When Janet Hubert exited The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1993 after 73 episodes as the Will Smith character's Aunt Viv, it was not of her own free will.
Nor was she fired, as was widely reported.
In a new HBO Max Fresh Prince reunion special, Hubert tells Smith — after years of excoriating him in the media for having facilitated her downfall — that, "Words can kill. I lost everything. Reputation, everything, everything."
Reliving the torpedoing of her career, Hubert, 64, recalls that she was offered a "really bad deal" to work for 10 weeks with no option work anywhere else. "That meant my salary was cut, I had a new baby and a husband who was out of work. I said no. I did not accept their offer. I was never fired. The misconception was always put out there. I was trapped. What could I do?"
She goes on to say that being labeled "difficult" killed her career and ruined her life.
"I just wanted to know one thing, why? Why so far? You guys went so far, I lost so much," she said. "How do we heal? ... When I left the show, I had this new baby and no one. Family disowned me, Hollywood disowned me, my family said you've ruined our name and I wasn't unprofessional on the set. I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn't know who to trust, I had been banished. They said it was you who banished me. Because you were Will, you were a kid. It was hard."
For his part, Smith, 52, is conciliatory in the special, telling her — one-on-one — that he never knew what was happening with her personally.
"First of all, thank you for sharing that with me," Smith tells her. "I didn't know what. When I look back now, it's obvious 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 this show and celebrate your contribution to my life."
Touchingly, he tells Hubert, "You're still my Aunt Viv!"
Even more movingly, Hubert takes Smith up on an offer to reunite with the rest of the cast, including the woman who replaced her, Daphne Reid, 72, who went on to play Aunt Viv for the show's remaining 74 episodes.
Viewers get to see the Aunt Vivs meet for the first time — and hug.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion is on HBO Max now.