You’ll be hard-pressed to find people in Hollywood who don’t like Will Smith—or would say so publicly. But for years, Janet Hubert has made it crystal clear that she up until this year, she was not a fan. And apparently, Hubert’s disapproval took a bit of a toll on Smith as well.
In order to address those issues, Will is taking over his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s platform of the Red Table Talk to discuss what led to the disconnect between himself and Hubert and what forces in his life made their beef last for so long.
In an episode about resolving conflict, Smith speaks with clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a Red Table regular and who also was there when Hubert and Smith met for the Fresh Prince reunion.
Check out the highlights from the conversation below.
“I brought myself to the Red Table to talk about something that has really troubled me for nearly 30 years…This year was the 30th anniversary of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I had a feud, a war of words that I’ve been in with someone that I never thought would get resolved. I really couldn’t see myself celebrating without dealing with this.”
In the RTT episode, there were clips from Will’s conversation with Hubert that didn’t make it in the reunion special.
Hubert said, “As the oldest woman on that set, there was a respect level that I needed to have as an older woman and a Black woman. I had been banished and they said it was you who banished me because I didn’t laugh at your jokes. Then they ordered me to stay in my room.
Did you know they offered me 10 weeks of work and said you can’t work anywhere else? How do survive with a mortgage and a new baby and a new business and a husband who wasn’t working at the time. So much of what you said just destroyed everywhere I went. Everybody just beat me up. We lost our house. I lost everything.”
Smith said he wasn’t aware of the specific offer but he knew she’d declined it.
Hubert said her leaving the show and the perception that she was on the outs with Will Smith wreaked havoc on her personal and professional life.
“Angry Black woman that’s all I got…Family disowned me. The Black community disowned me. They kept wanting to bring it up. What about Will Smith? It just never goes away. Black people beat my ass. They beat my son’s ass. Somebody smashed a cookie in my son’s face and said, ‘Your mother is a b*tch.’ People send me hateful Instagrams, ‘Aren’t you dead yet? I love Will why don’t you just die?’
You’re the big star. I’m just the little Black b*tch.”
After that, the two of them took a break to walk off set, with both of them with tears in their eyes.
Back during his conversation with Dr. Ramani, she asks Will how he felt rewatching that conversation.
He said, “My father was violent in my house. So a part of the whole creation of Will Smith, the joking, fun, silly was to make sure my father was entertained enough to make sure my father wouldn’t hurt my mother or anyone else in the house. So that plucks a childhood space of inadequacy. I would perform and dance and tell jokes. People laughing and having fun my mechanism.”
Then about Hubert specifically.
“Janet was Julliard trained. She can dance, she sing, she can act. She’s brilliant. And she was in the parental figure. So my little boy desperately needed her approval.”
Dr. Ramani revealed that all of Smith’s wounds were being triggered on that set and Will realized on television, he fell back into his real life family dynamic.
Will also shared that he felt hurt by Janet during the run of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
“I felt threatened. At that point in my career, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” really saved my life. I had a few years in the music business but I had lost all my money. I didn’t pay taxes. I was in debt to the IRS ($2.8 million to be exact.) I had just flopped an album and “The Fresh Prince” represented life. So on the little boy level with Janet, I needed ‘mommy to think I was great.’ And once I realized that she didn’t my dragon woke up.”
Back in the conversation with Janet, Will said, “I was 21-years-old and as asleep and unconscious as a human being could be. Everything was a threat to me. I had a dream and I was scared little boy. I was so driven by fear and jokes and comedy. In my 21-year-old eyes, I felt like you hated me.”
Janet said, “I just hated what you did. You took my career away of 30-something years. You just went too far when you were younger and you always had to win.”
Will said, “I didn’t realize the power of my words. I didn’t realize it would affect you. I went way too far and said things to people who wouldn’t know how to hold that information. Then once you put it in the machine grabs that information and puts their own spin on it. It was all way too far on my end.”
Back on the Red Table, Will said there was no one on earth who felt as hurt by his actions as Hubert was.
You can watch the full Red Table Talk episode, including more of his conversation with Janet Hubert, in the video below.