Authors/Film & TV

Published on November 20th, 2020 | by Dr. Jerry Doby


NEW Red Table Talk Featuring Will Smith and Janet Hubert

Will Smith is taking over the red table in a new episode of “Red Table Talk” streaming now on Facebook Watch HERE! Joined by clinical psychologist and RTT favorite, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Will brings himself to the table to reflect on his childhood trauma, his bitter, decades-long feud with the original Aunt Viv on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Janet Hubert, and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Highlights from the episode include.

Why Will decided to seek healing with Janet (6:03-6:35)

  • “We had a [The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air] cast reunion. I wanted us to seek healing and I knew the first phase of that healing was me understanding what she experienced, so I asked Janet to sit down with me, and Dr. Ramani was on set with us that day in case Janet or I needed assistance to be able to make our way through. After 27 plus years, this was the first time that we ever sat down.” – Will

Will & Janet meet for the first time in 27 years (7:15-10:50; 16:30-20:39)

  • “This has been tough….has it been tough for you?” – Janet

“Yes, it has.” – Will

“Only you know and I know what the truth is about all of this. I just wanted to know one thing. Why? Why so far? You guys went so far. I lost so much.” – Janet

“I think it would be helpful for me, like I don’t know your story.” – Will

“I know.” – Janet

“So talk me through, because I was having a different experience.” – Will

“As the oldest woman on that set, there’s that respect level that I just needed to have of being an older woman and a Black woman. We had our issues. I’d 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. I couldn’t come out on the stage, and I wasn’t unprofessional on the set. I just stopped talking to everybody because I didn’t know who to trust and the whole negotiation thing was messed up. You guys offered something I had to turn down and I was like, ‘Why?’  – Janet

“Absolutely.” – Will

“Did you know that they offered me 10 weeks of work and said you can’t work anywhere else?” – Janet

“I didn’t know specifically what the offer was–”  – Will

“10 weeks. 2 months.” – Janet

“–and I knew that you had turned down the offer.” – Will

“How do you survive [with a] mortgage, and a new business, and a new baby and a husband who wasn’t working at the time? How do you survive? So much of what you said just destroyed everywhere I went. Everybody just beat me up. We lost our house. I lost everything – reputation, everything. You took all that away from me with your words. You know words can kill. You know those words, calling a Black woman difficult in Hollywood, is the kiss of death and it’s hard enough being a dark-skinned Black woman in this business. ‘Angry Black woman’ – that’s all I got. ‘Bitter.’ ” But what you didn’t realize [was that] I was going through a whole lot at home. You didn’t know, you guys didn’t know – very abusive marriage. I had a new baby, he was three months old, so I felt like there was no sanctuary anywhere for me. Family disowned me. The Black community disowned me because they kept wanting to bring it up…it just never goes away. Black people beat my ass, they beat my son’s ass. Someone smashed a cookie in my son’s face and said ‘your mother is a b*tch.’ People send me hateful Instagram [messages like], ‘Aren’t you dead yet?’ ‘I love Will. Why don’t you just die.’ It was hard, it was hard. I promised my dad before I left this earth, and you know [because] you lost your dad, that I would clear my name because it’s his name. My family said, ‘You’ve ruined our name.’ But [you were] the big star, you know? [I was] just a little Black b*tch…”  – Janet

  • Thank you for sharing that with me. That’s new information for me, I didn’t know that. I was 21-years-old and as asleep and unconscious as a human being could possibly be. And it’s so obvious, looking with these eyes, [that] everything was a threat to me.”- Will

“But why was I a threat?” – Janet

“Not you – the world [was a threat]. I had a dream and I was a scared little boy…I was so driven by fear, and jokes, and comedy, and all of that was how–” – Will

“Yeah, you were. You were live.” – Janet

“I just swear [that] my 21-year-old eyes could only see that I felt like you hated me.” – Will

“No. I hated what you did. 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 I know that you always had to win.” – Janet

“I didn’t realize the power of my words and how that would affect you and went way too far and said things to people that wouldn’t know how to hold that information. And then, once you put it in, the machine grabs it then they start putting their own spin on it. It was all way too far on my end. When I look back now, it’s obvious that you were having a hard time. I have children, I’ve been divorced and gotten a second marriage and so it’s like, I can see now the level of pain and the level of struggle that it was just for you to show up everyday.” – Will

“Mhmm, but you get tired of fighting…my  heart is just tired. I’m so tired from all of this. It’s thirty years of shunning, closure, forgiveness, move forward, stop them from all the chatter, enough. I’ve served a 30-year life sentence.” – Janet

“For sure. The person I want to be is the person that protects you, not someone who unleashes dogs on you.” – Will

“I appreciate that. I’m bitten to death.” – Janet

“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…you’re still my aunt Viv!” – Will

“It’s so weird, you know? We’ve said such hateful things about each other.” – Janet

“I’m sorry.” – Will

“And I’m sorry too.” – Janet

“We’re good. We are good.” – Will

Will felt threatened by Janet, which triggered his unhealthy defense mechanisms from growing up in an abusive household (12:35-16:05)

  • “So my father was violent in my house. So a part of the whole creation of Will Smith, the joking, [the] fun, [the] silly, was to make sure that my father was entertained enough not to hurt my mother or anybody in the house. Right? So, that plucks a childhood space of inadequacy and when someone comes at me like that, the little boy is fully in that space and I would perform and dance and tell jokes, right? People laughing and people having fun was my defense mechanism. I realize the other side of it was, if I cut you bad enough, you wouldn’t be able to respond.” – Will

“So people laughing for you then is safety because if dad was laughing then dad wasn’t lashing out.” – Dr. Ramani

“He wasn’t hitting my mother, you’re right.” – Will

“I can imagine on the set of the Fresh Prince 30 years ago, you just kept cracking the jokes more and more and more.” – Dr. Ramani

“Yes. It’s like Janet was Juilliard trained. Janet can sing, she can dance, she can act, she’s brilliant and she was in the parental figure, right? So my little boy desperately needed her approval.” – Will

“Ah, okay. But the dynamic you described with dad was also, it was not just approval but it was, ‘How do I keep myself safe.’ You had a harder game to play, Will. Okay? And so you were balancing both of those here, ‘I need to feel safe,’ and ‘I need the approval.’ But they were other people, this is your real family. But all those wounds were getting triggered and so you weren’t able to be your best self.” – Dr. Ramani

“It’s really interesting. I just noticed now in this moment that I fell right back into my family dynamic with my television family. That I was the jokester, and I was playing, and I was laughing, and I needed everybody to be joyful so I could feel safe.” – Will

“…Did you feel hurt by Janet?” – Dr. Ramani

“Oh God, yes. Absolutely. I felt threatened. At that point in my career, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ really saved my life. Right? So I had a few years in the music business, but I had lost all of my money. I didn’t pay taxes. I was in debt to the IRS. I had just flopped an album and ‘The Fresh Prince’ represented life. So, on the ‘little boy in me’ level, with Janet, I needed mommy to think I was great and then once I realized that she didn’t, my dragon woke up.” – Will

After being cheated on, Will relied on money and power to provide a sense of safety (21:17-23:52)

  • “I’m not arrogant enough to think that my actions and behavior were perfect. My actions and behavior were flawed and hurtful. Probably, there’s nobody on earth that would say I hurt them that bad…At 21, I was trying to be the biggest star in the world. Right? I was doing an album, a movie, and a TV show every year.” – Will

“Why did you want to be the biggest star in the world?” – Dr. Ramani

“The same little boy. That same thing. It was like, I had a girlfriend who had cheated on me right before that and everything in my creation and design of Will Smith was to be loved and to be safe.” – Will

“Right. See that’s it because I asked you, ‘Were you hurt by Janet all those years ago?’ And you went right to, ‘I was threatened.’ You know? And I wonder how much for you, threaten and hurt are experienced the same way.” – Dr. Ramani

“When I feel it in my body, my father was military so I don’t know if it’s my actual constitution or if it’s learned, but safety is first. And safety also extends to money.” – Will

“Interesting. Why is that?” – Dr. Ramani

“Well if you have money, in my 21-year old mind, women won’t cheat on you.” – Will

“Oh, OK. So it was one more place [where] you’re trying to find all these outside ways to protect yourself.” – Dr. Ramani

“Right. So, if I’m rich, and if I’m famous, and if I’m the best, then mommy and daddy won’t be mad, everybody will be safe and I can’t get hurt.” – Will

“…Safety is the most elemental need a human being has other than food, air, and water. Okay? We need safety. You got robbed of some of that. That’s not how a child’s life should be. Safety should be built into the model.” – Dr. Ramani

Willow is the only female relationship Will didn’t mess up (23:56-26:33)

“…disapproval is the central greatest pain in my life and [especially] from women, female disapproval. I think because of my dynamic with my mother, [because] as a little boy my father beat my mother and I couldn’t protect her., female disapproval is unbearable and my body can’t handle it.” – Will

“Well I’m hearing that female disapproval is the loss of love.” – Dr. Ramani

“Absolutely…that’s absolutely my central wound. In the last three years, I’ve been seeing it and confronting it more effectively. My relationship with Willow has been a major part of healing. Willow’s the only female relationship I’ve ever had that I didn’t mess up…and I’m sure there are aspects from Willow’s point of view [that would make her] say, ‘No, you messed some stuff up Dad,’ you know? But in my mind, I did right by her. My relationship with Jada–” – Will

“…Has your relationship with Jada triggered that lack of safety where you feel like you had to go into that protective mode?” – Dr. Ramani

“Oh God, yeah. Yes. Absolutely.” – Will

“Like, do you still have this need to get Jada’s approval?” – Dr. Ramani

“Even this house is called her lake..because I wanted it to be a gift to Jada for her approval. Of course, that was a psychological crash and burn also…I have realized [that] the real thing that everybody is looking for is the experience of love and that can be in any house, however much money, and all of that. You know? And we don’t believe that.” – Will

About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.

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