Red Table Talk: Will Smith Explores Why He Mistreated His Fresh Prince Costar

Will Smith and Janet Hubert may have hugged it out during HBO Max’s Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion, but the root of Smith’s issues remain very much up for discussion. Enter the Red Table.

For the second time in just a few short months, the actor has found himself in Jada Pinkett Smith’s infamous Facebook Watch domain for another emotional installment of Red Table Talk — now available to stream here.

Joined by psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula, who was also on stand-by for Smith’s sit-down with Hubert, Smith spends Friday’s episode trying to figure out how his childhood traumas contributed to his mistreatment of Hubert. (Click here if you need a refresher on everything that went down between the formerly feuding Fresh Prince costars.)

After rewatching his conversation with Hubert from the reunion special — during which she explained how he essentially destroyed her career, her reputation and even her family name — Smith is visibly shaken. “I’m trying to put some logic to it, but the sensation I feel… It’s not who I want to be, and it’s not how I want to make people feel,” he says. “My whole life and career is centered on aggressively trying to make people feel the opposite of that.”

Smith then takes Dr. Durvasula back into his childhood for a painful admission: “My father was violent in my house, so a part of whole creation of ‘Will Smith’ — the joking, fun, silly — was to make sure that my father was entertained enough not to hurt my mother or anybody in the house. … People laughing and having fun was my defense mechanism.”

Smith says he now realizes that he fell back into that dangerous family dynamic with his TV family. (“I needed everybody to be joyful so I could feel safe.”) And when Hubert stopped appearing “joyful” in Smith’s eyes — due to her own abusive home life, something she kept secret from her costars — he began to feel “threatened.”

“At that point in my career, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air really saved my life,” Smith says. “I had a few years in the music business, but I lost all my money. I didn’t pay taxes, I was in debt to the IRS. The Fresh Prince represented life.”

The conversation then pivots to Smith’s lifelong need for female approval. “Because of my dynamic with my mother as a little boy — my father beat my mother and I couldn’t protect her — female disapproval is unbearable,” he says. “My body can’t handle it.” (During the reunion special, Smith says that one of the reasons he handled the situation with Hubert so poorly is because he thought she hated him.)

“[My daughter] Willow is the only female relationship I’ve had that I didn’t mess up,” he says. “In my mind, I did right by her.”

Your thoughts on Smith’s special Red Table takeover? Drop ’em in a comment below.

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