The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of the most iconic television shows in history. Everyone knows the theme song by heart, everyone mourned the loss of James Avery aka Uncle Phil, and everyone remembers that one point in the show when Will’s mom is replaced with another woman- and everyone was supposed to pretend like it never happened. The show was so good that few people even questioned it.
Over the years it was slowly revealed that there was some drama behind the scenes between the O.G. Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert, and the show’s star, Will Smith. Hubert left the show after her pay was cut and according to the actress, Smith did nothing to help. Hubert addressed the situation directly in her 2009 memoir “Perfection Is Not a Sitcom Mom.” It had been 27 years since Hubert and Smith spoke, but the cast reunited in for the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion,” and they finally addressed the elephant in the room. The special premiered November 19 on HBO Max.
According to the Washington Post, the first 45 minutes were full of peaceful memories and love as Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana Ali, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, and DJ Jazzy Jeff gathered on the show’s original set. The actors relived their favorite memories and reflected on the impact the show had. Uncle Phil‘s absence was deeply missed and footage of Avery, who died in 2013 brought the cast to tears. Then, things got a little awkward.
Hubert had previously called out her costars who she said never fought for her. She told TMZ in 2011 there was no chance she would ever do a reunion. “There will never be a reunion... as I will never do anything with an a**hole like Will Smith,” Hubert said. Smith took control of the next segment and explained, “So, as a family we have our things that we talk about and then we have our things that we don’t talk about. We, um, never really, together, like publicly talk about, um, 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.” Then a pre-taped interview aired.
The actors sat in the live audience’s section of the sitcom’s studio and dove right into Hubert’s abrupt exit from the show. “I just wanted to know one thing: Why?” asked Hubert. “You guys went so far,” she added. “I lost so much. How do we heal that?” Smith then asked Hubert to tell her story. Hubert revealed that during the third season of the show, she was in an abusive marriage, had a new baby and her husband was unemployed. All of her personal hardships led to her personality and demeanor changing on set and she retreated from her castmates. According to the actress, her next contract included a pay cut and she passed on the opportunity. And from what she heard on set, it was Smith’s call.
#FreshPrinceReunion I am so thankful for all the love being shown and the understanding. Will and team let me participate in whatever I wanted and felt comfortable doing. After 27 years of disconnect we are all different people. It was great seeing everyone, life is too short! pic.twitter.com/2vwDIgH1lV— Janet Hubert (@OGJanetHubert) November 20, 2020
“I was never fired,” she said. “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,” Hubert said. “I was 21 years old,” explained Smith. “Everything was a threat to me.” Smith admitted. Hubert then told Smith that he ruined her budding reputation in Hollywood by calling her difficult to the press. She told Smith his words took “everything” away from her. “But you took all of that away from me — with your words,” Hubert said. “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.”
Despite the deep pain, they were both ready to move forward. Hubert apologized for “blasting” Smith “to pieces” in the press. And Smith offered his own apology. “The person I want to be is someone who protects you, not someone who unleashes dogs on you,” Smith said. Hubert later made a surprise appearance at the actual reunion and met Reid, the actress who replaced her on the show, for the first time. Photos of them went viral on social media.