The original cast of The Fresh Prince reunited for a special on HBO Max this week. They’re celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. Will Smith even brought back the original Aunt Viv played by Janet Hubert.
Janet and Will had a “falling out” during her tenure at Fresh Prince. Janet was eventually replaced in season three with Daphne Maxwell Reid. Daphne played the role of Aunt Viv from 1993 until the show wrapped in 1996. Daphne replacing Janet created a very public 27 year long beef between Will and Janet. Janet had just had a baby when she found herself dumped by the show and subsequently Hollywood because she was labeled “difficult” by Will Smith. Will brought Janet back for the reunion to bury the hatchet and talked through what happened that led to her exit from the show. Below are a few excerpts from the reunion show via Too Fab:
Before the conversation began, both Smith and Hubert acknowledged in separate confessionals the issues they had on set back in the day.
“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 admitted he “wasn’t sensitive” to her situation. “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.”
She went on to explain that she was offered a “really bad deal,” where she would only work for two months and two weeks and couldn’t work anywhere else. “That meant my salary was cut, I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work. I said no,” she said. “I did not accept their offer. I was never fired. The misconception was always put out there. I was trapped, what could I do.”
“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 to Smith. “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.”
“You didn’t realize I was going through a lot at home. You didn’t know,” she said, before claiming she was in a “very abusive marriage.”
I am so glad Janet and the rest of the cast were reunited. It was great to see Janet hug Daphne as well because I remember there being a lot of anger from Janet toward everyone and rightly so. It is good that Will is mature enough now to be open and honest about his role in getting Janet black listed in Hollywood. To me Janet will always be THE Aunt Viv.
I also recall at the time that many fans of the show, including myself, felt that Daphne replacing Janet was steeped in colorism. Janet stated in the conversation that by labeling her, a dark skinned black woman, “difficult” Will effectively ended her career. That part of the conversation was sad to me. The fact that her family disowned her and she was being abused in her marriage makes the situation even worse. At the time, Will was young, newly rich and powerful and I am sure that went to his head. I am also sure he didn’t realize the extreme impact of his words.
Despite the pain, I am glad that everyone was able to reunite, makeup and forgive. It was big of Janet as well to apologize for the several decades of dragging Will Smith publicly every chance she got. Hopefully, with the true story being out, Janet can return to do some work in Hollywood if that is what she wishes to do. In the mean time, I do hope not only Will but other Black men, particularly in Hollywood, learn a valuable lesson from that conversation.
On a side note, I absolutely love this cute promo Will, Daphne, and Janet did.
The scene where Janet solidified herself in our hearts as Viv: