HBO Max’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion was everything a fan of the show could have hoped for. The reunion’s most memorable moment was with Will Smith and original Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, sitting down to discuss their decades-long feud. Hubert played Aunt Viv for the first three seasons of the show. Hubert was laster replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the remainder of the season.
Over the decades, the two exchanged insults, with Hubert referring to Smith as an egomaniac and then Smith saying that Hubert wanted the series to be “The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air.”
In a moment that was unexpected, Smith shared the discussion between himself and Hubert, finally discussing their differences face to face.
“As a family, we have our things that we talk about and then we have our things that we don’t talk about,” he began. “We never really, together, publicly talk about Janet. And what happened. And, for me, it felt like I couldn’t celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without finding a way to celebrate Janet.”
After exchanging a long hug, Hubert said to Smith, “I just wanted to know one thing: Why? You guys went so far. I lost so much. How do we heal that?”
Hubert shared that she got pregnant in Season 3, which was both a joyful and complicated situation, and also revealed that she’d been suffering in an abusive marriage that the rest of the cast did not know about.
“During that time of her pregnancy, I wasn’t sensitive, I wasn’t perceptive,” Hubert said, “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.”
In a separate confessional moment, Smith admitted that he could see where he “made the set very difficult for Janet.”
Hubert also clarified that she was never actually fired from the show, but rather, she refused to accept the “really bad deal” they offered her to continue. Had she taken the offer, she would have been working less at a reduced salary, but would also not be allowed to work anywhere else either. This situation “deeply hurt” her.
“When I left the show, I had this new baby and no one. Family disowned me. Hollywood disowned me,” Hubert said, “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.”
Smith shared how he was feeling at the time, being a 21-year-old with so much on his shoulders, saying that he believed “everything was a threat” to him. “I was so driven by fear,” he said. “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.”
Hubert replied, “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.”
The pair ended their conversation with tears in their eyes, as Smith thanked Hubert for her honesty. “You’re still my Aunt Viv,” he lovingly said.
— Geeks of Color #BlackLivesMatter (@GeeksOfColor) November 19, 2020