The two reunited during HBO Max’s The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion special for the first time in 27 years after Janet left her role as Aunt Viv on the hit sitcom.
If you didn’t know, Janet played Aunt Viv during the first three seasons of Fresh Prince. She left the show in 1993 citing “creative differences” and was replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid.
After her departure, the two battled very publicly, with Will telling a Atlanta radio station shortly after her departure that Janet “wanted the show to be The Aunt Viv of Bel-Air Show…She’s mad now but she’s been mad all along.”
Almost a decade ago, Janet told TMZ there would “never” be a reunion, calling Will an “a–hole” and an “egomaniac,” and “this constant reunion thing will never ever happen in my lifetime unless there is an apology, which he doesn’t know the word,” reportedly blaming him for her premature departure from the show in 1993.
Despite their differences, Will and Janet decided to finally sit down and clear the air.
“I don’t know your story,” Will says to Janet.
“I know, you have no idea. It was insane,” Janet responded, before clarifying that she was not fired from the show despite what was reported at the time.
“They offered me this really bad deal in the third season. They said, ‘You’ve got two months and two weeks of work and you cannot work anywhere else,’” Janet recalled. “So that meant my salary was cut. I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work, so I said no. I did not accept their offer.”
“I was never fired, but the misconception was always put out there,” Janet continued. “I was trapped — what could I do? They said, ‘Okay, then we’re going to recast your role,’ and I said, ‘What can I say?’ I was hurt, deeply.”
Janet went on to tell Will that his words after her departure from Fresh Prince really hurt her and her career. She also explained that her difficulties on set had nothing to do with the cast, but it was more about being in a “very abusive marriage.”
“I have children, I’ve been divorced, I’ve had a second marriage,” Will responded. “And I can see now the level of pain and the level of struggle that it was for you just to show up every day.”
“I lost everything — reputation, everything — and I understand you were able to move forward, but you know those words — calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood is the kiss of death,” Janet said. “And it’s hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business.”
She also explained why she wanted to patch things up with Will, saying, “I felt it was necessary for us to finally move forward, and I’m sorry that I have blasted you to pieces.”
Will then responded, “First of all, thank you for sharing that with me. I didn’t know that, when I look back now it’s obvious that you were having a hard time and I felt like you hated me. I could not do a 30-year celebration of this show and not celebrate you, celebrate your contribution to the show, celebrate your contribution to my life.”
In a solo interview, Janet discussed the sit-down with Will, saying, “I have to say, after 27 years, being here today and having the conversation that Will and I had together — it’s healing. I didn’t come here to have animosity, I came here to resolve, ’cause it’s time.”
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion special is streaming on HBO Max.