Will Smith could give a Ted Talk on the art of a great apology.
The Bad Boys star recently sat down with his once estranged co-star, Janet Hubert to discuss their 27-year-feud and to ultimately apologise for the role he played in the demise of their relationship and her subsequent dismissal from the show.
In the 1990s, Hubert starred as Smith’s aunt in his hit NBC sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Smith, who was already growing in popularity thanks to his rap career, starred as a young, troubled Philadelphia teen whose mom sends him to Bel-Air to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle.
Hubert, a Juilliard-trained actress and dancer, played Vivian Banks on the show. She says in the beginning things were fun on the set and the cast functioned like a a second family.
However, she says she eventually grew weary of Smith’s unprofessionalism and his competitive temperament.
Smith, who recently hosted an episode of the hugely popular Facebook show, Red Table Talk, admitted that he was “loud” and often hung with a boisterous group of men from Philadelphia while on set.
He also admitted that he was easily threatened by the world, not just because he had something to prove, but because his sitcom represented a fresh start for him. At the time, his album had flopped, he was broke and he owed the IRS money. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air represented a lifeline for him.
What the young rapper didn’t know is that while he and Hubert were at odds on set, she was battling more demons at home. She was being abused by her ex-husband.
As the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air set grew increasingly toxic, so did Hubert’s frustration and she admits that she eventually stopped talking to the people on set because she didn’t know who she could trust.
In retaliation, Hubert claims the show reduced her role on the show and offered her 10-weeks worth of work while forbidding her from working anywhere else. She says she declined the offer and left the show.
In the weeks, months and years that followed, Hubert and Smith locked horns in the media.
Smith accused his former co-star of being difficult and wanting the show to be entered around her. In turn, Hubert called Smith an “a**hole” and said she would never take part in a reunion unless he apologised.
Last week, after 27 years, he finally did.
Smith admitted he had no clue that Hubert was being abused at home and claims he was not privy to the deal that the show offered her. He also admits that his perspective has changed now that he is older and has three children of his own.
What I found incredibly satisfying about the sit-down discussion between the two stars is that Smith truly listened to what Hubert was saying. He did not interrupt her, demean or or seek to defend himself in any way.
He sat there quietly and took the emotional punches that were levelled at him. He handled the entire discussion respectfully, maturely and with grace.
I’m sure there were times that he disagreed with Hubert, but he understood in that moment that it was all about her and he allowed her to speak her truth.
During their feud, Hubert was portrayed as a toxic, bitter black woman who was incredibly unhinged.
She says that negative portrayal affected her career tremendously as she could not secure work. As a result, she lost her home and was forced to support a new baby and an out-of-work husband.
Smith teared up listening to her story and really appeared to be digesting every unsavoury detail with grace.
It truly was a lesson for me. Like most people, when confronted by an adversary, I tend to get defensive, especially if I disagree with what they are saying. But, watching Smith navigate that interview taught me to truly take the time to listen to the other person without judgment.
Here is a man who had millions of eyes on him. He could have let his ego shine. Instead, he was patient, understanding, kind and humble. It was a beautiful moment and a masterful discussion. It’s also one that I will remember for a very long time.
This Bahamian Gyal