There was plenty of tension back in the day between actors Will Smith and Janet Hubert, his original Aunt Vivian Banks on the 1990s NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She was let go after the first three seasons over alleged “creative differences” and she has bad mouthed Will several times in the years since. But they put the past behind them, as the two sat down for the first time in 27 years for an emotional chat for the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special. HBO Max is celebrating the show’s 30th anniversary, and taped the reunion on Sept. 10, 2020, 30 years to the day after it debuted on NBC. The same TV set from the “Bel Air” home was even reproduced for old times sake.
Will and Janet, 64, got together the day prior on Sept. 9, in a photo showing the two having a heart to heart talk. The 51-year-old superstar was seen smiling sweetly, as Janet also had a big grin on her face while making hand gestures. She seemed to be explaining something to Will, who appeared quite receptive. In a press release, HBO Max said it was an “emotional reunion and a candid conversation” between Will and Janet. The two hadn’t seen each other face to face since she left The Fresh Prince. Janet was replaced for the final three seasons by Daphne Maxwell Reid, in an unexplained Bewitched-like switcheroo with the Darren character.
In another photo, Will was joined by the rest of The Fresh Prince cast, including Daphne, Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell, and Alfonso Ribeiro. Sadly, James Avery, who played Uncle Phil, wasn’t present as he passed away in 2013 at age 68 following complications from open heart surgery. The entire cast — minus Janet — reunited via zoom during quarantine in April 2020 to share stories about James and remember their beloved show. It ran for six seasons in NBC and produced 148 episodes, now available on HBO Max. The channel promises that the reunion will “be a funny and heartfelt night full of music, dancing, and more special surprise guests.” Not to mention Will and Janet’s emotional face to face!
After Janet was let go from The Fresh Prince, Will told an Atlanta radio station in 1993 that, “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.” However, after the show ended Will had nicer things to say about Janet over the years.
Janet dissed Will in 2016 when when his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, 48, announced in a long statement that the couple would be boycotting 2016 Oscars over the absence of any Black nominees and a lack of diversity. Jada was also upset Will wasn’t recognized with a nomination for his performance in Concussion. Janet then wrote on Facebook to Jada, “Miss Thing, does your man not have a mouth of his own with which to speak?” Even after that, Will was still kind towards Janet.
In a 2016 interview after Janet’s diss, Will told A.Dot on BBC’s online radio station, 1Xtra, that both of his Aunt Viv’s were “really, really fantastic.” “I think as an artist there’s so many things that she does,” Will said about Janet, while also calling her “brilliant.” “She sings, she dances, she’s like a really powerful artist. I loved what she brought to the Fresh Prince.” Hopefully he’s now been able to share that praise to Janet in person.