Will Smith Made Things "Very Difficult" for This Co-Star: "I Lost Everything"
These Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-stars didn't make up until 27 years later.
All fans of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air know that something major changed between Seasons 3 and 4. While actor Janet Hubert played Aunt Viv for the first few seasons of the show, she was recast with Daphne Maxwell Reid, who played the role through the series finale. And this wasn't a smooth transition. Hubert's departure from the show kicked off a nearly 30-year feud with Fresh Prince star Will Smith that was only resolved two years ago.
At HBO Max's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special in November 2020, Smith and Hubert finally sat down together to talk the conflict out and come to an understanding—27 years later. They also shared more than they ever had publicly about what was behind their disagreement. Read on to find out more about this complicated relationship and where it stands today.
Hubert said Smith was responsible for her departure.
Over the years, Hubert has claimed that Smith was immature and full of himself and wanted her off of the show. "He said, 'We're just gonna replace her and act like nothing happened.' Well honey, that is not what happened is it?" Hubert told Yahoo!'s omg! Insider in 2013. "They were like bad kids, Will and Alfonso [Ribeiro], especially Alfonso."
She added that the issue had to do with her not kissing up to Smith, her younger co-star. "It was as if to say, 'You don't reprimand the young man on the set,'" she continued. "I have an expression, 'If you want me to kiss your butt, you have got to put it in my contract.'"
Smith claimed that Hubert held a grudge because of his age and success.
According to The Sun, in a 1993 interview with an Atlanta radio station, Smith said, "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 has basically gone from a quarter of a million dollars a year to nothing. 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."
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Hubert once said she'd "never" do a reunion with Smith.
In her 2013 interview with omg! Insider, Hurbert was open to the idea of reconciling with Smith, but she had previously been against it. In 2011, she told TMZ, "There will never be a reunion … as I will never do anything with an [expletive] like Will Smith." She continued, "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."
They finally reunited and had a heart-to-heart in 2020.
Smith and Hubert reunited one-on-one as part of the televised Fresh Prince reunion in 2020. During the show, Hubert explained that at the end of Fresh Prince's third season, she was pregnant and going through hard times at home that her castmates didn't know about. She also said that she wasn't fired from the show but was offered a "really bad deal" that she decided not to accept, as reported by Hollywood Life. "That meant my salary was cut, I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work," she said.
Hubert also told Smith how hurt she was by what happened. "Words can kill. I lost everything," she said. "Reputation, everything, everything. 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're a dark-skinned Black woman in this business." She also apologized for her part in the long-time feud when it came to talking about him in the press.
Smith was understanding of her pain.
Smith said that he knew he "wasn't sensitive" to Hubert and would do things differently now. "I can see why I made the set very difficult for Janet," he said on the special.
After Hubert shared her side, Smith told her, "First of all, thank you for sharing that with me. I didn't know that. When I look back now, it's obvious 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 this show and celebrate your contribution to my life."
They're on good terms today.
Smith and Hubert were able to make peace, and Hubert even got to meet Reid, the actor who played the new Aunt Viv, for the first time. The three all recorded a video for social media together, with Reid sitting down in a chair on the Fresh Prince set and morphing into Hubert. Smith captioned the post on Instagram, "Two queens, one throne, all love!"