Nearly three decades have past since the hit sitcom A Different World, a Cosby Show spinoff, debuted on NBC. The series followed Denise Huxtable to Hillman College, a fictional HBCU. ADW fearlessly delved into issues of race, war, class, and even the Civil Rights movement; it was also credited with being the first American show to discuss HIV/AIDS. Much time has passed since the show first debuted and much has changed for the beloved cast. Here’s the lowdown on what they are up to these days.
1. The Cast of “A Different World”
Hillman rules! The cast of “A Different World” in its bright, ’90s best. ADW was the first show to depict a young, college educated black men and women in a prime-time ensemble cast.
2. Jasmine Guy
Jasmine Guy’s portrayal of Whitley Gilbert, Miss Hillman contestant and girlfriend of Dwayne Wayne in “A Different World,” is arguably her most celebrated performance. Guy also depicted “Dina” as her first film performance in the 1988 Spike Lee feature “School Daze.” From there the actress has played several roles, including a Will Smith love interest in the “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
3. Kadeem Hardison
After popularizing flip up sunglasses as math whiz Dwayne Wayne on ADW, Hardison went on to build an extensive resume including work in animation (Goki in “Captain Planet,” “DuckTales”) and appearances in ’90s television hits including “Touched By An Angel,” “Living Single” and “Girlfriends.” He is currently working on a new TV series called K.C. Undercover, and narrating the horror film, B.C. Butcher.
4. Lisa Bonet
We all remember Lisa Bonet as A Different World’s “good girl” Denise Huxtable, yet the bi-racial beauty swiftly set her own path by taking a risque role in the movie Angel Heart and appearing topless in Interview magazine. Since then, the show’s leading lady went on to have many successful acting roles in films including Enemy of the State alongside Will Smith, and High Fidelity, Biker Boyz and Whitepaddy.
5. Cree Summers
7. Loretta Devine
Loretta Devine was cast as Stevie Rallen, the Dormitory Director at Hillman. Devine’s performance in the 1987 Cosby spinoff sitcom is one of over 100 TV and film appearances. The Houston native would go on to land celebrated roles in “The Preacher’s Wife,” “Woman Thou Art Loosed” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” From her breakout Broadway production over 30 years ago as a Dreamgirl, Devine’s star power has hardly dimmed.
8. Dawnn Lewis
Hillman Library employee Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor was played by acting talent Dawnn Lewis. Her character appeared for the first five seasons of ADW, before the actress decided to pursue other opportunities in “Hanging with Mr. Cooper.” Lewis has since diversified her career as the voice of Labarbara in “Futurama;” of Storm in “Xmen: Ultimate Alliance;” and Granny Grim in “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.”
9. Glynn Turman
After Glynn Turman’s notable role on A Different World as math professor and retired colonel Bradford Taylor, he went on to have a successful television acting career. In America’s hit crime series set in Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire, Turman played the city’s mayor Clarence Royce. The actor won a Primetime Emmy award for his guest appearance in the series In Treatment.
10. Jada Pinkett Smith
Lena James, the engineering-turned-journalism major played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is perhaps most immortalized by a lost episode of Season 6 which introduced her high school ex-boyfriend Piccolo played by the legendary rapper Tupac Shakur. Since then, Jada has been cast for films like Madagascar and The Matrix Reloaded. Jada married actor Will Smith in 1997 and the couple now has two kids, Jaden and Willow.
11. Lou Myers
Mr. Vernon Gaines, the fiery owner of The Pit, was played by the late Lou Myers. The accomplished actor died in 2013 at the age of 77 following a prolonged bout with pneumonia. Although his most renowned work is his portrayal of Vernon Gaines, Myers has a substantial filmography including appearances in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “The Wedding Planner,” and “The Cosby Show.”