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Inside Janet Hubert and Will Smith’s Feud over ‘Fresh Prince’ That Started More Than 25 Years Ago

Aby Rivas
Jan 14, 2020
10:30 A.M.

It’s been 26 years since actress Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Vivian on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” left the show on bad terms with the rest of the cast. To this day, she still blames Will Smith for allegedly ruining her life and career.

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NBC’s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was the show that launched Will Smith to stardom, and while the 50-year-old actor is still thriving in the entertainment industry and his popularity is stronger than ever, we can’t say the same of some of his other co-stars.

Will Smith attends the European Premeire of 'Bright' held at BFI Southbank on December 15, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages

Will Smith attends the European Premeire of 'Bright' held at BFI Southbank on December 15, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages

Although Alfonso Ribeiro and Tatyana Ali are still active on television, neither of them or the other members of the cast could replicate Smith’s success.

And while Smith has a friendly relationship with the majority of his former co-stars, there’s one person who hates his guts and has slandered him on the press for more than two decades: Janet Hubert.

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THE OTHER AUNT VIV

Hubert, a Julliard alumni and Broadway star, had been acting for at least a decade when she joined the Fresh Prince cast as Aunt Vivian, the matriarch of the Banks family.

At the time, Smith was mostly known as a rapper, and he was in his early 20s.

Hubert played the role of Aunt Viv for three seasons of the show, and in 1993, it was announced that her contract had been terminated. Daphne Maxwell Reid replaced her on screen.

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What followed was a war of words that has still has traction 26 years after the fact.

A BATTLE OF EGOS

Initially, NBC said Hubert had been fired because of creative differences. She, on the other hand, said her termination had been some vendetta, and she wasn’t aware of the real motives behind it.

Will Smith at the premiere of "Showtime" at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, Ca. Monday, March 11, 2002. | Photo: GettyImage

Will Smith at the premiere of "Showtime" at the Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, Ca. Monday, March 11, 2002. | Photo: GettyImage

Jet magazine quotes Smith saying an Atlanta radio station at the time of the fresh feud the following:

“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 ten years and this snotty-nosed punk comes along and gets a show.' No matter what, to her, I'm just the Antichrist."

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Will Smith at the AFI FEST 2009 held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on November 1, 2009  | Photo: GettyImages

Will Smith at the AFI FEST 2009 held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on November 1, 2009 | Photo: GettyImages

After hearing that, Janet started to point fingers and said Smith had been responsible for her firing, explaining that anyone who dared to stand up to him on the “Fresh Prince” set “is gone.”

RIBEIRO BACKS SMITH

In 2009, Alfonso Ribeiro acknowledged Hubert’s exit from the show in a stand-up comedy set at the State University of New York.

He told the crowd that he had a fantastic time working with almost everyone in the cast, but “First mom? Not so much.”

Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro attends the premiere of Disney's "Aladdin" at El Capitan Theatre on May 21, 2019 | Photo: GettyImages

Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro attends the premiere of Disney's "Aladdin" at El Capitan Theatre on May 21, 2019 | Photo: GettyImages

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Hubert told the Grio a few years later that, “Alfonso went out to a college and told a lot of lies, but the problem is I have proof that a lot of that didn’t happen.”

Then, in 2011, Smith shared a pic of Fresh Prince cast reunion, without Hubert, of course.

When asked by TMZ if she was willing to be part of another reunion, Hubert dismissed the chance saying she would never work with Will Smith and calling him an egomaniac.

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She said a reunion would never happen in her lifetime unless Smith issued an apology.

A CHANGE IN TUNE

In 2013, Hubert gave the impression of being exhausted about the longtime feud, telling the Grio that she would be open to a reunion because they all needed to heal.

She admitted to saying things she should have never spoken but also reiterated that Smith told some lies, and he needed to own up on that.

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However, three years later, Hubert was back to her bitter approach, and this time, she attacked Will’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Hubert posted a video response to Pinkett Smith's call to boycott the 2016 Oscars because of the lack of African American nominees.

In the clip, she gave a bit more insight as to what went down before her exit from “Fresh Prince.”

“I seem to remember at option time coming to you and saying, ‘You know what, Will, you’re the star of the show, why don’t we all get together and with you maybe we could get a little raise,’” Hubert recalled.

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However, she says Smith’s response was, “my deal is my deal, and y’alls deal is y’alls deal.”

SMITH HAS NO HARD FEELINGS

That same year Will Smith, who recently saw a new spike in popularity after his performance as the Genie on Disney’s “Aladdin,” was asked in a BBC radio interview, "who he thinks was the best Aunt Viv?"

The actor kept it classy, praising both stars who played the role, and adding of Hubert:

“I think she’s brilliant, you know. I think as an artist, there’s so many things that she does: She sings, she dances, she’s like a really powerful artist. So I loved what she brought to ‘The Fresh Prince.’”

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But Smith’s words did nothing to apace Hubert, who then blamed the actor in 2018 for her son’s suicide attempt, leaving fans even more confused.

These days, Hubert is part of the cast of the soap opera “General Hospital.”

Smith, on the other hand, is gearing up for the release of the third “Bad Boys” movie and seems to be enjoying his life in the company of his wife, and their children, Jaden and Willow Smith.

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