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Will Smith Sends Love To ‘Original Aunt Viv’ And Reveals How Impactful The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Reunion Was For Him

After being offered an unsatisfactory contract to continue playing Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, actor Janet Hubert left the show in its third season. Through the years that ensued prior to her reunion with Will Smith and the rest of the hit NBC series’ cast, there was somewhat of a feud reported between Hubert and Smith. As it turns out, clearing the air on that point of contention was not only important for the relationship between Will Smith and Janet Hubert to resume on good terms, it also helped Smith in the process of writing his memoir. Will Smith himself shared the story with a good old shoutout to the original Aunt Viv. 

CinemaBlend was on hand earlier this week at Will Smith: An Evening of Stories with Friends.  As Smith's tour to promote his newly-released autobiography Will made a stop in Brooklyn, his discussion with filmmaker Spike Lee took the audience through some of the major moments he recalled in his memoir. Describing how his fence mending with Janet Hubert during The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion was vital to writing his life story, Will Smith thanked her with this beautiful dedication: 

It was one of the most healing experiences of my life, and it was a big part of the place that working on this memoir got me into. And I just wanna thank you, Janet, for being open. That’s a big part of the exploration that I wanted to do in this book.

The previous tensions between Janet Hubert and her on-screen nephew were pretty high during the production of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. So much so that even co-star Tatiana Ali could understand that something wasn’t right. Ultimately, between the on-set environment, and contract renewal terms that were insulting to the then pregnant Hubert, the stage was set for her departure and recasting. Not speaking for decades, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s big HBO Max reunion was the moment where everything changed, putting Will Smith and Janet Hubert in a room together, and allowing them to finally talk everything out in the moment. 

Will Smith’s admission about Janet Hubert’s role in helping him write Will wasn’t even the most heartwarming moment of this particular exchange. During Will Smith: An Evening of Stories with Friends, Hubert and fellow The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star Karyn Parsons were both sitting in the audience for show, waiting to be announced (to everyone’s surprise). Janet’s introduction in particular was heartwarming, because the moment the audience was aware of her presence, the stage was set for multiple standing ovations. 

Will Smith even took some time out to single out Janet Hubert as ‘the original Aunt Viv,’ which sent the crowd into another appreciative frenzy. Pleased that the audience was as appreciative as they were, Smith told Hubert to “get [her] flowers” and enjoy this well-earned moment. This time, the crowd certainly made sure celebration was in order, as they once more broke into applause and cheers for Janet Hubert. 

Naturally, the process of reconciliation between Smith and Hubert wasn’t something that happened overnight. Nor was it something that just took place solely during The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s reunion special, as Smith had addressed this subject through a special episode of Red Table Talk. But that night, at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, New York, everyone in that room was able to share in the love and respect that had come from all the work that saw Will Smith and Janet Hubert reconnect. Work which included moments like the following from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion special. 

When addressing the question of why he wrote his autobiography, co-authored by The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck’s Mark Manson, Smith admitted that several life experiences let him know that it was time. In one case, Will Jr. spoke about how the death of his father, Willard Smith Sr., made him more comfortable writing about his childhood. And in the instance you’ve just read about, rebuilding the relationship between himself and Janet Hubert helped Will Smith realize that he’d had the experiences, and the life knowledge, to try and give back to the world through stories of his own life.

This story and more can be found in Will, which you can already order for sale now. And if you’d like to revisit the entire run of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as well as the touching reunion special, you can find it all on the Digital library over at HBO Max! 

In addition, you can also catch Will Smith in his next film, King Richard, which debuts in theaters and on HBO Max starting November 15th. But if you want to see what Janet Hubert is up to in her career, you’ll have to wait a little longer, as her Netflix original film The Perfect Find just wrapped in August, and is still waiting for a release date. 

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.