Philip Banks (husband)
Carlton Banks (son)
Nicky Banks (son)
Hilary Banks (daughter)
Ashley Banks (daughter)
Eli Smith (father)
Vy 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)
First Appearance "The Fresh Prince Project"
Last Appearance "I, Done (Part 2)"
Actor Janet Hubert-Whitten (Seasons 1-3)

Daphne Maxwell Reid (Seasons 4-6)


Vivian Smith-Banks is Will Smith's maternal aunt. She became engaged to Philip Banks on an episode of Soul Train and they married later at an unknown time and place. 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). When she was pregnant with Nicky it was shown that she had an unbearable side; constantly ringing a bell for a "maid", irritating everyone, including Phillip. In the first three seasons, while portrayed by Janet Hubert-Whitten, she had a feisty more cynical side, cracking jokes around people who did more unorthodox things (mostly around Jamison Witworth, even though he was around for only one episode). When portrayed by Daphne Maxwell Reid, she had less of an attitude, yet she was still feisty sometimes. However, she made fewer appearances than Hubert-Whitten.

Personality Edit

Vivian was born on October 21, 1951 and was portrayed by Janet Hubert-Whitten during the first three seasons and by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the last three. 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 since 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.

Vivian's personality and role in the show changes over the run of the series. During the Janet Hubert-Whitten years, she is a no-nonsense, vocally talented, forthright, and career-minded woman who plays a part in the show equal to her husband Philip. It is revealed in the season one episode "Love at First Fight", that Vivian 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.

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 Whitten 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 in the season four episode "Fresh Prince After Dark", as well as letting Hilary get abruptly married to her news anchor boyfriend Trevor in "Where There's a Will, There's a Way," and having a seance for Trevor in the episode "Hex and the Single Guy." It seems that Janet Hubert-Whitten's Vivian would have disapproved such attitudes; however, in the episode It's a Wonderful Lie, she's at Philip's side when he severely reprimands Ashley for lying to them and having snuck off to go to a fraternity party, where she'd been caught by Will in a locked bedroom making out with a college linebacker.

There has been references in the series about Janet Hubert-Whitten's replacement by Daphne Maxwell Reed as Vivian. In an occasional running gag within the series, 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 Whitten-played Vivian. In a later interview, costume designer Carlo Tang commented that Smith and other cast members would jokingly refer to Hubert-Whitten's Vivian as Marcus, a fictional bodybuilder. The change between the two is the object of two humorous quotes from Jazz in which he breaks 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?".