A spin-off of The Cosby Show, the sitcom A Different World aired for six seasons from 1987 through to 1993. It was originally intended to center on the Cosby daughter Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) and her life as a student at a fictional historically black college. But Bonet only appeared in the first season, leaving after becoming pregnant (with Zoe Kravitz!) And thus the series shifted its focus to Jasmine Guy’s character Whitley, a Southern belle, along with Dwayne Wayne, the nerdy friend (and eventual love interest) and her white roommate Maggie (Marisa Tomei).
The series tackled serious race issues in a way that The Cosby Show never could, including equal rights, rape, abuse, and HIV/AIDS. The original idea was to focus on a white girl in a black college but it changed to centre instead on a black girl with a white friend in a black college.
It’s hard to believe that it has been more than a quarter century since the show was on the air. And while some of the former cast members have stayed in the spotlight, others have laid low since the series ended.
So where are they all now?
12 Lisa Bonet (Denise Huxtable)
Best known for her role as Denise Huxtable in The Cosby Show, which she reprised for a short time on this series, Bonet has continued to act in small roles throughout the last few decades.
Most recently, she played a drug-addicted and troubled girl in Showtime series Ray Donovan. She is currently married to Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa.
11 Marisa Tomei (Maggie Lauten)
Most notable for winning an Academy Award in the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny, Tomei starred as Denise’s and then Whitley’s white roommate, one of the only white students in a predominantly black school.
Her career took off since the show ended, beginning with that Oscar nod, followed by a string of successful movies like What Women Want (2000), Anger Management (2003), and Wild Hogs (2007). She most recently appeared as Aunt May in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including the latest, Avengers: Endgame, and will appear in the upcoming film Spider-Man: Far From Home.
10 Jasmine Guy (Whitley Gilbert)
A director, singer, and dancer in addition to actor, Guy won the NAACP Image Awards four years in a row for her role as the Southern belle who falls for the nerdy math whiz, Dwayne. Since the series ended, she has had a number of minor and major acting roles, most notably a recurring role on the late ‘90s series Touched by an Angel, in ‘00s series Dead Like Me, and as a recurring character of The Vampire Diaries.
Her last acting roles were in 2017, in a Lifetime Christmas movie called Secret Santa, and in short film My Nephew Emmett, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2018.
9 Kadeem Hardison (Dwayne Wayne)
Currently starring in Showtime drama Black Monday, Hardison’s role as the nerdy Dwayne Wayne with the flip-up glasses remains his most well-known one.
But he has guest starred on a number of sitcoms since then, including Living Single, Everybody Hates Chris, and Parenthood. You might also recall him as the father of K.C., played by Zendaya, in Disney Channel series K.C. Undercover.
8 Darryl M. Bell (Ronald “Ron” Marlon Johnson)
Playing Dwayne’s womanizing roommate and best friend, Bell is also known for his role as Big Brother X-Ray in School Daze, a 1988 film by Spike Lee. In 2009, he appeared in the reality TV series Househusbands of Hollywood with his long-time partner Tempestt Bledsoe, who played Vanessa on The Cosby Show.
But he’s been mostly absent from the acting scene since then, though his latest credit is an appearance on the TV series Insecure in 2018.
7 Charnele Brown (Kimberly Reese)
This actor, producer, fashion designer, and singer played Whitley’s roommate from the second season through to the end of the series. After that, she made a few guest appearances on series like Living Single, Martin, and Girlfriends.
She was last seen in a TV movie called City Girls in 2007 and has a co-producing credit for a short called The Prank that was released in 2015. But she reportedly has a few new projects in the works.
6 Dawnn Lewis (Jaleesa Vinson-Taylor)
Lewis not only appeared on the series from its beginning until the fifth season, but she also co-wrote the theme song. After playing Jaleesa, the mature student at the college, Lewis went on to appear in the sitcom Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper and a number of other TV series, as well as on stage in performances like Sister Act the Musical. You can hear her voice behind plenty of games and in animated series as well, most notably as Storm in the three X-Men games (including Marvel: Ultimate Alliance) and the female Shokan (Sheeva) in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.
Most recently, she voiced Grandma McStuffins in Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins. You can hear her now as the voice of The Chief on Netflix’s reimagining of Carmen Sandiego.
5 Cree Summer (Winifred “Freddie” Brooks)
While she’s known mainly for playing Freddie the student activist who pined for Dwayne, she was also notably the original voice of Penny in the 1983 cartoon Inspector Gadget.
Along with lots of other voice work – a total of 101 animated characters from 1983 to 2006 – she has continued her voice acting career, most recently as Beast Girl on Teen Titans Go! And as Paula and Megan in The Loud House.
4 Lou Myers (Vernon Gaines)
First appearing in the second season, Mr. Gaines, as the students called him, was the long-time owner and manager of the Hillman College restaurant The Pit. Sadly, Myers passed away in 2013 at the age of 77.
But he did continue his acting career after the series ending, appearing in small roles in a number of movies, including The Wedding Planner in 2001, up to his final film role in 2013’s Dreams.
3 Glynn Turman (Colonel Bradford Taylor)
Starting off as a recurring character, Colonel Taylor moved into a main role as a math professor at the school, and friend and former war buddy of Vernon. He continued his successful acting career after the show ended, appearing in popular series like The Wire, House of Lies, Suits, and, most recently, How to Get Away With Murder.
With several new projects in the works, this 72-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.
2 Sinbad (Coach Walter Oakes)
David Adkins, known by his stage name Sinbad, is more well-known for his stand-up comedy career than his role in this series as the coach of multiple sports, as well as a dorm director.
He notably got his own show, The Sinbad Show, and he went on to have several stand-up comedy specials and has made appearances in series like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He played the father in the new sitcom Rel, but it was canceled after its first season.
1 Jada Pinkett Smith (Lena James)
Playing another student at the college was just one in many massive roles Pinkett Smith would secure through her career. Appearing in a string of hit films since this show ended, including The Matrix movies, Bad Moms, and Girls Trip, she also went back to the small screen starring in Hawthorne from 2009-2011, and in Gotham from 2014-2016.
She also launched a music career in 2002 and serves as singer in a metal band called Wicked Wisdom; and has a production company alongside her husband Will Smith.