‘A Different World’ Turns 35: See The Cast Then And Now

On this day in 1987, the classic sitcom, A Different World, debuted on NBC. A spin-off of The Cosby Show, the television program followed Denise Huxtable, played by Lisa Bonet, as she enters the fictional HBCU Hillman College, located in Virginia.  

What was unique about A Different World was its portrayal of young African American men and women in a positive way, as well as highlighting the culture of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in this country. A Different World also addressed issues that were avoided by The Cosby Show writers, such as race and class relations, sexual assault, and the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS. This shift in content is heavily attributed to the arrival of Debbie Allen, who served as a producer for the show in its second season.

‘A Different World’ Turns 35: See The Cast Then And Now
A DIFFERENT WORLD — Pictured: (back row, l-r) Glynn Turman as Col. Bradford ‘Brad’ Taylor, Dawnn Lewis as Jaleesa Vinson Taylor, Lou Myers as Vernon GAines, Charnele Brown as Kimberly ‘Kim’ Reese (front row) Kadeem Hardison as Dwayne Cleophus Wayne, Jasmine Guy as Whitley Marion Gilbert Wayne, Darryl M. Bell as Ronald ‘Ron’ Johnson, Cree Summer as Winifred ‘Freddie’ Brooks — Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank

Alongside Bonet, the show also starred Jasmine Guy as Whitley Gilbert, Kadeem Hardison and Dwayne Wayne, Dawnn Lewis, Cree Summer, Darryl M. Bell, Charnele Brown, Glynn Turman, and Jada Pinkett-Smith, along with a long list of other actors, actresses, and special guest stars.. After Bonet’s departure in the first season, the remainder of the series primarily focused more on Gilbert and Wayne’s relationship as they navigated college life at Hillman College. 

The show aired from 1987 to 1993, and received stellar reviews during its six seasons on NBC. A Different World also influenced an entire generation of Black students to attend HBCUs (and college in general), while providing a weekly dose of comedy and thought provoking content to a national audience.

In celebration of the 35th Anniversary of A Different World, let’s take a look at its cast – then and now.

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