Will Smith and Janet Hubert Reconciled During the ‘Fresh Prince’ Reunion
The former costars seemingly buried the hatchet after years of drama.
Update, November 19th, 2020: Well, it finally happened. Will Smith and Janet Hubert, the Fresh Prince and OG Aunt Viv, sat down and hashed out their tangled, venom-filled history. During the November 18th HBO Max Fresh Prince of Bel Air 30th reunion, Smith aired his anticipated sit down with Hubert for the rest of the cast (and world), and the hatchet has seemingly been buried.
"As a family, we have our things that we talk about and then we have our things that we don’t talk about," Smith said to his former cast mates, including, Tatyana Ali (Ashley), Karyn Parsons (Hilary), Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Vivian II), and Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton). "We never really, together, publicly talk about Janet. And what happened."
The discussion between Smith and Hubert wasn't easy. After a long hug at the top of the meeting, Hubert started with, "I just wanted to know one thing: Why? You guys went so far. I lost so much. How do we heal that?"
Smith implored her to tell her story and she divulged that when she got pregnant while filming the third season, she was also dealing with an abusive marriage behind-the-scenes.
“During that time of her pregnancy, I wasn’t sensitive, I wasn’t perceptive, and now that I’ve had three kids I’ve learned some things that I did not know at the time and I would do things very differently,” Smith said in a separate confessional. "But I can see where I made the set very difficult for Janet."
Hubert also said that she wasn't fired from the show, but rather, she was offered a "really bad deal" that included a reduced salary and an inability to take other roles while in the Fresh Prince contract. Her refusal to accept the deal ended with the show recasting her.
"I was hurt deeply," she says. "When I left the show, I had this new baby and no one. Family disowned me. Hollywood disowned me. My family said, 'You’ve ruined our name.' And I wasn’t unprofessional on the set. I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn’t [know] who to trust because I had been banished. And they said it was you who banished me. Because you were Will. It was hard."
At that same point in history, a 21-year-old Smith felt as though "everything was a threat." Smith admitted to Hubert that he was "so driven by fear" during that point in his life. "I have children. I’ve been divorced and I have a second marriage, and I can see now the level of pain and the level of struggle that it was just for you to show up every day."
"But you took all of that away from me—with your words. Words can kill. I lost everything. Reputation. Everything. And I understand you were able to move forward, but you know those words, calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood, is the kiss of death. And it’s hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business. But I felt that it was necessary for us to finally move forward. And I’m sorry that I have blasted you to pieces."
Before the the conversation ended with both Smith and Hubert nearly in tears, Smith apologized to and thanked Hubert for sharing her story with him. "You’re still my Aunt Viv," Smith said. Later in the reunion, Hubert joined the rest of the cast on set.
Hoo boy. The meetup was just as tense and emotional as we thought it would be, but we're so glad it happened. As for the rest of the reunion special, it was a wild ride on the nostalgia train. You can tune into your HBO Max subscription to watch it in its entirety—and be warned: you're going to need the tissues.
Original Post, September 11th, 2020: Will and Aunt Vivian The First are burying the hatchet. Ahead of the unscripted 30th reunion of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air cast, Will Smith posted a behind-the-scenes photo of himself and Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv for the first three seasons. Those familiar with Fresh Prince lore will have already raised their brows: But I thought they hated each other? Well, they did...do? We suppose we'll have to watch the HBO Max special to find out.
"Today is exactly 30 YEARS since The @FreshPrince of Bel-Air debuted!" Smith captioned his September 10th Instagram post. "So we’re doin’ something for y’all… a for real Banks Family Reunion is comin’ soon to @HBOmax!" Smith also included, "RIP James," recognizing the late James Avery, who played Uncle Phil.
In the second photo of his Instagram post, Smith is sitting down next to Hubert, who was famously replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid in 1993.
The reason for Hubert's departure from the show is unknown, with some reports claiming that her real-life pregnancy in 1992 (which was integrated into the show) breached her Fresh Prince contract.
According to ScreenRant, the pregnancy was likely not the actual reason for Hubert's firing after the third season. More likely, her feud with Will Smith (and, later, the rest of the Fresh Prince cast) was. In her 2009 memoir, Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom, Hubert said that Smith requested her firing, thus "ruining" her entire career.
And though that's a large claim, Smith confirmed he and Hubert were not friends while filming the first three seasons of Fresh Prince. In a 1993 interview with an Atlanta radio station, Smith said, per E! News, "I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be 'The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show' because I know she is going to dog me in the press...She's mad now but she's been mad all along."
"She said once, 'I've been in the business for 10 years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.' No matter what, to her I'm just the Antichrist," Smith continued.
However, Hubert didn't have a beef with Smith alone. She reportedly burned bridges with pretty much every Fresh Prince cast member. Alfonso Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks, said during a 2009 stand-up set, "Basically, at the end of the day, the [he censored himself] was crazy," referring to Hubert, whom he said "went nuts."
"There were days when we were all on the set, and she would literally go off on people and...by the time the second season came around where we're like, 'This is unacceptable,'" Ribeiro continued, per E! News. "She made it very difficult for us to work, and unfortunately she was then fired."
After years of name-calling, call-outs, clapbacks, and zingers, it looks like Smith and Hubert are finally ready to heal their relationship and bring fans along for the ride. Hopefully this is the end of an era in the best way possible.