The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special reveals why Jazz always wears the same shirt. Portrayed by Will Smith’s real-life bandmate DJ Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Allen Townes), the best friend character often shows up for comedic relief. In one of the series’ recurring gags, Uncle Phil repeatedly throws Jazz out of the house. The HBO Max special explains the backstory for the bit, and how it evolved into a wardrobe punchline.
Directed by Marcus Raboy, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special features almost all of the main cast members: Smith, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana M. Ali, Joseph Marcell, Ross Bagley, and Janet Hubert. Alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff, the performers reflect on the perks and challenges of making the NBC series, and how the late James Avery inspired his colleagues from season to season. During a late-special video tribute to the actor, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air castmates are left in tears while remembering the patriarchal figure of the groundbreaking series.
In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special, Townes explains the comedic premise for Jazz’s on-screen conflict with Avery’s Uncle Phil. During the second episode, “Bang the Drum, Ashley,” Jazz pokes fun at Uncle Phil about his weight, and a transition shot shows him being literally thrown out of the Banks home. Over the course of the series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air showrunners used the exact same shot, which is indeed a continuity error at times but also part of the joke. According to Townes, the original plan was to have various shots of him being forcefully removed Uncle Phil’s abode.
“One day, we filmed maybe about 150 takes of me getting tossed out of the house. I think they didn’t want to torture me anymore, so that’s the reason why they started using the same shot. And then that became a thing, that every time I walked into a scene and I had that shirt on, the audience kind of knew what was coming up.”
DJ Jazzy Jeff and Smith also discuss how quickly The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was green-lit by NBC. By December 1989, the hip-hop musicians had released three albums as DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and won the first-ever Grammy for Best Rap Performance. While Smith went on to have a successful film career, Townes didn’t do any acting work after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Smith eventually started a solo music career, but still regularly collaborated with Townes as a producer and the duo still performs live on special occasions.
From 1990 to 1996, DJ Jazzy Jeff appeared in 46 episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In general, the character’s departure from the Banks home was signaled by a one-liner and the sound of a sprinkler. On one occasion, Uncle Phil actually threw Jazz inside the family home after an outdoor confrontation, and Jazz even willingly tossed himself out once in order to save Uncle Phil’s energy.
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