Published on February 16th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford0
Catching Up With the Beautiful and Talented, Mrs. Daphne Maxwell Reid (Aunt Viv)!
Mrs. Daphne Maxwell Reid’s career launched in the late ’70s and she’s still going strong!
Her resume speaks for itself as does her work. Daphne Maxwell Reid’s career spans over four decades. With many roles and appearances under her belt from TV shows to movies, her big break came when she secured the role of, Vivian Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Her bubbly personality and beautiful smile were on full display, while her firm stance as a mother and wife couldn’t be overlooked in the role. In 2019 she landed the role of, Miz Lucy in the movie, “Harriet,” which highlighted, Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and progressions into heroism. Reid’s consistency on the big screen really stands out through her characters and her approach is tireless and professional.
During my recent conversation with, Mrs. Daphne, I was able to get her to open up about her other passions; photography and cooking while discussing her amazing career as well.
It is an honor to speak to you. How is everything going?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: It’s a good day. That’s all we can count on. I’ve been traveling, working, got more traveling coming up, got more work coming up. It’s been a really good year.
You have had an amazing career; you’re continuously adding to that amazing career. I’m sure you have several highlights. Does one stick out in your mind?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I have lots of highlights (laughing). “Frank’s Place,” and being a part of that back in 1987-88 was one of the highlights of my acting career. I really really loved that show. And my most recent highlight was the honor of participating in the movie, “Harriet!”
That’s awesome. Being that you have accomplished so much, is the goal to just keep moving forward at this point?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: The goal is the wake up in the morning and have a good productive day. And hopefully purposeful (laughing).
Was it tough coming in to play, Aunt Viv because the role was already created, or did that make it easier because it was an established personality on the show already?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: It made no difference to me. It was a new job to me. I went in with what I brought. I had no comment on what she brought. It was a great fit between me and James Avery. He was a dream. And I loved the chemistry that we had. And I think the family accepted me as if I had been there the whole time. So, it was a lovely transition for me. I didn’t have any thoughts on whether somebody was doing a job differently than I was going to do. I can only do what I do.
I spoke with, Bern Nadette Stanis, and she embraces being called, “Thelma,” or even, “Thelma from Good Times.” I think being called a role you portrayed is synonymous with the great job done. Do you embrace being called, “Aunt Viv?”
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I love it! I absolutely love it! I think it signifies the acceptance of the audience to the role that I played. And for me, it’s thrilling because I’m working on my third generation of people calling me, “Aunt Viv.” Grandchildren are calling me, “Aunt Viv.” And a lot of them don’t know my face as much as they know my voice. So, they’ll listen to me and they will say, “You sound like Aunt Viv.” I’ll take it any way it comes.
To see the cast from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” all grown up and doing their thing, that has to be a special moment for you. You all seemed to mesh so well.
Daphne Maxwell Reid: It’s like they are my own children. We were so close and had such great relationships on a real people level that we have been through marriages, babies being born, divorces and new marriages. Losing James… that was like the tragedy of the century. But we still are part of the family that came out of that. James’ ex-wife and I are very good friends. We travel together. I went to her new wedding. It’s a family. It really is a family and I’m very proud of all the good works that they are doing.
The mental and physical preparation it takes to get into character. What is that process like for you?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: Usually, the characters that I get to play are close enough to me, that I don’t have to do a big stretch. It’s not like I’m portraying a different character… and when I do have to, like in, “Harriet,” portraying that character of, “Miz Lucy,” I had to think about being in her position. And physically, I had to be up to the task because we had to run through the fields and climb through the water and do lots of physical things. In preparation for that and preparation for life, I stay in shape. I keep my stamina up.
And in preparing for a particular character, I read the script to see where I fit into it. I don’t make too many judgments on where the character’s characteristics are because I need to see what it’s like with the rest of the cast. You can’t stand out and be doing Shakespeare and everybody else is doing comedy. You can’t over-prepare. You can make sure you know your words and where you’re going with your character, where the script is going and how it’s going to end up because it’s never shot in sequence. You have to judge your emotions through the different sections, but you don’t over-prepare for that because you want to be in the moment when you get there.
You have been and are on an amazing journey. What’s been the key to your longevity?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I’m blessed. I’m just actually blessed. I’m sorry, that is the only way I can describe it. Preparation and professionalism and maintaining the integrity of my character personally. It determined whatever amount of success I was going to have. And I’m always pleased to see any amount of success that I have because I’m only doing it because I enjoy doing it. I’m not doing it for the accolades.
You are married to Mr. Tim Reid. A great actor in his own right. I’m sure there are pros and cons to being married to someone involved in the same demanding industry that you are in.
Daphne Maxwell Reid: We are very used to not being in the same place at the same time. It doesn’t mean that we’re not in contact with each other. Our relationship is based on mutual love and trust and respect. We honor those commitments and hey, it’s just part of our life. People don’t understand how… “You mean he’s gone again?” “Yeah! I’m going this time.” It’s normal for us. What people consider a normal marriage doesn’t apply to people who have two separate careers. They have to kind of navigate that and every couple is different. Some people can tolerate more than others can.
You also have a passion for photography. How did that get started?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I have been shooting pictures all my life. My father used to shoot pictures of us in the ’40s and ’50s. He studied photography and he loved it and I’ve always had a camera. There is no time in my life that I have not had a camera and a sewing machine. They are my go-to releases for what to do when you’re not doing something else. And finding the passion for photography came from friends that suggested that I pursue it as an artistic craft after I came back from traveling with these pictures that I’m showing them. And they said, “Oh, you’re a photographer?” And I go, “No, you have to be an artist to do that.” They said, “Why aren’t you an artist?”
So, at 60, I woke up and I said, “I am a photographic artist and now I gotta figure out what that means.” And the journey for the past 10-12 years has been spectacular. I’ve learned so much and realized that the journey is the best part of whatever you’re doing. It’s just amazing. And I’ve had success with it and been appreciated and written books that people buy (laughing). So, I have really used it as my expression to kind of tell the story to young kids that they should always dream and that they should always live their life noticing the details in their life and not just going from point A to point B blindly. But the richness of life is in the details, so pay attention to the details.
Is there anything in particular that you enjoy shooting more than others?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I do not shoot people. My focus for the past 10-years has been on doors. Which people found a little odd when I first started and now celebrate them like, “Oh yeah, doors are a metaphor for life. It represents passages and adventure and curiosity,” and I said, “Craftsmanship and color, and lots of things are represented by doors.” As your life goes on, you’re going to pass through a lot of doors, so pay attention to the opportunities and the adventures that you have in your life.
This is a very profound interview. I’m glad I reached out to you.
Daphne Maxwell Reid: (Laughing)! That’s what comes with age, you get profound.
I have to check your temperature on your other passion because I’m from Louisiana and I know good food. You have a passion for cooking. How good of a cook are you, Mrs. Daphne?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I absolutely love cooking, but I may not be good anymore. Not as good as I used to be because I don’t do it as much as I used to. But I finally have gathered all of my recipes and my stories from where I got the recipes from and a little piece of memoir growing up around my parents and my mother’s divine use of food preparation. And I finally put it into a cookbook and finally got it off of my computer and got it published.
Was that a bucket list goal for you to eventually publish a cookbook?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I’ve had cookbooks for years. We used to give them out as gifts. I just never really published them. I just had them printed and gave them out as gifts. But I said I have to put this together and start a memoir because at a certain age you have to start writing down what you did when you were younger or you’re going to forget it (laughing). So, I started doing that and the cookbook came together. When you get inspired to do something and it gets to clicking, you continue it until you finish it, so I finally did.
If you’re inviting someone over to cook for them for the first time, what are you cooking? What’s your go-to?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: I would probably invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner because I do a mean turkey, sweet potato souffle and lots of things that are prepared for that kind of feast. That’s the kind of thing that I like to prepare. Now, if it’s just a casual dinner, I will do some sort of pasta with any kind of something in it.
That’s awesome and speaking to you has been awesome. Thank you so much for your time. It has really been a true honor. Is there anything else before I let you go that you want to add?
Daphne Maxwell Reid: Thank you. They can go to my website www.DaphneMaxwellReid.com and see all of the things that I do.