Janet Hubert discusses ‘Fresh Prince’ exit with Will Smith: ‘I lost so much’
Will Smith and Janet Hubert agreed that it was time for 'healing' on the 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' reunion
Will Smith and Janet Hubert are laying bare the differences they shared while starring on the iconic sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, with the actress revealing she “lost so much” after leaving the show.
Smith gathered the cast of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air for a 30th anniversary special on HBO Max that is currently available on the streamer. Alfonso Ribeiro, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, and DJ Jazzy Jeff were eager to reminisce. James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil, died in 2013.
Fans were shocked when Hubert, famously the dark-skinned and first — and to some only — Aunt Viv, agreed to be a part of the reunion. She has not held back her criticisms of Smith since she left the show in 1993. In the reunion special, Hubert insisted she had not been fired.
They both admitted to having issues during a confessional ahead of their public face to face.
“During that third season, when I got pregnant, there was a lot of things going on in my life and Will’s life as well. There was some friction because I was pregnant. Home life was not good at all,” explained Hubert. “I was no longer laughing, smiling, joking because there were things going on nobody knew about. The cast had no idea what was going on.”
Smith acknowledged that he could have been more “sensitive” to Hubert. He shared that becoming a father made him more attuned with how she may have felt back then.
“I wasn’t perceptive and now that I’ve had three kids I’ve learned some things I did not know at the time and I would do things very differently,” he said to the camera. “I can see why I made the set very difficult for Janet.”
Hubert added that she was given a “bad deal” and only allowed to work on the show for two months and not allowed to work elsewhere which would have meant a cut in her salary when contract renewals began. She was ultimately replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid as the Banks matriarch during the show’s fourth season and until the series ended in 1996.
Hubert and Smith greeted each other with a hug when they saw each other on set but she had to ask him a question that has lingered on her mind for 27 years.
“I just wanted to know one thing, why? Why so far? You guys went so far, I lost so much,” she said. “How do we heal?”
Hubert explained how many people turned their backs on her following her exit from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She also claimed that her circumstances were made even more difficult because she was in an “abusive marriage” at the time.
“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,” she said. “I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn’t know who to trust, I had been banished. They said it was you who banished me. Because you were Will, you were a kid. It was hard.”
Smith responded that he could see the “level of pain and the level of struggle” Hubert went through.
“You took all of that away from me, with your words. Words can kill. I lost everything. Reputation, everything, everything,” she continued. “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. It’s hard enough when you a dark-skinned Black woman in this business.”
Nonetheless, Hubert felt it was “necessary” to move on from her hurt. She apologized for blasting him in the media over the years. He accepted and promised to protect her going forward.
“I could not do a 30-year celebration of this show and not celebrate you. Celebrate your contribution to this show and celebrate your contribution to my life,” he said.
Smith made it clear that he still regarded her with affection and what she meant to the show.
“You’re still my Aunt Viv!” he declared.
Hubert took to social media and extended her gratitude to Smith and fans.
“Be blessed, this is my story all about how…healing happened,” she wrote.
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