Will Smith ends longtime feud with 'Fresh Prince' co-star

Brenda Watkins
November 20, 2020

Roommates, it took nearly 30 years, but Janet Hubert has finally buried her decades-long feud with Will Smith and was officially on board for the "Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air" 30 anniversary special.

Hubert, who played Aunt Viv in the first three seasons of the iconic show, has famously had a feud with Smith - and other members of the cast - branding him an "egomaniac" in the past.

"You're still my Aunt Viv!" he declared. Maxwell Reid took over the role for the three remaining seasons until the show's finale in 1996. To address it so directly is a smart P.R. move on Smith's part - if there's any actor working today who exudes the need to please crowds and be liked by everyone, it's him - but it also feels like exactly what Hubert needed in order to provide closure.

"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" might be getting the reboot treatment. They met in-person for the reunion, sharing a lengthy embrace as they came face-to-face for the first time in 27 years. So they said, 'Okay, then we're going to recast your role.' And I said, 'What can I say?' I was hurt deeply, deeply. "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".

Missing, of course, was the sitcom's beloved Uncle Phil, played with all the big uncle energy by James Avery, who died in 2013.

She said: "I just wanted to know one thing: Why?" He accepted and promised to protect her going forward. "I lost everything. Reputation. How do we heal that?"

Smith made it clear that he still regarded her with affection and what she meant to the show.

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She went on to reveal she was offered a bad deal to return for a fourth season and turned it down, admitting she was deeply hurt by how quickly she was replaced - and her personal and professional lives took a big hit. The popular '90s comedy became the springboard that catapulted Smith into the entertainment stratosphere, but the show also resulted in a precipitous downfall for Hubert. Smith said that now that he's older and has more life experience, he understands how hard it must have been for her "just to show up" on set.

And that wasn't all of her trouble. "And I'm sorry", she said.

She told Will, "When I left the show, I had this new baby and no one".

She felt "disowned" by Hollywood and that Smith had "banished" her. Hubert says this led to the much more powerful Smith painting her on set and in the media as someone who was "difficult" to work with, and that she was told he was responsible for her being forced out.

Hubert points out that she was never "unprofessional" on set, only more reserved. I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn't know who to trust because I had been banished. "During that time of her pregnancy, I wasn't sensitive, I wasn't perceptive", he said. Because you were Will. "I was so driven by fear". "I have children, I've been divorced, I've had a second marriage", Will responded. "You took all that away from me with your words". "I had a feud, a war of words that I'd been in with Janet that I never thought would get resolved".

"I lost everything - reputation, everything - and I understand you were able to move forward, but you know those words - calling a Black woman hard in Hollywood is the kiss of death", Janet said.

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