“You’re still my Aunt Viv."
Will Smith and his former The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Janet Hubert reunited after 27 years of tension between the two for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion Special.
The reunion special — which featured the hit sitcom's original cast: Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks), Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks), Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks), Joseph Marcell (Jeffrey, the butler), Daphne Maxwell Reid (Aunt Viv #2), DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will and Janet — premiered on HBO Max on Wednesday (November 18) in honor of the 30th anniversary of the show's premiere.
"We never really together publicly talk about Janet and what happened," Will told his castmates before showing them a video of his pre-taped meeting with Janet. "And for me, it felt like I couldn't celebrate 30 years of Fresh Prince without finding a way to celebrate Janet. So she agreed to sit down and have a conversation with me. And Janet and I saw one another for the first time in 27 years yesterday."
The sit-down began with Will and Janet having a lengthy hug, before Will acknowledged just how long it had been since the two last saw one another.
As fans know, the now- 64-year-old actress played Aunt Viv for the Fresh Prince's first three seasons before departing the show in 1993. Daphne was then casted in the role for the three remaining seasons until the show's finale in 1996. In the years following Janet's departure, she and Will exchanged jabs at one another in the media, with the Janet telling TMZ in 2011 that she would "never" participate in a Fresh Prince reunion because she would "never do anything with an a**hole like Will Smith."
"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," Janet — whose then-husband was abusive and unemployed — explained during the sit-down. "Home life was not good at all. I was no longer laughing, smiling, joking because there were things going on that nobody knew about. Cast had no idea what was going on."
Will replied, "During that time of her pregnancy, I wasn't sensitive, wasn't perceptive. Now that I've had three kids, I've learned some things I did not know at the time. I would do things very differently. I can see where I made the set very difficult for Janet."
Janet went onto share that her salary was cut after the third season and she was offered a "really bad deal" that called for her to only work two and a half months out of the year, have her salary cut, and not accept other jobs outside of Fresh Prince. Janet then clarified rumors that she was fired, saying she wasn't actually let go, but she did reject the restrictive offer, leading producers to recast her role.
She pointed out how the entire experience led her to feel "disowned" by Hollywood, especially since she was told that Will had "banished" her.
"You took all that away from me with your words," Janet told him. "Words can kill. I lost everything. Reputation. Everything, everything. I understand you were able to move forward. You know those words—calling a Black woman ‘difficult' in Hollywood is the kiss of death. It's hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business. I felt it was necessary for us to finally move forward. And I'm sorry I have blasted you to pieces."
Will then thanked Janet for coming to share her story, adding, "The person I want to be is someone who protects you, not someone that unleashes dogs on you." He continued, “You’re still my Aunt Viv."
Their sit-down ended with the two of them apologizing to one another with Janet telling Will, "We good."
With the permission of the rest of the cast, Janet joined them on the set, marking the first time that she and Daphne had ever met. The entire cast then enjoyed a group hug.
Photo: Getty Images