‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’: Janet Hubert, the Original Aunt Viv, Blames Will Smith for Killing Her Career

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fans noticed a big difference at the beginning of season four. The actress who played Aunt Viv, the matriarch of the Banks family, was replaced.

Even though the show premiered in 1990, Janet Hubert, who played the original Aunt Viv, isn’t over it. She was replaced with Daphne Maxwell Reid, who went on to finish the show.

Although Will Smith has said that there’s no feud between himself and Hubert, she sees things differently. Hubert was left out of a recent Instagram Live Fresh Prince cast reunion, and her absence was noted.

For her part, Hubert never passes up the chance to bash Smith, no matter how much time has passed since her firing from the show. But Smith isn’t the only cast member who Hubert had a problem with.  

Even Carlton hated the original Aunt Viv 

Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton on Fresh Prince, has also said some negative things about Hubert. In a stand-up comedy show in 2009, Ribeiro said: “Long story short, and there were days when we were all on the set and she would literally go off on people and they got to a point by the time the second season came around where we’re like, ‘This is unacceptable.’ We felt like, when we were doing The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that we were a family…She, at that point, ruined that, and she made it very difficult for us to work, and unfortunately, she was then fired.” 

Hubert has fired back with her own nasty words for Ribeiro. When Hubert explains why she was fired, she never mentions any unacceptable behavior on her part. There are a few reasons Hubert has given for the rift between her and the rest of the cast, and one of them has to do with her skin color. 

Did colorism play a role in Aunt Viv’s departure?

Will Smith and Janet Hubert
Will Smith as William ‘Will’ Smith and Janet Hubert as Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air | Chris Cuffaio/NBCU Photo Bank

Colorism, or the discrimination of people with darker skin tones, is a serious problem. Maxwell Reid, the actress who played the second Aunt Viv, does have a lighter skin tone than Hubert. Plus, Hubert claims that she took offense to colorist jokes that Smith would tell to the audience before the show filmed.

As Hubert puts it: “I was a dark-skinned, African-American mother, and Will used to tell the you’re-so-black jokes to the audience before the show.” She went on to say that Smith “didn’t understand how unbelievably disrespectful that was to women like me.”

It could be that issues with Smith’s insensitive jokes led to clashes like Ribeiro described, but Hubert has given at least one other reason for why she was let go. She claims that she asked for a raise, and was denied.

Hubert hoped that Smith would stand up for her, but he did not. Her many conflicting accounts of why she was let go have unfortunately only given credence to other cast members’ claims that Hubert was unstable. 

Janet Hubert blames Will Smith for ruining her 20-year career 

Whatever the real reason for her firing, Hubert claims that getting kicked off Fresh Prince ended her career. She blames Smith and Ribeiro entirely.

In a Huffington Post interview, Hubert said: “My departure was planned for a long time… There will never be a reunion of the Fresh Prince. Will Smith and Alfonso destroyed a 20-year-career with untruths.” 

It’s true that she hasn’t been in a hit as big as Fresh Prince since ending her run on the show, her career is hardly ruined. Hubert has had a steady flow of work, including some popular Soap Operas, and a few lesser-known TV shows and movies. But fans haven’t forgotten the first Aunt Viv. When she was absent from Smith’s Instagram Live reunion, a lot of fans missed her.