Will Smith and Janet Hubert have finally buried the hatchet, 27 years after the actress left her role as Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
During Wednesday night's premiere of the HBO Max reunion special celebrating 30 years since the sitcom debuted, Smith and Hubert sat down for an emotional conversation and resolved the issues between them that had been brewing for nearly three decades.
"We never 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," Smith told his fellow costars Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid and Alfonso Ribeiro. "So she agreed to sit down and have a conversation with me, and Janet and I saw one another for the first time in 27 years yesterday."
Hubert, 64, played Aunt Viv for the first three seasons of the series. She left the show in 1993 citing "creative differences" and was replaced by Reid, 72. Since then, Hubert and Smith, 57, have tangled occasionally in the public eye.
"I can say straight up that Janet Hubert wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show," Smith told an Atlanta radio station shortly after her departure, according to Complex. "She's mad now but she's been mad all along."
After Smith posted on social media about a partial cast reunion in 2011, Hubert called out her former costar. "There will never be a reunion … as I will never do anything with an a—— like Will Smith," she told TMZ at the time. "He is still an egomaniac and has not grown up. This constant reunion thing will never ever happen in my lifetime unless there is an apology, which he doesn't know the word."
Following their sit-down during Wednesday's special, however, their differences seem to have been resolved.
"I don't know your story," Smith said.
"I know, you have no idea. It was insane," she replied, going on to say that she was not fired from the show, contrary to what was widely reported at the time.
"They offered me this really bad deal in the third season. They said, 'You've got two months and two weeks of work and you cannot work anywhere else,'" Hubert recalled. "So that meant my salary was cut. I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work, so I said no. I did not accept their offer."
"I was never fired, but the misconception was always put out there," she continued. "I was trapped — what could I do? They said, 'Okay, then we're going to recast your role,' and I said, 'What can I say?' I was hurt, deeply."
Hubert said Smith's words following her departure hurt her life and her career. "You were going forward and getting bigger and bigger, we knew you were going to be huge," she told him, explaining that her difficulties on set had nothing to do with the cast, but more so with her situation at home, including what she described as a "very abusive marriage."
"I have children, I've been divorced, I've had a second marriage," Smith replied. "And I can see now the level of pain and the level of struggle that it was for you just to show up every day."
"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," Hubert said. "And it's hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business."
She then expressed a desire to patch things up with Smith, saying, "I felt it was necessary for us to finally move forward, and I'm sorry that I have blasted you to pieces."
"First of all, thank you for sharing that with me," he said. "I didn't know that, when I look back now it's obvious that you were having a hard time and I felt like you hated me. I could not do a 30-year celebration of this show and not celebrate you, celebrate your contribution to the show, celebrate your contribution to my life."
"The person I want to be is someone who protects you, not someone that unleashes dogs on you," he added, before the pair both apologized for the long-running feud.
"I have to say, after 27 years, being here today and having the conversation that Will and I had together — it's healing," Hubert later said in a solo interview. "I didn't come here to have animosity, I came here to resolve, 'cause it's time."
The actress then reunited with the rest of the Fresh Prince cast members involved in the reunion — even meeting Reid for the very first time.
"I'm so happy that we were able to make that reconciliation," Smith said. "And I hope other people can take something from it."
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion special is streaming on HBO Max.
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