The 30th-anniversary special celebrating The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is available for streaming on HBO Max and fans can’t get enough. The most talked-about moment in the special is the long-awaited reunion between Will Smith and Janet Hubert.
Hubert exited the series as the beloved Aunt Viv after three seasons amid contract disputes with the network. Her exit was less than amicable. She accused Smith of being immature, power tripping, and having a massive ego. Smith accused Hubert of being jealous that he was the star of the show. The feud lasted 27 years and is one of the longest in Hollywood history.
Season 4 of the show opened with a much different Aunt Viv. Daphne Reid replaced Hubert and the differences were instantly noticeable. Not only were the women different skin complexions, but their personalities and how they portrayed the character was opposite. Fans noticed and many never got over Hubert’s exit, choosing her as the favorite. Even Smith once said Hubert was his favorite version of Aunt Viv.
“When you make a show, anytime you make a change, it’s going to be excruciating and painful. I think that Janet Hubert Whitten brought a really powerful dignity to the show,” he told BBC Radio in 2016. “She’s brilliant… as an artist. She sings, she dances. She’s, like, a really powerful artist. So I loved what she brought to The Fresh Prince.”
But many wondered how the comparisons between she and Hubert bothered her. According to Reid, she never cared.
“I was so happy to have a job that I didn’t care whether the public called me the second Aunt Viv, or the clown who came in after,” she said recently. “I didn’t care what they called me, I don’t pay much attention in my life, to what the social media folk are saying. And I hope that they realize, that you cannot recreate the same magic that we had 30 years ago. And we will not attempt to do that. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice.”
The reunion also marked the first meeting between the Aunt Vivs. She said she never knew about the feud between Smith and Hubert other than what was online. See explained, “I didn’t know anything about the friction between Will and Janet. They never spoke about it, I didn’t know about it, all I knew was what social media was saying, and I didn’t know her so I don’t pay any attention to that.”
For Reid, she couldn’t have been happier with meeting her.
“She was a woman who I honor for having started this wonderful show, so all I could do is treat her as I would treat anybody when I first met them,” she said. “And mostly with a big hug.”
Photo: Will Smith