"We text each other back and forth all the time," Janet Hubert tells PEOPLE of her relationship with former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air costar Will Smith
Janet Hubert and Will Smith
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For Janet Hubert, a lot has changed in a year.

Last fall, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's original Aunt Viv sat down with former costar Will Smith to hash out the years-long feud that brewed between the two following Hubert's departure from the 1990s sitcom.

Though the two were close to tears on the TV reunion special that aired in November 2020, Hubert, 65, tells PEOPLE that she has felt a sense of peace since she and Smith talked out their differences.

"If there are tree roots in the drain, the water doesn't flow," she says, adding: "The drain has been snaked."

RELATED VIDEO: Fresh Prince Reunion: Will Smith and Janet Hubert Discuss Her Contentious Exit 27 Years Later

On the HBO Max special celebrating 30 years since The Fresh Prince's television debut, Hubert and Smith sat down for the first time in 27 years to sort out the issues that led to a contentious back-and-forth in the media following Hubert's exit in 1993.

Smith said at the time that he felt "threatened" — not only by Hubert, but by the world, in his 20s — prior to her departure. But by painting the actress as problematic after the third season (her last), Hubert's career took a notable hit.

These days, Hubert is booked and busy — and, most importantly, at peace.

"I don't know if it's a comeback," she says. "I haven't come from anywhere; I've been here. It's just now … I always had to prove myself. I also had to walk in with a presupposition, and I don't have to do that anymore, which is really lovely."

Earlier this year, she made a guest appearance on FX's Pose, in which she played Aunt Latrice to Billy Porter's Pray Tell.

Love Life
Credit: hbo max

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She currently recurs as Miss May Miller in The Last O.G. — "[She] was a real warrior for the community," she says, "so playing her was no stretch" — as well as Marcus' mother, Donna, on the second season of HBO Max's Love Life.

"Work is the best medicine. Being able to be an artist again, not just an actress, but an artist. ... To have it come back to me at such a late age, maybe these are the best years of my life," she says, describing the feud between her and Smith as a "scar" that has healed, but a past she will never forget. "Now it feels very peaceful."

Smith and Hubert remain on good terms. "We text each other back and forth all the time," Hubert explains. "As a matter of fact, we have a very good relationship. I meant it with all my heart when I hugged him, because I saw that little boy, that little 21-year-old boy. Had we had an opportunity to talk back then, I think this would have never happened."

She adds, "He was in a place, and I was in a place, we were both in a bad place. When you're both in a bad place and there's no communication, you have to talk. So it's been wonderful, it's been lovely to have him back in my sphere."

Love Life
Credit: hbo max

During last year's emotional conversation, Hubert admitted to being in "a very abusive marriage" and explained she was "going through a lot at home" after the birth of her son, Elijah. Still, she says she wouldn't change anything, in fear of the butterfly effect.

"I really do believe that what is supposed to be is supposed to be. If I had changed one thing, I wouldn't be with this wonderful man that I'm with right now," she says, referring to husband Larry Kraft. "I wouldn't have this wonderful father for my son. I wouldn't have this wonderful little home here in New Jersey that I adore."

As an artist, she channels the pain, struggles and obstacles into her roles.

When playing Aunt Duke, whom Hubert describes as a "brutal character," in the upcoming Ledisi-led Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story, "They said to me, 'How do you go in and out of it so quickly?' " she recalls.

"And I said, 'Well, because I have a river of sorrow, I have a mountain of pain, I'm an ocean of grief with which to draw on.' I've lost so many family members, and as an actor, you don't carry it, but you use it when you need it," Hubert says.